10 to Watch 2017: Studio Robazzo

“There’s a lot of noise out there. It’s like the rainforest, with a billion birds making sounds constantly. If you’re not a disrupter, how are people going to find you?”

Photograph by Joshua Lawrence.

A few short years ago, Sarah McFadzen spent her free evenings hanging out in the living room of Andrew Azzopardi and Christina Robev, sanding or gluing whatever weird or innovative project the two architects happened to be working on. By 2014, she was their business partner in Studio Robazzo, a multi-dimensional design studio that takes on everything from interior and graphic design to industrial design and prototyping.

At Robazzo, design isn’t divided into siloed disciplines, nor is it anchored in the past. Typical of this innovative studio, they inform themselves of traditional design, then turn it on its head. “That’s where things get fun,” says Azzopardi who, during our interview, fiddles with the small dragon head that’s just been printed on the new 3D printer.

“How do you break design down and use it in a different and novel way that people aren’t expecting?” he muses aloud. “It usually ends up different from what [our clients] originally came in for.”

McFadzen easily finishes his thought, as is their habit: “But they’re always happy.”

The team’s magic lies in its ability to take broad problems and look at them from every angle. The result? From the cut plywood Stalagnite Installation for Westshore Arts Council to retail displays for Elate Cosmetics to the stage display for TEDx to the graphic identity for the 2017 film festival  — it’s impossible to look away from Robazzo’s work.

And that makes their clients very happy.

Q&A with Sarah McFadzen of Studio Robazzo

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Believe in the integrity of your ideas … I believe people should have confidence in their ideas and not let naysayers bring them down.

What was the scariest part of starting up?

Initially, there was that feeling of “OK, now we’re putting a bunch of money into a business endeavor and none of us have a business degree…”

So what was the tipping point that made you decide you had to go for it?

When you’re talking about putting $25,000 down at age 25, that was one of those “Are we doing this?” moments. But we were at a pinch point. There was growing demand for our products — and the space and resources we needed to create those products was not sufficient. It was either grow or die.

Studio Robazzo Business Profile

Type of business: Multi-faceted design firm

Year founded: 2014

Owners/principals: Sarah McFadzen, Christina Robev and Andrew Azzopardi

Employees/contractors: 2

What sets you apart: “We are incredibly diversified, from interior design to websites and graphic design to the intersection of high tech, art and design. We can provide a turnkey service for business too.”

This article is from the April/May 2017 issue of Douglas.