New York gallery-goers may know Prem Krishnamurthy as the force behind P!, the lively, cross-disciplinary space with the orange facade that he ran on the Lower East Side until closing it last May, after a five-year run. But Krishnamurthy is something of a multi-tasker. He organizes an irregularly scheduled panel-discussion/talk-show series called Perchance that only features guests with names that start with the letter P, he teaches at Barnard College, and also, for the past 14 years, he has been involved in running Project Projects, a design studio that he co-founded in 2004 with Adam Michaels. The enterprise has designed websites, publications, and visual identities for a formidable number of art outfits.
Now there is change afoot, as the firm’s founders start new ventures. Last week, with Chris Wu, Krishnamurthy announced the launch of Wkshps, a new multidisciplinary design workshop with the New York staff of Project Projects on-board. And Michaels, who had been running the Project Projects office in Los Angeles, has, with Shannon Harvey, inaugurated Inventory Form & Content—IN-FO.CO, for short—as a company that will include their publishing imprint, Inventory Press.
“Chris and I have the same team, same address, and same clients as before—so, in many ways, very little has changed at the studio,” Krishnamurthy said when asked about the new venture. “What has perhaps shifted is how we all think about it internally.” He added that the new name acknowledged how the “studio’s identity and methods have already been changing and will continue to grow.”
“Within contemporary design, developing holistic systems has started to replace creating a discrete object,” Wu said, when asked about those changes. “Nowadays, we often find ourselves playing an instrumental role in shaping the process of working with commissioners; our methodology for developing design has ended up becoming the most significant outcome, rather than only the final ‘product’ that we create.”
Among the projects that Wkshps has recently completed or has on its docket are the New Museum’s handsome new 40th-anniversary book and design work for the upcoming Carnegie International in Pittsburgh and Front International in Cleveland, as well as the recently completed Performa 17. David Zwirner gallery has tapped them to work on elements surrounding the opening of its upcoming Hong Kong space and a series of bilingual books with its publishing company. They’re also responsible for the website for the hotly anticipated exhibition “Art in the Age of the Internet” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and they’re doing the signage for the Museum of Modern Art in New York as it undergoes renovations.
In addition, intriguingly, they’re doing brand identity work for Eaton Workshop, a new enterprise that has been dubbed the first “anti-Trump hotel”—which, naturally, will have its first physical presence in Washington, D.C.
As for the Wkshps name, Krishnamurthy said it came about rather organically. He and Wu have been holding “workshops” with their New York team in recent months “to either discuss a particular topic from design history, work collaboratively on a client assignment, have a show-and-tell of things we’re looking at, critique ongoing projects, or something else entirely,” Krishnamurthy noted. “It’s part pedagogical, part practical.”
Those meetings mirrored the processes they use when first meeting with clients, Krishnamurthy added, and “a member of our team had remarked that these workshops felt very unique to our studio, especially within the NYC design context. So the term stuck.”
Wu explained further: “The change is less on a practical level and more on a conceptual level—and maybe even in a spiritual sense. Internally, we are able to finally shift our team structure into a fully collaborative mode, with increasing transparency in all aspects. For me personally, this is a design practice that I always want to be part of, which speaks to my East-Asian roots, where everyone is part of the team and plays their own roles, while maintaining an individual identity with the team-first mindset.”
“On a certain level, developing and defining this new practice has been similar to a therapeutic process,” Wu added. “Prem and I have each been trying to articulate our own identities—both professionally and personally, as ‘outsiders’ in our own ways—as are our team members. This new phase of the studio, happening alongside the current political and environmental climate, is a good moment for self-reflection as well as acting toward what comes next.”