Interview with Maece Seirafi
MSD stands for Maece Seirafi Design, named after founder and creative director Maece Seirafi. A passionate multicultural creative based in Los Angeles, Maece established a design agency that focuses on brand strategy to help tell the story behind company brands and organizations. Check out more recent work here!
Hi Maece! Could you please introduce your work with MSD Studio and what led to your founding your own agency?
I'm Maece Seirafi, I'm the founder and creative director of MSD studio in Los Angeles. I'd like to talk to you about what it is that we focus on. We focus mostly on brand strategy and brand identity. The reason why we want to focus on these two different types of stages for our clients, is because we want to talk about their brand story and in order to understand their brand story, we need to have a few brand strategy sessions that lead us to insights so that we can craft that brand story for our clients. With brand identity, we're executing on what that story needs, whether it be a book, a website, a whole stationery system, or it could be all of the above depending on how large that brand could be. The types of clients that come to us are people who have that type of authentic story that they want to tell, as part of their brand. It could be a recipe developer who wants to talk about recipes from Turkey or a furniture designer that wants to talk about the process of how they've put together mother of pearl chairs from Syria. Or it could be a cook that wants to talk a little bit more about the types of recipes that they've put together growing up with their families. This is kind of the crux of what we focus on at MSD studio.
MSD Studio has worked with huge clients such as Hulu and Snap, Inc. What is your process for designing a strategy and building concepts for clients when you first start working with them?
What my team and I have found is that in order to build a successful strategy for our clients, we need to focus on research and insights. Within research, what we're doing is we're focusing on constructing what brand attributes fit the brand. We're also focusing on finding out who the target audience s and narrowing down to the ideal customer. In the insights phase, we're building out that user profile in detail down to which demographics we're focusing on, and then we're going to map out the user journey, as well as craft a positioning statement. Then the second phase is to build out those concepts in the form of projects that will lead to deliverables. First of all, we need to establish a timeline of how many of those deliverables we need to execute. Then we will also understand what those deliverables are and how much production we will need. The final stage is that we will deliver this to our client and we make sure that we've hit our goals and we've also answered the overall brief. We also make sure that we're both in agreement and we're happy with the process.
How did you build up the network of clients and partners that make MSD Studio the success it is today? How did you carve out your own niche in busy Los Angeles?
The list of clients grew pretty organically and gradually. I started off in a 9 to 5 job and in my off hours, I would bring in freelance projects to grow my roster of clients. As the projects grew and client rosters grew, I noticed that we had to hire more people, be it web designers, illustrators, editorial designers and any type of team member such as an art director, who would help support the project. The recipe for this was how to build and nurture a niche in L.A. What I figured out was there was a need for personal storytelling, in the form of cultural identity projects that focused on Middle Eastern identity, that focused on educational programs in universities. I wanted to focus on those types of projects and in order to do that, I had to make those. I thought what would be interesting? Would it be to make a deliverable or should we do an experience, like an exhibit? What ended up happening was we co-curated, my friend and I, an exhibit called 'Local not local', that focused on the types of artists and designers that we wanted to bring together and form a community. From that exhibit, projects started to come in and our roster of clients was being built as well.
You're also an Adjunct Professor at California State University-Long Beach. How do you balance your academic career and your entrepreneurial career?
With my academic career and entrepreneurial career, what I have found is that we can't really separate the two. I started off as a designer in my own studio, but then I wanted to grow into an art director and then a creative director, managing teams. Teaching has really helped me build the confidence to be able to hire and manage creatives. When you're teaching designers and when you're nurturing that passion they have, very easily I see that being translated into a team. I don't really see a difference between the two, it's a good synergy. It's the physical aspect of being in your office and with your team and then taking the time to go and teach with students, which is sometimes a balancing act. What I would say is see how much time you're giving to your business and how much time you're giving to teaching, and seeing how much you can handle, because it can definitely get overwhelming. I try to find a balance between the two as to how one can complement the other. I've found that teaching one or two classes a week, has helped solidify the competence of team building, hiring, as well as directing. I recommend this to a lot of art directors and creative directors because they have a lot to give from their industry experience to students who are ready to graduate, and we can use some of that experience as well.
What's next for your work with MSD Studio? What are the main projects, partnerships and strategies you'll be focusing on throughout the year?
The next step for MSD studio is to grow and to bring in more of those types of clients that we enjoy working with. In addition to us wanting to try to focus a little bit more on our studio culture. Part of that revolves around the teaching that I do in schools and universities. The idea would be how do we bring that over into the studio culture and see if we can create an online platform that can help raise more awareness about our studio culture and design in general and just the overall culture of designers as well as business owners. And, also talk a little bit more about client interactions. Instead of focusing outward, we're trying to focus more inward and bring a little bit more mindfulness into our studio and try to create a vibrant culture that revolves around some of those nurtured moments within our studio and really bring our audience behind the scenes. If we can inspire and we can inform and we can educate, that would be the goal.