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Mirella Arapian: Owning Your Values in Work & Design

In today’s marketing landscape, being ‘conscious’ is common talk that’s rarely walked. This is not the case for Mek, a Melbourne-based design studio working exclusively with clients who are grounded in purpose. Whether it’s conserving biodiversity for WWF, launching a mentoring program for women or building community through a council rebrand, Mek is proving that creativity can spark change, one brief at a time.

Mavens interviewed Mek’s founder and Creative Director Mirella Arapian to learn how she carved out a rewarding career built on personal values.

Tell us about your background. How did you get into design?

Art and design were always part of my family home growing up, and my father’s love of Swiss and Scandinavian design, Cubism, Modernism and Constructivism helped develop my interest. We watched a lot of Alfred Hitchcock films together when I was young, which introduced me to the work of Saul Bass who created many of Hitchcock’s title sequences. Many years later I discovered Bass was also a brand identity designer and it was then that I really started exploring graphic design. When I was 21 I enrolled in a diploma course with a folio of handmade collages influenced by the Constructivist design and Polish political posters I’d seen in my father’s art books. I learned design through traditional techniques and principles, and all of my work was done by hand.

Your design studio started out as Vertigo; last year you rebranded to Mek. Can you tell us more about the new name, and your vision that led to the rebrand?

After 7 years as Vertigo (named after Hitchcock’s iconic film) we had outgrown it – its name, brand, and projects weren’t aligning with our vision, values, and the work we wanted to be doing. It was time to make a change and own who we are, which is strongly connected to the values we uphold in our personal lives.

Mek is Armenian for one. One people. One planet.

You’re an activist as well as a Creative Director. How are you using your values to drive more ethical outcomes for brands?

I use my values of ethics, sustainability and community as a guide for determining which brands and organisations Mek works with. These values — along with what I learn and practice through my activism — inform how we approach new ideas and innovations, and how we help our clients transition towards making more ethical choices with their brand.

You recently launched a new campaign for WWF, to raise awareness of endangered species in Australia. Can you tell us more about the project?

Mek was engaged to create a campaign to raise awareness for some of the most endangered animals of 2021. We created a series of posters, accompanying postcards and an interactive mobile site featuring a graphic representation of a physical characteristic specific to each animal, with information about their home, threats, numbers and status.

Because people tend to preference animals by their appearance, the campaign focuses on their unique colours and patterns, drawing more attention and awareness to their plight and calling for public donations to help preserve them.

It’s been one of the most creative and rewarding projects I’ve ever been involved with, and has set the benchmark for innovation with Mek’s future projects.

You founded Womentor, a global mentorship programme for women in design. While the initiative is currently on hiatus, are there any plans to relaunch post-COVID?

I’ve deliberated over relaunching many times during many lockdowns! For now though I don’t have any plans to run the program in the near future because I’m solely focused on the growth of Mek, especially now with the pandemic having such a huge impact on business and the industry.

If today’s Mirella had the chance to mentor younger Mirella, what advice would you give yourself?

There are only 2 people you need to impress: your 10-year-old self and your 70-year-old self.

Who are your favourite female role models?

I’ve never really had role models so I’ll say myself. I started from nothing, with nothing, and looking back I’m super proud of how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved. I learn more about myself every day, especially in challenging times and in the face of adversity. I believe in myself and back myself.

If you have a vision for a better tomorrow, learn more about working with Mek here.




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