There was a time when nearly every band name seemed to begin with “The.” The Hives. The Bravery. The Kooks. The Strokes. Not to mention, The Beatles.
Just as “the” became part of the vogue vernacular for rock band names, a similar word trend has been curiously popping up in the names of modern art and design collaborations.
The words “Collective” and “Society” are common titles of many a hipster establishment. They describe artist collectives in which people combine and swap their creative or entrepreneurial resources, with a heavy focus on design and a common business interest. They’re like co-ops for creative ideas.
In Portland, there’s The Meat Collective, The Curd Collective and the Elk Collective, a group of interior designers, apparel designers, architects and art curators who will plan your photo shoot or create the look of a space. A favorite haunt is The Vintage Design Collective. Heck, there’s even a law firm collective.
Though the word society has historically been used to name codgy professional associations, a few societies have fresh perspectives. Take the Portland Preservation Society, for example, where people exchange jars of pickled veggies and other goodies. There’s also The Secret Society, an upstairs bar fashioned after 1920s speakeasies. The tables are tiny, but the atmosphere is intimate. Down the hall, a small music venue features local indie artists.
Other collectives along the West Coast strongly encourage the collaborative attitude of the artist’s collective. A sweep of the other major cities turns up in San Francisco the Tech Collective, a worker-owned company of tech consulting services, as well as the Nice Collective, a boutique of moto jackets and other apparel. Magpie and Rye and Studio Choo shared a physical storefront as the Prairie Collective, until each split off into their own spaces.
Perhaps one of the most unique concepts is the Makeshift Society, a subscription-based shared office space for nomadic work-from-home professionals. Instead of staying isolated at home or the usual noisy coffee shop, creative types can thrive on the camaraderie and a little shared office space to work in. Member creatives can also munch on the inspiration from a library of art and design books, and the range of lectures, lunches and mixers. The society apparently attracts graphic designers, interior designers, visual artists, entrepreneurs and programmers.
In Los Angeles and Seattle, collective means cannabis club more often than some kind of artist collab. But true design collectives do exist, such as the Fremont Collective in Seattle, where trendy restaurants Joule and The Whale Wins share a large building.
These modern artist collectives thrive on the social networks of relationships in a physical space. The increasing presence of collectives and societies underscore the importance of teamwork. Their combined vision often leads to new design projects and businesses, and can even incite social change.