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Fili & Thorn & Charles : Legends, Swans, & Dorks

Written by in Books, Profiles

Spencer Charles was hand-lettering signs at a Whole Foods in Salt Lake City when he heard Louise Fili Ltd was hiring. She invited him to New York for an interview. Fili and Charles clicked. A month later he was living in Brooklyn.

It was 2012 when Charles began working for the legendary Louise Fili, whose New-York design studio specializes in book design, restaurant identities, food packaging, and “all things Italian.”

Including, apparently, amore. For Charles, landing a job at Fili’s studio was a dream come true … but that was just the beginning of his dreams come true. While working there, he’d meet Kelly Thorn … and marry her.

Louise Fili, Talent Scout

One true mark of the best in American communication arts and letters is the ability to spot new talent, hire it, cultivate it, and see it become an esteemed competitor. Louise Fili has launched the careers of many, foremost among them Dana Tanamachi and Jessica Hische. Kelly Thorn and Spencer Charles now join the ranks of Fili alumni. Fili spotted their individual talents and hired them. The pair are now married and running a lettering and design studio. One Louise Fili alum can be a force in American design, but a pair of them? Under one roof? This story might become very long and interesting.

Meanwhile, Kelly Thorn was finishing at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She, too, had heard Fili Ltd was hiring. “I lugged my giant portfolio case to her studio, and that’s when I met both her and the guy who’d become my favorite dork, Spencer.”

As their work relationship grew romantic in 2014, Charles left Fili to freelance. By 2015, Charles and Thorn were married and working together as Charles&Thorn.

Spencer Charles and Kelly Thorn collaborated on numerous projects while working under Louise Fili’s guidance, including the two books above, Graphique de la Rue and Grafica della Strada.

For any creative married couple involved in the start-up of their own, proximity can stifle. “This is something we often consider,” admits Spencer Charles. “We’ve learned to say when we need alone time and when not to discuss work.” Adds Kelly Thorn, “Separating work and life can be tricky when you love what you do as much as we do. But we accept that our professional and personal lives are intertwined.”

Thank you, Louise Fili, for knowing how to pick talent. Thank you, Spencer Charles, for having the self-confidence to apply for a job at Fili from the humble vantage point of a Whole Foods store in Utah. Thank you, Kelly Thorn, for saying yes to your favorite “dork.”


Designing their wedding invitation, above, has been their favorite collaboration to date, says the couple. Expect far more in the years ahead.