Studio Piehl is an art direction studio founded by the Stockholm-based Magdalena Piehl, taking on creative projects for over five years now.
Magdalena was born in Sweden and is currently based there. She enjoyed drawing and all things creative from an early age, inspired by her grandfather, who was an artist. After high school, she studied art for one year and found that it wasn’t the right fit. “I had a hard time find[ing] a context because of the extreme freedom art [has] in a way. I came to sense that i needed assignments – a problem to solve – in order to thrive.” She studied one year in a ‘folkhögskola’, similar to a preparatory school, with graphic design as the focus. “I loved it; I felt that graphic design had the things I missed in art class, so I [applied] for one of Sweden’s top schools when it comes to graphic design and visual communication, Beckmans College of Design.” Graduating in 2012, her first art direction job was as an assistant in-house at Cheap Monday.
For the last two years, she has been freelancing under the name ‘Studio Piehl’, as Piehl is her surname and means ‘arrow’ in Swedish. Her two regular customers are worked with on a daily basis; one has a focus on window display designs and the other is for an online lookbook. For an additional challenge, she got involved in the Mastered program.
She says that every assignment in Art Direction: Mastered is there to develop her skills and be as good as she can be. “I was a little hesitant when applying; if I would have time for the program. But what’s great is that I’m doing it for myself, and because of that, it becomes more fun and giving. I don’t feel the same pressure, like if it were a job where you can’t afford to make mistakes.” The program, she describes, is divided into different modules and what is expected of you is very clear. “It’s really about yourself, your process, and how you work with a project. For me, it’s a chance to do exactly what I want to do and get new projects in my portfolio, but gives you time to reflect on your own work and process.”
When it comes to art direction, Magdalena describes it as putting together a puzzle. “You have all the pieces–– Photographer, Model, Location for example, and then you need to try out different possibilities, before every pieces falls in place. For me, my focus lies within finding the right concept within a given brief. An idea for me is the core. Without one, I can’t start working.” She says she enjoys the process of seeing a visual idea come to life, and is more drawn towards projects that have to do with photos or film.
“I like to think my work has quite [a] high creative process behind it. I have a hard time doing a project based on the idea it’s going to look nice. I always want a strong idea behind it, and because of that, the project can stand on its own.” Magdalena says it is vital for her to start out with a clear brief, whether it is given or she has to create it herself. “When I have the base of the project, I then start to think about team, and who would be a good fit.” She divides moodboards up based on lighting, poses, etc. and once all is in place, she draws out each image to make a sort of storyboard. “It can be a super simple sketch, or even just words, describing if its a wide shot, portrait format, closeup and what’s in focus, and if shooting on a location, where that shot will be taken… Of course it’s important to be flexible as well, and just because I have a sketch, doesn’t mean we can’t think on our feet.”
She says her favorite part of working on set is the teamwork feeling. “I feel like I’m part of a bigger context, and I get a kick out of that. When the working paste is intense but fun… when you need to think on your feet and everything works out.” As for what Magdalena would like to see more of in the industry, she says diversity–– “more of a mix of who’s curating the stuff that gets seen”. And her last bit of advice? “Follow your dream. Believe in yourself, and practice, practice, practice!”
Thank you for letting us in on your process, Magdalena! You can follow @studio_piehl on Instagram.