Photography by Mr Spencer Lowell | Words by Mr Benjamin Seidler

Mr Alonso (pictured left with his founding partner Mr Steve Johanknecht) is co-founder of Commune, a Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary design collective. A trained filmmaker with a PR and publishing background, 45-year-old Mr Alonso and his partners bring a holistic approach to their creative projects. "We are facilitators not dictators," says Mr Alonso of Commune's client-led design process - and the laidback feel of the office reflects this open-minded approach. Every project the studio takes on - from HBO's stationery to the Ace Hotel building in Palm Springs - becomes a communal effort born from the sketches, objects and clippings that populate Mr Alonso's workspace.

How does Commune approach a design commission?
We work very closely with the client and it's very collaborative. Together, we look at every design aspect that can bring the project to where the client wants it to be. That can incorporate marketing, PR, design and graphics. It's about a whole picture, whether or not we've been commissioned to do that part of the project.
Do you use eco-materials in your work?
Generally, we feel eco-based materials are not luxurious enough for our projects, but we have our own brand of awareness. We don't believe in changing tastes - we educate our clients into acquiring things that they will have forever. That cuts down on a lot of garbage.
How else do you incorporate environmentally friendly design processes?
We always believe in working locally. For the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, we decided to source all the furniture, which amounted to about 1,400 pieces, locally in the desert. Every artisan that worked on the project was in Southern California. That saves a lot of energy in terms of transport. We don't like waste of any kind, so we reuse anything we can. If we find a great concrete floor under a carpet, we expose it and use it to reveal the true essence of the environment.

The Details


What upcoming projects are you excited about?
I'm working on finding a graphic identity for (restaurateur and prominent Slow Food spokesperson) Alice Waters' new venture. She is launching a national organisation based on her Edible Schoolyard programme. She is teaching people about how food can be an important part of their lives, and she's brought a whole pack of books and graphics that she likes, so what she wants is visually very clear.
Your computer doesn't occupy a prominent place on your desk. Do you use it much?
My computer is just a communication device. I use it for emails and I don't draw on it. I'm not very good at the computer, and didn't even use one until 1991, when I was 26 years old.
What are your five office essentials?
My laptop, my books (they're my biggest tool for finding inspiration), my sketchbook, my Muji pens in red and black with a 0.3 mm tip and then my iPhone - I don't use a landline. Those things get me through the day.
How do you dress for the office?
We live in California, so we're super-casual. No one here really expects you to dress up. What we like and promote around here is personal style. I have no problem with the girls in the office putting on a pair of hot-pants if it looks great. The partners here worship at the temple of Comme des Garcons and Margiela. If we're meeting with a corporate client I'll throw on a jacket, but I wear A.P.C. jeans pretty much every day.
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