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Why Studio 103 is filled with design endorphins

Studio 103 is relatively fresh to the Australian design landscape, but it’s a growing business with ambitious vision. Here’s how this new design arm has single-handedly built itself a home and established a global reputation in the process.

The business has recently rebranded and moved office to its own dedicated studio space on Hoddle Street in Abbotsford, Melbourne. Perched on the edge of the dreaded Punt Road drag, the studio is a self-designated oasis. Elegantly appointed from front step to rear exit, it turns its back on the peak-hour rush to provide its team of young, talented designers a place where they can nurture their creative leanings and build the business, while also maintaining the mind-body balance.

Studio 103 sign

Relatively new to Studio 103, and already working in tight synergy is its core team of designers, Fiona Morrison, Tom Yang and Alex Brookes. The trio was faced with an exciting if not challenging opportunity. To build the business from the ground up, using an accumulation of design knowledge from past roles with the likes of Mim Design, Unispace and Valmont.

“We all had the same vision and goal – in building the business and creating this design studio, taking it from ‘here’ to ‘there’,” says Morrison. And in doing that, they also had the freedom and to create a work-life culture around the business that ascribes to a work-hard, health-hard motto.

Yang is the brains trust behind Studio 103’s new headquarters. His brief was to create a new, cohesive environment that took the studio and its associated businesses out of its previous tenancy, a CBD shoebox. In moving to Abbotsford, he was able to position the design team front and centre – the faces that visiting clients see first.

Its associated building and facilities businesses are located on the premises too, however the real focus has been to hero Studio 103, giving its design team space to breathe and grow its own identity.

Working within an existing building, Yang has built upon the existing architectural features to create a functional and highly liveable space. That means keeping the major amenities in-house, so staff don’t have to make the 25-minute trek by foot to nearby Collingwood.

Common areas carry a luxe, café-style feel and Yang has used his background in urban planning to “create many places within a single place”. “I looked to bring in places for collaboration and catch up, places to drink coffee, places to work out” and even zen out. Yang especially highlights the fully equipped gym zone positioned to the back of the building. Here staff can pop down for a work-out – often a shared, social activity given the close quarters.


They say that company culture trickles from the top down and in establishing this new fully-integrated work-life hub, Studio 103 seems to have cultivated a tight-knit core of people. The team works, breaks, gathers and exercises together. And it has attracted global clients – H&M being one – that appreciate the advantages of a small yet diversely skilled team. In shaking the one hand, they access an energised body of skills and experience.

“We all come from very different places, but we’re channelling the good stuff to build the studio,” says Brookes. Design endorphins abound.

Photography by Jack Lovel.

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