Beyond the Pale: Designing in Donegal Daniel O'Donoghue

Designing in Donegal

‘When initially considering a complete relocation from the metropolis that is London to the north west of Ireland we had many reservations: will we be out of sight and out of mind? Will our London clients come with us? Are we too far away from Dublin?’ Crona and Daniel of ODDesign, now based in Donegal, need not have worried so much. ‘As it turns out there is a rather clever invention they call the world wide web which rendered these fears null and void!’ laughs Daniel. 

Donegal is the most recent of a number of locations for the studio, which started out as Daniel’s one-man operation in Dublin before moving to London in 2012 while Crona took on a masters in Central Saint Martins. ‘Although operating in Dublin was very difficult at that point the idea of moving ODDesign to London and starting at the beginning again was a very difficult decision,’ says Daniel. But the rewards were plenty, as it turned out. A studio that had been focussed almost exclusively on cultural work started to evolve due to changing clients, and this in turn changed Daniel’s approach to the design process. ‘The majority of my work began to focus on public consultation projects for large scale property redevelopment, leading to a greater consideration for the end user, no matter the project.’

One Blackfriars development report, designed by ODDesign

When the novelty of London life started to wear off, Crona was offered a teaching role in LYIT. After a period of flying to and fro to teach both there and at Chelsea College of Arts, the pair decided to take the plunge and make the move to Donegal. At this time ODDesign became a double act and Crona is now Daniel’s business partner (and wife). Work wise they maintain a mix of cultural, commercial and corporate clients and know when to say no: ‘There are many operating challenges for a business as small as ours but one of the bonuses is if we really don’t want to take on a project we don’t — a little better for the soul than the bank balance but it works for us!’

A Little Bit Extra, a quarterly publication for An Grianán Theatre, designed by ODDesign

A worry Crona and Daniel had when relocating to the north west was FOMO, but it hasn’t materialised quite as much as they had imagined: ‘One of the biggest draws to this part of the world, for us and many others, is the surf. Apart from that, we were very fortunate that one of the first local tenders we won was to do the design work for An Grianán Theatre here in Donegal so we get a preview of what’s happening before anyone else. From attending events here and at other venues, other clients and through Crona’s work at LYIT we have become more aware of the interesting things that are happening around the NW. The “Up here it’s different” tagline of old is embraced here and celebrated! You do still unfortunately need to travel to appreciate more specialist interests but there is at least one thing a month that excites us, and on average that’s what we attended in London!’ 

Volkswagen Autostadt report, designed by ODDesign

At the same time, the move has given them a greater appreciation for cities and the time they still spend in them: ‘Living rurally has forced us to become more organised with both our work and social life and we do seem to make a greater effort to do more when we visit London and Dublin in particular. Where we were both a little jaded with city life we really have found a new appreciation for the big city. But aside from that we have so much of what we need right here: did I mention the surf?!’

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