Community Spotlight: The MP Shift
Around the world food has become increasingly central to culture and an entry point to engaging and entertaining consumers. Thinking outside of the box is not easy so when big brands want help building an unforgettable concept, tied to food, The MP Shift is their first call. The New York based concept, design and branding studio, co-founded by Amy Morris and Anna Polonsky recently curated the international chef line-up for Google Translate’s pop-up, although they are best known for the design and curation they did in The Rockaways. They turn the seed of an idea into a fully conceived concept and design, then bring together a team to execute on that vision. We caught up with the awesome duo to hear more about their services, interesting experiences, and inspiring upcoming events.
SPLACER: Tell me a little bit about yourselves.
AMY MORRIS: I grew up in Boston and attended school in Colorado. My family now lives in Colorado. I’m a Colorado girl at heart; I love the outdoors and inspirations of nature. Still, the energy of an urban city brings inspiration from all directions. I’ve lived in many major cities around the world including New York, Los Angeles, London and Sydney but I’ve been fortunate to spend a year backpacking around the world with my husband. The stories you hear and the different ways people set up their lives changes your perspective on what is possible.
ANNA POLONSKY: I spent my childhood in Paris, France, and moved to New York when I was eighteen. I studied Branding & Advertising. I held lots of internships in fashion, in Paris and London, and later realized I didn’t want to work in that industry. Since then, I’ve been working in the realm of food, a family passion.
SPLACER: So what inspired an interest in branding and interiors?
AMY MORRIS: Anna and I met ten years ago through very close mutual friends, she quickly became a part of our family. So 10 years later, starting a company together happened quite naturally. Personally, I have always had an interest in interior design. My mom inspired my interest in colors and fabrics, she had a room lined with shelves of fabrics – she created paintings with fabric. Anna and I both took an interest in building a brand visually but starting at the seed of the concept and strategy to bring a compelling story to life in all aspects of the business.
ANNA POLONSKY: I spent a lot of time working for Le Fooding, the biggest restaurant guide in France, that’s been disrupting the food media and event industry for 15 years around the world, always incorporating art and graphic design into our work. We were constantly translating our sponsors’ brands within art & set design, collaborating with artists, graphic designers and so on. I’ve always been very much into food, graphic design, and branding. I eventually transitioned into a lot of freelancing on the branding side, leading to The MP Shift as Amy and I began to collaborate. Amy had started to focus on commercial interior design and we thought branding and interiors needed to be connected, and that there weren’t many companies offering that holistic approach.
AMY MORRIS: We went back to the roots of marketing strategy before designing a space. We’ve found that if you take the time to understand a brand and what the personality is, it is much easier to translate across everything you do. You remember a restaurant that has a strong identity, you’re influenced by the design, lighting, menus, graphics, staff’s introduction and so on. It’s important to realize that people make decisions based on experience and design, not just the food. It’s a holistic experience.
SPLACER: Can you guys expand on your different services?
AMY MORRIS: We work with a brand (typically, in the hospitality industry) and start with their vision. We help them refine their concepts, or sometimes, define a concept. Once the concept is there, we assist them with their positioning, visual identity and website. From there, we help with interior design, the translation of the brand into an interior. Then, we form launch strategies (including programming, social media strategy, marketing advice, etc). We’re there till the end to make sure the thread continues.
SPLACER: Talk about a favorite project or really interesting project you’ve worked on.
ANNA POLONSKY: Google recently came to us with the seed of a concept for a food pop-up to introduce an audience to their Google Translate app. They had the idea of doing a pop-up restaurant, but wanted insight on how to execute in a way that was relevant & unique to the brand. We really helped them build a story that highlighted the “wow” of the app, and at the same time, excite some of the hottest chefs to collaborate. Our final concept was “Small World”, a temporary restaurant we totally created from scratch in the heart of Nolita. We hired eighteen chefs, all of whom spoke different languages and were of different cultures. The menus were entirely in foreign languages, effortlessly making guests use the Google Translate app to decipher and understand what they were reading. Additionally, there were original food posters, and people had to use the app to read those as well. It was a huge success.
AMY MORRIS: We’re seeing brands from Kellogg’s to Prada want to find ways to connect with food and the influencers around food. The MP Shift can do that. When working with clients we think about everyone involved, we want to bring fresh concepts but it’s paramount to take the time to excite a chef or partner about the collaboration – understand what will bring them to the table, you will have a great experience for everyone. You generate the excitement that comes from a creative collaboration.
SPLACER: Any upcoming projects?
ANNA POLONSKY: We are working with Verde, which will be a boutique salad bar opening around the corner from Eataly. The owners’ goal is to disrupt typical models of salad bars. They noticed how stressful it can be to order a salad in one of these places, so they’re trying to change that. This is an elevated fast-casual concept- it’ll be much more soulful and less commercial-looking that most competitors.
AMY MORRIS: We’re also talking to a hotel in Berlin. It’s a very established hotel that attracted a multitude of creatives in its heyday. Yet, it hasn’t been updated in a while. The younger generation of the family is focused on bringing the hotel back to where it once was. The hotel is breaking ground on a redesign and we are working on curation, thinking, how do they bring programs back that will draw the creative class? How do they excite the community?
SPLACER: Tell me about The Summer Shift.
ANNA POLONSKY: We collaborated with David Selig, who started the Rockaway Beach craze with Rockaway taco and the beach concessions – he reached out to us last year. The taco shack was vacant for the summer, so he asked us to help him do something with it. We went with a Latin American theme; Cuba was in the news a lot at the time and he was planning on opening The Palms, a tropical garden across the street. We curated 5 chefs from the city around the concept. All had Latin roots, but gave different twists to their cuisine. We designed the shack accordingly, making sure that the vibe was right for the concept. It got a lot of attention. Having chefs come from the city and work around a curated concept was pretty new for Rockaway.
SPLACER: Tell me about your work with The Palms.
ANNA POLONSKY: Our work with The Palms was somewhat a preview to attract brands that would potentially rent it out for future events. We were asked to help curate and program with that goal in mind. We had a mix of movie nights curated by Greta Gerwig, yoga classes with Wanderlust, a mud bath by the artist Frank Trainor, the amazing Topless art gallery and OCafe coffee shop all in the space. Lots of dinners were also held with different chefs such as Camille Becerra or Whitney Aycock. It got incredible coverage too.
AMY MORRIS: New Yorkers are always looking for something new – this was new and attracted many. There are not a lot of spaces out there, so this was quite unique. Now, we’re in touch with a developer about building a Glamping concept out there next summer.
SPLACER: Name a favorite exhibition you’ve visited in the past few months.
AMY MORRIS: Anna and I actually went to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) this past Sunday after a meeting in North Adams. It’s located in an old mill, we walked out feeling so inspired. There were so many great exhibits (can’t miss the Sol Lewitt and Anselm Kiefer buildings). We highly recommend going early in the morning and then taking a hike.
SPLACER: Favorite building in NYC?
ANNA POLONSKY: It isn’t really a building, but we’ve recently been obsessed with Karasu, a Japanese speakeasy in the back of Walter Foods in Fort Greene. The interior design is just really different and special, and the cocktail program and short food menus are perfect.
AMY MORRIS: I’ve always had my eye on the beaux arts Police Building on 240 Centre Street, it feels more like you’re on the streets of Paris. It has a huge dome on top, the lobby is so elegant, and it feels so strongly like a piece of history.
SPLACER: Do you have a dream project you’d love to work on?
ANNA POLONSKY: We’d love to work for more hotels because the creative scope is so much bigger. We are also thrilled to be getting more and more requests from creative real estate groups. For instance, we might be working on an old mill that is being renovated. The developer’s goal for that project is to add something special to that community, It’s located in North Adams, MA. The space is incredible, they’re transforming it to a hotel and food & arts focused community center. A the heart are affordable ($7 vs $30 sq ft) facilities for an established and growing cheese maker, baker and butcher. They’re also supporting the arts with a light filled performance space. They are creating jobs and curating a community inspired by food, arts and nature. We can help get the word out to possible tenants and visitors, through branding, marketing and programming. We also are working on projects with other developers that have good goals – they want to brand themselves. The ideas are actually pretty similar to Splacer; these people have spaces and simply don’t know what to do with them. We are very connected to chefs, artists, musicians, and other creatives; we want to mix the field and people.
AMY MORRIS: We bring a fresh perspective for developers, it’s a great partnering of teams.
Words by Katie Roscoe