Lots of designers scratch their product design itch (increasingly turning to funding platforms to see their ideas realised) but this is a case of someone doing it the ‘old fashioned’ way… Ric Bell of POST has spent the last couple of years figuring out how to make his three-dimensional wooden desktop calendar a reality! Called DodeCal it’s a beautifully made, nicely weighted, precisely laser etched object and a joy to hold in the hand. It is made for people who appreciate design, maths and traditional craftsmanship. The initial run for 2017 is of 100 – a number is hand-written on a brand card inside the box along with the calendar. I spoke to Ric to find out a bit more…
Jenue is a Spanish Artist and Art director, who divides his time between Madrid and London. He makes playful images for editorials, music, and advertisements with his own colourful view and style for clients like Nickelodeon, Wired Magazine & Aiga Design.
Hi Dan. First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Hello! Thanks for chatting with me — I’m a freelance illustrator and commercial artist currently living and working in Kingston, London. I like to create colourful, playful character-based illustrations, laced with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour. I graduated from the University of Brighton in 2011 and over the last five years I’ve been building my portfolio, having been fortunate enough to work on a number of fun projects for clients such as Google, Pepsi & The New York Times.
How did you discover that illustration was what you wanted to pursue as a career?
It was slightly by accident! I come from a small army town in Hampshire and it’s fair to say there isn’t much of an art scene in Bordon & Whitehill. Despite an all consuming love of drawing, there never seemed to be a path into any line of work that allowed me use this particular skill as a way to earn a living! So for most of my teenage years I considered art a hobby and focused my energy and attention on sport (golf in particular). I had a part time job at the local golf club working in the pro shop while studying for my A-Levels. For a good few years, I set my sights on becoming a teaching pro. It was only during the last two weeks of (what I thought would be) the end of my higher education, that I realised my college offered an art foundation course. I figured one more year of free education concentrated solely on doing art didn’t sound half bad! So I signed up and then everything just clicked — I saw a pathway, and from that day on, there was nothing else I wanted to do.
Your work has evolved over the past couple of years and you now have a really identifiable style. How would you describe your work?
That’s a really good question, I need to find a much better way of describing it. I used to say it’s sort of ‘cartoony’ — perhaps similar to the style of The Simpsons — but over the last few years I’ve become more interested in symmetry, colour balance and have grown to have a better appreciation of space. So in that respect, at times I feel more like a designer. I think it’s somewhere in between the two. I love clean lines but also like my characters to still maintain a little ‘wobbliness’, which is why I still draw everything with a Wacom tablet in Photoshop… I just use more straight lines and shapes than I used to.
What would you say are your biggest influences/inspirations?
I’m not particularly knowledgable about artists and designers, but I think a childhood filled with Roald Dahl stories, Martin Handford’s Where’s Wally books & The Simpsons helped to shape my early interest in drawing and informed my sense of humour.
I’m also an avid consumer of media content — I listen to podcasts all day long and love TV (particularly period shows based in America in second half of the 20th century). I was full-blown obsessed with Mad Men and more recently Stranger Things & Narcos, there’s something about nostalgia and modern history that resonates with me. I think these cultural reference points work their way into my work in a subtle way.
I would also say my parents, who taught me the value of hard work, something I pride myself on. I always consider myself more hard-working than I am talented! I also owe them for being so supportive and not pressuring me to do what they wanted me to do, especially when I came home and told them I wanted to be an illustrator. Not exactly renowned for as a steady line of work!
Do you think it’s important, that as a commercial illustrator, it’s good to have a unique style of work?
Yes, absolutely. Personally, I think if you’re going to make something, and put your name to it, be original. It is possible to make a career riding off another similar style of illustration, and I’ve seen plenty of people making a living that way, but I think the pride and satisfaction I get comes from the knowledge that what I draw is truly mine.
Do you produce personal work outwith your own client projects?
Not enough, honestly. I would like the time to do more of my own work, but I take such pride in the work I do for my clients, I end up spending the majority of my time perfecting these projects. Not that that’s a bad thing — I have so much fun working commercially it’s not like I feel creatively dissatisfied. 5 years doing this full time and I still get excited by every new brief and project. Maybe one day that’ll change, but right now I feel very creatively satisfied.
What’s your process/approach when it comes to new projects or briefs?
I’m fortunate that I have a style that lends itself to different platforms and mediums, so I’d approach an editorial brief slightly differently than I would an advertising brief. However as roughly 7 out of 10 jobs I take on are editorial, I’ll concentrate on how I approach that type brief here.
First of all it’s excitement. Literally every time I hear that ping of the incoming email I get a buzz. Then I’ll make myself a coffee and read though the brief.
Next I’ll sketch out 2 or 3 ideas and send those over to the client for review. I truly love idea generation, but I’ve also learnt over the last few years that sometimes a funny idea might not quite work visually. There might be too many greys and browns in the composition, or the illustration is far too complex for the requirement. So I’ve learnt to carefully think through what the final, coloured artwork would look like it situ in the publication first before I propose the sketch.
What would you say is the high point or biggest challenge in terms of commercial projects that you have worked on?
High point was definitely getting to go to Canada to work on the PepsiMoji campaign. The project itself was very different to what I usually do in terms of my style of work, but to have the opportunity to go to Toronto to work on an enormous campaign and be put up in the Ritz Hotel for 3 weeks has to go down as one of the best experience of my life, let alone in my illustration career!
The biggest challenge I’ve had is still the LINE emoji project I worked on in 2014 to design one thousand emojis in just ten weeks. That was a real lesson in what constitutes a healthy work/life balance! The project was a hit and I was incredibly happy with the outcome, but I would never push myself that hard again. I put on a stone in weight and went so pasty white I was almost translucent.
I also had a testing experience recently when I’d booked to go to Bestival on the Isle of Wight but then had four editorial jobs all come in the week before. I was still sketching on the ferry crossing! Miraculously, I got all four jobs signed off ten minutes before I got to the festival site. All part of the fun of working for yourself!
You collaborated with Guy Moorhouse / Futurefabric on your brilliant new site. Tell us how that came about.
Yes! He’s a really nice guy and insanely talented. I first came across his work a few years ago when another site he designed stopped me in my tracks — it was so fresh & beautifully designed I kept the site in the back of my mind with the hope that Guy might be willing to redesign mine when the time came. Fast forward to January this year and I finally had a window to think about rebuilding my own. Guy was the only person I really wanted to do it, I felt our styles would complement each other. Fortunately our schedules lined up and he agreed to take on the work. Interestingly, after a few emails back and forth we actually discovered that we live five minutes from each other! So after a trip to the local coffee shop, we laid out a plan for the site and took if from there.
Did you have any key considerations in mind for the new site or how best to showcase your work as you developed it?
When I sat down with Guy to first discuss the site, I said that I had two main objectives. I wanted the new site to really show off the detail in my work, and for the experience to be playful and fun. I also highlighted an issue I was having displaying my spot illustrations. I do quite a number of spots for various magazines but for some reason I couldn’t find a decent solution to displaying them on the web. They just felt a little flat and would get lost on the page.
Guy suggested the circle, square, rectangle thumbnail grid for the homepage with a key line around image blocks and my own primary colour pallet to run throughout the site. These three things made such an enormous difference to how my work was displayed! It’s such a simple and effective solution. The various shaped thumbnails solve the issue of displaying my busier illustrations alongside my spot illustrations, while the key line helps to frame the each if the images — the colour pallete is a masterstroke because I realised that displaying the spot illustrations on a coloured background instantly makes them pop on each page.
How did it feel to be the client in this situation?
It was fun! I got a taste of what it’s like to be an art director which was nice! However, I’m a fish out of water when it comes to web development and the technical side of things. So I felt the best approach would be to just trust Guy. I love how he works, so I just gave him a couple of suggestions for things that I’d like from my site and then let him do his thing. I wanted him to have fun with it and for it to be something we could both be proud of.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with some great clients so far. What advice would you give to graduates hoping to start their career in the creative industries?
I was talking with a friend about this the other day, starting out is tough! Graduating university, especially with an arts degree, felt to me like being pushed off the edge of a cliff. All that hard work and stress leading up to the final degree show was suddenly over and I was completely on my own. Having no money, no job, nowhere to go on Monday is a scary position to find yourself in. However, if you organise yourself and you’re prepared to put the hours in, it’s possible to get where you want to be.
I found it helpful to set up a studio space for myself and to treat it like an office. I started out in the spare bedroom at my mum and dad’s. I got myself a desk and started a regimented routine of working nine to five. Even if I had nothing to do, I’d still sit at the desk. I’d spend the morning applying for internships, creative roles, anything remotely related to illustration. Then in the afternoon I’d do some personal work, making sure to document everything I made online — sharing it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
One other thing I found really helpful was creating a free print/cv. I designed a double sided piece with an A3 illustration on the front and a beefed up cv on the back. To keep costs down, I kept the illustration as line work so I could get away with printing it using a nice paper stock and running it through my home printer. I then advertised them online as totally free — all you had to do was email me your address and I’d send one out in the post.
While I realise this wasn’t a money-spinning venture, it was an absolutely invaluable way of keeping me focussed and encouraged me to keep working. Over time, I received more and more requests for the print and began to notice that some of these were from companies like Wieden + Kennedy and Nike. Eventually, this lead to an internship with YCN where I met my current agent for the first time. I think sending out something tactile and physical, which can be kept, is always a nice way to be approached. Especially when you’re starting out and trying to make that all-important first impression!
You can see Dan’s new site and more of his work here.
Drawing on the site’s rich industrial heritage, which for 50 years was home to luxury furnityyre maker A. Younger A. Younger, who shipped timber down the canals to use in their designs.
The brand mark cleverly combines a ‘C’ and a fish symbol with the use of a dovetail joint, with the wood and timber cladding referenced thought the graphic language.
Nothing but Fragments, a new project from designer Richard Grainger in collaboration with writer Glen Brown brings a kaleidoscope of flakes and shards into sharp focus revealing to us that the by-products of creativity are at times more prominent than intended, taking a detour of their own.
The text by Glen Brown is a direct result of a dialogue between imagery and words: fragments of memory tumbling across the pages, inviting us into an internal mindscape.
Tonight (Thursday) see’s the launch of the project down at Jaguar Shoes in Shoreditch where they’ll be a selection of limited editoon prints on sale, as well as the book and with the accompanyment of music from George Kamm, Andrew Watson and the Good Block DJs.
Check out the project, and more of Grainger’s work over on his site here: www.richardgrainger.co
And for more on tonight’s event, check the Facebook event here.
A favourite in the conference calendar, The Modern Magazine 2016 is almost upon us! Ahead of this day of editorial enjoyment we caught up with Jeremy Leslie (Mr MagCulture himself) and his able assistant & conference producer Stephanie Hartman to find out whats in store…
Steph, can you explain the role of a producer in this context – and how you work alongside Jeremy to help make the conference happen?
My role is basically to ensure everyone’s in the right place at the right time. I book flights and hotels for our speakers, pull together presentations so they’re ready to roll on the day and organise a big, fun dinner after the conference for the magCulture team and speakers. I also keep press ticking over, gather magazines and other items for the goodie bags we dish out, make sure our attendees are fed and watered and work with the team at Central Saint Martins to ensure everything runs smoothly on the day. I’ve been working with Jeremy since the first Modern Magazine back in 2013 and it’s great to see things becoming more streamlined each year.
Jeremy, 4 years in and the conference feels like its in rude health – whats it like behind the scenes? Does it all come together easily, or are you more like the proverbial swan paddling franticly under the calm surface? ..Is it enjoyable?
Creatively, ModMag is in rude health, the finance side is a bit more shaky! It was originally a one-off but we kept it going and it gets easier year by year in most respects. We’ve got a small, strong team and we all know what we’re doing. Programming the day and inviting speakers is the fun part, topped only by the adrenaline buzz of the day itself. Without exception everyone involved – at the venue, the caterers, the sponsors, the speakers – are super-supportive and positive but I’d be lying if I said all aspects were fun. There’s a lot of behind the scenes swan paddling for sure. But it’s always worth it.
Steph, you’re responsible for the live elements happening alongside the conference talks, whats in store – any highlights? Any big reveals?
We’re bringing back the mag handling session we ran last year as it proved a great success. Attendees can sign up on the day and Cath Caldwell who’s the Stage 1 leader on the BA Graphic Design course will take them through some of the beautiful examples that can be found in the Central Saint Martins archive including a copy of Rolling Stone from 1970, LIFE from 1968 and Esquire from 1955.
We’re also working more closely with the Graphic Design students themselves this year. We’ll be setting them a live brief in a week or two and they’ll be tasked with creating a magazine centred on the conference. Kati Krause who spoke at last year’s event will be leading the team who’ll be interviewing delegates, photographing the day, illustrating and designing throughout. They’ll then take part in a masterclass back at magCulture HQ the following week where they’ll whip their magazine into shape. The final output will be printed by our sponsor Park and sent out to all of our delegates as a memento of the day. We’re pretty excited about it! We’re also getting the South London Makers to make us a giant ‘M’logo which will be perfect fodder for any Instagram account.
Jeremy, once again you’ve lined up an incredible mix of speakers – high profile, commercial, niche, indie, specialist etc – any talk you’re particularly looking forward to hearing this year?
You’re right, it’s all about the mix. We try to cover all types of magazines on the Journal all year, and I see/hear people talk regularly. The result is ModMag presents the best from all spheres. This year we have speakers representing publications as small and new as Real Review all the way up to the huge and influential New York Times Magazine. Add in the ever-growing multi channel Vice and The Gentlewoman’s Penny Martin and you get a sense of the range.
I’m looking forward to hearing them all; if I’m not excited by someone why invite them? But perhaps the most intriguing will be our first foray into mag history via Paul Gorman’s reflections on The Face. This hugely significant magazine has never really been acknowledged properly but Paul’s writing what should be the definitive book with the cooperation of founder Nick Logan.
Steph, can you sum up in a sentence or two why someone should attend this conference? – Especially first-timers.
It’s ultimately a massive celebration of people making great magazines and is designed to cater to those already in the industry as well as those hungry to find out more about the business. Come along if you’re thinking of starting a magazine, are a student keen to pick the brains of your mag heroes, or simply because you just love reading a good mag. We have delegates flying in from across the globe and some brilliant connections have been made over beers at the end of the day.
Jeremy, anything else going on you’d like to make folk aware of?
We always like to add something new each year and this time we have a little nostalgia via The Face, history via Private Eye, and the exciting live magazine project. The magCulture Shop will be present too, so bring your credit card! But before all that we’re putting together a popup magazine shop in Las Vegas in partnership with the Eye on Design team. It’s part of this years AIGA Conference (16-29 Oct). We’re dedicating most of our swan paddling hours to that!
All photographs from 2015 by Owen Richards.
Brand design agency Believe in® has announced the launch of a second studio in Canada, operating alongside the agency’s founding operation in Exeter, South West England. The company will operate as a single team collaborating across both studios, serving clients in Europe and North America. Founder and Creative Director Blair Thomson, along with Business Director Joanna Thomson, have opened the studio in Mono, Ontario, just north of Canada’s largest city, Toronto. 2016 marked 20 years in business for Believe in®, and this provided the impetus to expand their offering with a permanent base in Canada. Blair, a returning Canadian, believes that his homecoming represents an amazing opportunity for the business:
“I’m enormously proud of my Canadian heritage, and have deep admiration for those pioneering designers who established Canada as a centre for modernist design in the 1960s and 1970s. I believe that the time is right for Canada to reassert its position as a global design leader, and if I can play a small part in helping to make it happen, it would be a major achievement in my career, and my life.”
To celebrate the launch they created a special limited edition bottle of premium maple syrup, one of Canada’s most iconic exports. The name, Uproot, reflects the company’s arrival in Canada while also referencing the process of drawing water up through the Maple tree to create the sap from which the syrup is made. Uproot takes a Canadian icon and adds a European design sensibility. 100% pure Canadian maple syrup was packed by hand into heavyweight Italian glass bottles. Takeo Tassel, a subtly embossed light gray paper from Japan was supplied by UK paper specialist GF Smith to reinforce the feeling of luxury. The paper was digitally printed, die-cut and adhesive-backed by creative printers Kolor Skemes in South West England to create the finished labels. A truly international collaboration. 200 bottles have been created, each individually numbered. The die-cut diagonal line on the front marks the geographic connection between Exeter in South West England and Mono in Ontario, the company’s two studio locations.
“Our brand is very much a representation of who we are and how we see the world. Uproot embodies everything that we strive for in our work – simplicity, beauty and meaning. Hopefully our clients and friends will enjoy the packaging almost as much as they enjoy its contents!” – Blair
Follow them on twitter (if you like).
The indie mag scene is in rude health these days, and nowhere more so than in the UK. This is thanks in part to, not only the brilliant mag makers (and their readers), but also the community and infrastructure that has sprung up supporting the scene. The triumvirate arguably championing the hardest are FFFriends MagCulture (Jeremy Leslie), Stack Magazines (Steve Watson), and Gym Class Mag (Steven Gregor).
Having worked at WIRED and Esquire (and more recently freelancing regularly at Observer and Guardian) Steven started making GC way back in 2009 (while working for a customer publisher) to creatively express himself – and more recently his love for the publishing scene. On the cusp of Issue 15 shipping Steven dropped some very big news about this issue, so we caught up with him, and his newly appointed Art-Director Alex Vissaridis to find out more…
Can you give us a summary of your ‘creative plaything’ Gym Class Mag and its evolution over the years?
Steven: I started Gym Class in 2009 as a small zine. It had the strapline: A Zine For The Guy Chosen Last. It was a personal counterpoint to mainstream men’s magazines. I’ve never wanted to be the strongest, or the richest, or to drive the fastest car, or have the hottest girlfriend. I found mainstream men’s mags hard to relate to. I still do. Gym Class, instead, was for the underdog or the geek.
Of course, over the years, it became something very different. Now Gym Class is about magazines and the people who make them.
You recently dropped the bombshell that the forthcoming Issue, number 15, will be the magazine’s last! Getting to that milestone is a huge achievement – have you done everything you hoped to with the mag?
Steven: Oh wow, I’ve done so much more with Gym Class than I ever hoped. And, at the same time, I feel I like I haven’t scratched the surface of what was possible.
It’s opened so many doors and enabled so many opportunities. It’s been super hard work — ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get’ rings true. I’ve learnt so much about editing a magazine, design and production, public speaking (eek!) and promotion, managing contributors, printing, distribution, sales, and all the un-sexy business stuff that goes into publishing an indie magazine.
As a through-and-through editorial man what’s next for you? Any exciting mag projects on the horizon? Will Gym Class live on in its digital forms?
Steven: I love magazines. The Gym Class Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr feeds will continue. I’m planning a Gym Class blog, too. That said, any new digital endeavour will need to have a clear point of difference to what magCulture or Stack are doing.
But, print is my first love. So… I’ll be launching a new magazine in 2017. I know what it’ll be about and I have a title, but it’s too early in development to chat about publicly in any real detail. I’m super excited about it tho.
This is the first issue of/for which you’ve handed the art-direction reigns over to someone else (talented chap Alex Vissaridis) – why now, and how did it work out?
Steven: I’ve changed. I’m an art director by trade, but when it comes to making my own magazine, I really want to focus on the content and storytelling. Plus, I really want to collaborate. If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t work with talented people like Alex sooner.
Alex, you’re also immersed in the world of indie publishing, tell us a bit about the projects you lead or are involved in?
Alex: When I was still fresh out of uni, I joined ShellsuitZombie, a collective of creative graduates that ran a print mag, a blog and a whole range of events. It was loads of fun and I got myself stuck into everything, but it was the zine stuff that appealed most, and I went from designing issue 4, to art directing issue 5, to doing a little bit of everything on issue 6.
More recently, I’ve been working with a friend on a new title called Castle, which will look at video games and the worlds they inhabit and affect through themed issues – starting with Health.
I presume you were already a fan of GCM – a publication as known for its variety of format as much for its passion and unique tone of voice – how was it for you climbing aboard such an established & beloved mag-institution?
Alex: I fell in love with indie mags when I was at uni, through my discovery of Little White Lies, and when I moved to London I went to every magazine event I could, so of course I very quickly became a fan of Gym Class. I was a little nervous when I showed Steven the first couple of spreads I’d worked on, but that enthusiasm and friendliness we all know and love from the pages of GC quickly gave me a boost of confidence and helped me produce better work.
What was it like picking up where Steven had left off with the design? Did you come into it with things you wanted to do, or were you executing Steven’s ideas?
Alex: I had a couple of ideas in my head before I got started, but what with this being the last issue, I didn’t want to impose myself too much on Steven’s vision. Saying that, it was a very collaborative process in the end, with each of us taking an article or two and working independently, then dipping in and out of each others’ files and having a play around. I’m really happy to have introduced some new illustrators, photographers and writers to the pages of Gym Class, and to have learned from someone with such a wealth of mag design experience.
Anything either of you are particularly proud of or excited about in this issue?
Steven: The cover feature, contributed by award winning Photo Director Rebecca McClelland, is epic. It’s a retrospective of Magnum photographer Chris Anderson’s editorial work (we focus on New York magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and Tank magazine in London). It’s proper. Rebecca aced it.
I’m also super proud of the beefed-up, super-fun back of book section. I hope peeps enjoy it.
Alex: I couldn’t stop nodding while I was reading Kate Hollowood’s piece about impostor syndrome, so I have to mention that; it has a lot in common conceptually with what we were doing most recently with ShellsuitZombie, plus Michael Driver smashed it out the park with his illustration. Jeremy Leslie’s piece about Japanese magazines is great too, and I was really happy that we were able to commission Japanese illustrator Hiroyuki Ishii for it.
Finally, Sean McGeady’s piece about fictional magazines in TV shows and films is a hilarious read.
Lastly, any words of wisdom or advice for those thinking of starting a magazine…
Steven: Preparation. Planning. Sort out the money side early. Be original… the indie magazine scene doesn’t need any more cookie cutter wannabes. Alex: Obviously make your own magazine in your own vision, but get as much advice as you can from those who’ve done it before. I was surprised at how many people were willing to grab a pint after work to discuss Castle and give us some pointers. People are lovely.
Gym Class 15 will only be available in selected magazine shops in the UK (including the MagCulture shop) and in Barnes & Noble in the USA. Don’t forget to follow GCM on Instagram for more info – and colourful cover updates! Gym Class, we salute you.
Sheffield Children’s Hospital and (the brilliant) Cat Powell from Artfelt recently commissioned them to work with the long term patients of the ward, to come up with artwork for the space together. They delivered a workshop and came up with an activity pack – the outcomes from these activities were characters that the children designed using a couple of creative exercises. The duo then redrew these characters in different positions hiding around the ward.“Part of the brief was to come up with something distracting. A lot of the kids have to undergo fairly long and uncomfortable treatments. Injections etc. So we came up with a ‘Hide & Seek’ idea. The Characters are interacting with the furniture in the hospital, hiding behind bins and under tables… We also designed an activity book using the same characters, to run alongside the artwork – some of the patients have long waits in the ward and hopefully the activity book should provide a some fun and distraction.” _ Photography by 93ft
We chatted with David from Melbourne’s Studio Constantine. He gave us an insight into the process behind their beautiful minimalist work.Can you tell us a bit about how Studio Constantine came to be?
Sure thing. Being partners in life, Hannah and I (David) always had the intention to work together in a creative practice at some point. After some years working in London (David in an innovation consultancy and Hannah in publishing), working crazy hours, commuting and living for the weekends, we decided to take the plunge and head back to Melbourne to start our own thing.
It was also about working out who we wanted to work with long term. London was great and we worked with the biggest brands and companies in the world, but inevitably we ended up dealing with clients that were only interested in projects so far as it advanced their climb within their own companies. Very few people cared about what they were doing or selling, let alone why.
We have two main criteria for vetting potential clients. 1. Are they as passionate about what they do as we are about what we do? and 2. Do they desire difference? Beyond that, we work for clients in many sectors from multinationals to one person shows – as long as it is engaging.
Very few people cared about what they were doing or selling, let alone why.
Your website reads manualelectric.com. Why Manual Electric, what does it mean?
The idea was that the URL describes our process, or design approach. ‘Manual’ is about making things in the real world. Understanding that the smallest details are what makes the bigger picture. We take time to build relationships with great paper merchants, printers, developers in order to let production opportunities inform our design process. ‘Electric’ is about the idea. Thinking always comes first, and even small executional work is always sweated over to fit into the bigger idea. These two words act as a safety net on every project, to hold ourselves to account. What is the studio dynamic like?
In our time since we founded in 2012, we’ve had ups and downs, but learnt a whole heap too. We’ve always been about building the business slowly and sustainably. This is something we want to be doing for decades, not just a couple of years, so making sure that each job is at a standard we are happy to put out to the world is always front of mind. We work with Hannah and myself as two principals, between us covering the roles of a managing director and creative director. We have a network of collaborators like photographers, illustrators and developers, and bring in freelance designers as we need capacity. We also often have a student with us on placement from a local uni. Tell us a little about your design process
Our process is inherently strategically led – most briefs begin with a lot of questions, before we get anywhere near answers. We spend a lot of time helping our clients articulate what they have to say and who they want to say it to, before getting near how to say it. Research is key.
Our practice is about identity. We work in a multidisciplinary way, from visual identity systems and applications to campaign work, digital, packaging, interiors and environmental graphics, and publishing. At the heart of every project though is our work with clients on how to express what is unique or interesting or inspiring about them. If we get that bit right, the execution is usually really obvious.
We see a sophisticated minimal aesthetic as a common thread through your projects, and typography always plays a big role in your work – do you find this happens naturally or is it something you strive to achieve?
I think it is the result of a desire to take things away, and to rigorously rationalise what is left. We always push to see how little you really need to communicate an idea. It’s also a statement on how very often it is all the high context cues that make a piece of communication (particularly a physical object) memorable or desirable. Materials and processes are really important to all the work we make.
Simple has an appeal, because it is difficult — but we also think it is beautiful.
How do you stay inspired?
By continually challenging ourselves to slow down, make room to think and to remember why we started in the first place. Enjoying time doing simple things. Trying to find the simplest solution. Trying to do it with less. Trying to observe better.Books to recommend?
Recent favourites: Monocle guide to good business. Rethinking the Modular – USM project50. Statement and counter statement – Notes on Experimental Jetset. Some posters from the NGV. Favourite typographer?
Classic: Josef Müller-Brockmann, Rolf Müller, Helmut Schmid Contemporary: Experimental Jetset, Kasper Florio, Spasky Fischer
By no means the full list!
Curated by Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards, who work together under the name of DR.ME, Cut That Out focuses on the compositions of 50 leading designers and studios from 15 different countries for whom collage has been the key to creating vibrant, effective work. We caught up with half of the duo to find out more about this great new book…
FFF: Tell us a bit about yourselves for those who might know much about DR.ME (and what about that name?) – who you are, you experience, how you work, what you work on etc. ME: Just to clear something up (this came up last night in fact whilst giving a talk), DR.ME is pronounced Doctor Me. Not D R M E, not dreamy, Doctor Me. Also, when written down it is DR.ME not Dr Me, nor DR-ME, DR.ME pure and simple uppercase with a dot in the middle. Rant over. The reason we’re called DR.ME is a miss-ordered acronym of our initials: Ryan Doyle – DR and Mark Edwards – ME. Just to take you back to where it began we were actually paired together on the first day of studying Design & Art Direction at Manchester School of Art & Design. After finishing our studies we decided go to New York for a few months to intern for Mike Perry in his studio in Crown Heights, this was a really great learning curve for us, Mike was everything you could want in a boss and taught us so much in such a short amount of time, we’ll always be indebted to the big guy! After that we returned to Manchester and opened our studio, since opening we’ve worked with clients including Red Bull Music Academy, Budweiser, Manchester International Festival, Young Turks, Tri Angle Records, Vevo, YoungArts Miami, painted murals on the French Riviera and exhibited in New York, London and Frankfurt. In the past year we’ve had a change of dynamic, Ryan met a girl (now his wife) in France and moved out there to be with her, 10 years ago this might have been harder but through using things like Skype, Slack and email it’s made it whole possible to run the studio together remotely without it affecting our dynamic.
FFF: You’re perhaps best known for your recent ‘365 days of collage’ initiative – was that conceived before the idea of the book? Or related in any way? ME: Yeah, 2 years ago my mum Jilly Edwards who is a tapestry weaving artist had a show as part of Collect at Saatchi Gallery, we did the brochure design and designed the layout of the show, when we went down to set up the exhibition we were staying in an Air BnB, this turned out to be owned by a collage artist called Paolo Giardi. Paolo’s work filled the apartment flood to ceiling and really made us think about the speed and immediacy of the medium. As we’d been talking about working on an ongoing project that would sharpen our skills in collage we decided to start 365 Days of Collage. After we’d been working on it for about 6 months and had had a good response to the project we started to think about what could happen at the end of the project, an exhibition sounded achievable but we wanted something with a bit more longevity. We decided to approach Thames & Hudson about the possibility of them publishing the project as a book. Their response was pretty unforgettable “We only do Artist monographs for people who are dead or famous”, we were neither so we though that was it but they came back to us and asked whether we’d like to pitch an idea for a book on design. As we are designers who utilise collage within our practice and knew many others who fell into this category we thought that this would be an exciting starting point for a book.
FFF: What is it about collage that has you hooked? Do you consider yourselves designers, illustrators, makers, artists etc.? ME: I’d say we consider ourselves designers, we use collage to convey an idea. Whether this is a collaged pattern design for Vevo, an abstract collage for Cactus Digitale magazine editorial or a record sleeve for Evian Christ, the majority of the time it is a medium that we gravitate towards within our work as it creates such unexpected outcomes and pushes us to think in new and interesting ways.
FFF: The book features 50 of the best practitioners – how did you go about selecting them? any personal favourites? ME: I think we’ve both been keeping lists in our minds of our favourite practitioners since we both fell in love with design so about 75% of the book was already selected from the get go! The rest we discovered which was super exciting to come across somebodies work and realise that they would be a perfect fit for the book! Personal favourites is a tough one, that changes all of the time, Damien Tran, Steve Hockett, Aliyah Hussain, John Powell-Jones, Ellery James Roberts, Anna Beam, Nous Vous were great to have in as we have worked with them all previously and have longstanding friendships. People like Stefan Sagmeister, Hort, Yokoland, Mike Perry, Mirko Borsche, Hvass&Hannibal, Neasden Control Centre and Mario Hugo have been studio heroes for a long time and Jesse Draxler, Lewis McLean, Louis Reith, Cameron Searcy and Matthew Craven were people that we only discovered further down the line but were really excited to get involved. So, yeah, it’s a bit of a book of personal favourites!
FFF: You recently spoke at NicerTuesdays – do you think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding or lack of appreciation around contemporary collage within the creative industries? Are you happy to be pigeon-holed as the ‘collage guys’? ME: I think it’s definitely getting more appreciation, there have been some excellent books come out about collage in the art world in the last 10 years. What I think is exciting now is that it’s starting to filter out of the art gallery and onto the street a lot more be this giant advertising hoardings on the street created by Mat Maitland for Kenzo, record covers for Tame Impala and Caribou by Leif Podhajsky and Matthew Cooper respectively in your local record shop, beer bottle labels we created the artwork for Cloudwater Brewing company adorning the fridges of your local bar or gig posters made by Braulio Amado or Ronny Hunger pasted up high and proud on a street corner. People can call us what they like, we’ll continue to try and make work that is bold and true whether that’s with collage or paint, type or video, vector or hand drawn.
FFF: Tell us a bit about the process of putting together a book! Was it fun? easy? arduous? as expected? do-able? plans for a volume two?!?! ME: It was a long process, there was a lot of chasing people for work, a lot of writing which is a new thing for us, but it was totally worth it in the end. Since we started the studio we’ve always wanted to make a book and it was a massive pleasure to do it with a publisher that we have so much respect for and who we own so many books by already! It was a great experience for sure, it gave us a lot more confidence in our own eye, if Thames & Hudson had had to guide us through it more then it could have been quite arduous but they were always really happy with what we were doing throughout so that was encouraging. I’d love to do a volume two, have already started collecting work on a pinterest board, there was a few people that we missed out of the last one as they had too much on to be involved at the time so would be great to go back to them, along with some of the people from this book who have continued to make amazing work that came out too late to feature and then there’s a number of new names that would be awesome to feature and speak to!
The always excellent Design Manchester festival has recently announced its 2016 line-up, and it’s looking to be a belter.
This year the festival is taking place from 12-23rd October and includes a film season at HOME, Art Battle Manchester VIII, and Design City Fair at London Road Fire Station, which will feature over 100 creatives and a schedule of workshops that takes in screen printing, letterpress, book-binding, frame-making and origami.
The conference day features multidisciplinary interaction designer Jason Bruges, immersive tech artists FIELD, wayfinding and graphic designer Alexandra Wood, Dutch design collective Trapped in Suburbia and Warner Bros.’ senior VP of creative affairs and head of Blue Ribbon content Peter Girardi.
And there’s a shedload of events that have just been announced covered everything from creative data to neurodiversity to UX.
Tickets and more info available here: http://designmcr.com/
When we found out our friend Angharad Lewis was writing a book about magazines, we knew we had to get the inside scoop! I caught up with her after spending some time with ‘So you want to publish a magazine?’ (beautifully designed by She Was Only)…
FFF: For our readers who might not know you, what has your role/experience been in publishing and design? how do you split your time these days? AL: I’m a bit ‘fingers in pies’ – I divide my time between freelance writing (a bit of journalism, a bit of book-writing, a bit of copywriting), teaching at The Cass School of Design and being co-editor of Grafik. I joined Grafik in 2003 (when it was still graphics International. We were a monthly printed magazine until 2011 and at the moment we’re an online publication.
FFF: Tell us a bit about the book in your own words, who its for, and why you created it.. AL: I guess it’s a bit of a user manual for anyone interested in the endeavour of independent magazine publishing. As well as giving lots of practical advice about what is a fairly complicated business, the book is also hopefully interesting for anyone who (like me) is quite nosey about magazines and how they’re made and how publishing models are structured. It’s packed with the knowledge and experiences of about 50 people involved in the magazines world, from makers to distributers and retailers – I tried to come at the subject from all angles and tackle the more tricky aspects of the business head-on and in a very accessible, hopefully entertaining, way.
FFF: How much of your own personal experience with Grafik did you draw on for this book? AL: The bones of the book really come from my own experience – knowing what areas were relevant, what questions to ask, and how things behind the scenes of magazines fit together – but this skeleton was fleshed out and animated by calling on the generous input of lots of other indie publishers from around the world. Also, I hope that having ‘lived it’, I am able to give a bit of humour and the human side to what might otherwise border on the ‘dry’ when it comes to subjects like distribution and advertising.
FFF: Do you see your students still interested in making printed magazines? AL: Definitely. There’s no diminution in the interest in print. Printed magazines have a magic you can’t match with other media. That said, digital platforms are absolutely essential now and the really exciting things are happening when very clever people find ways to combine the two. Students often bring a surprising and enlightening view that I would not otherwise have seen, because as a generation, they’re breathing digital like air, whereas I’m of the generation that had to learn it.
FFF: A book like this is always a snapshot of the publishing industry, any observations on where we’re at? AL: We’re enjoying a time of amazing diversity – so much so that the volume of new titles being launched can actually be pretty overwhelming for readers. I think this will inevitably settle down in the next few years and sustainability will come into sharper focus – for magazines to stay the course it’s a constant battle of devotion to your vision versus concessions to financial realities and that applies to the full range of sizes of magazine ventures, from the tiniest side project to commercial ventures. It takes an immense amount of time and energy to make a magazine, so the magazine makers who have a really natural, instinctive relationship with their readers, and who are indefatigable in finding new ways to survive and innovate will show us some interesting things in the next couple of years.
FFF: The format of a magazine is always an important consideration – at 168 pages in a handy 230x190mm softback format the book is quite magazine-y! – was that intentional? AL: The format was one of the first things we thought about – we wanted something that felt easy to carry and refer to – a bit like a nice diary or notebook – to emphasise it’s handiness and functional nature as a tool. I suppose I’d like to think of it being carried around as a trusty companion while someone is going about the business of planning and making a magazine!
FFF: Any favourite insights, observations, quotes or interviews from the book? AL: That’s a tough one. I’m such a nosey parker that I love chatting to people about what they do and seeing where and how they work – especially magazine people, who are a pretty impressive bunch, with some really niche and surprising areas of interest, expertise and reference points. So I had a lot of great experiences along the way. One of the things that delighted me most was how upfront and happy to share almost everybody was in exposing their know-how and the inner workings of their mags. And I got to meet and interview some heroes, which was intimidating and a thrill. This is kind of silly, but the toilets at Midori House (Monocle HQ) made me chuckle – seemingly more technology in one lavatory than I have in my whole house!
FFF: Now you’ve produced one book, any plans or desire to do it again? AL: This is the first book I’ve done solo (I’ve done a few in collaboration with co-authors in the past) and it was an epic mission! But it’s really satisfying – if a little nerve-wracking – when a book you’ve worked so hard on makes it to the shelves and hopefully people’s hands, so yes, I would love to do another (in fact, I’m already working on a tentative outline…)
Craig Black is a Scottish born graphic designer, lettering artist and typographer currently running his own design studio in Glasgow and London. He’s produced work for AIGA, Glug, UEFA and the BBC and published internationally by Computer Arts, Creative Review and IdN Magazine. Check out this great interview with him over on TypographHer.
In a growing world of budget ‘do-it-yourself-internets’ and ‘get-your-cheap-business-cards-here’ it’s always super good to see a new service that actually looks legit pop-up, welcome to the table Strut and Fibre.
Strut and Fibre is a new online print service, crafted by creative studio Delight aimed at people with a desire for a higher level of quality printing services with options excelling offerings from lower-end competitors.
Strut and Fibre have also locked in an incredible host of design ambassadors from studios to illustrators to create an exclusive offering across their range of business cards, postcards and A2 printed materials including: Build, Bread Collective, Delight, Hey Studio, Malika Favre, Richard Hogg, Steven Wilson, Supermundane, Two Times Elliott
The guys behind the service have also set up a launch event that’s taking place at Protein studios on the 8th of September followed by a 3 day exhibition featuring the ambassadors work in the same venue. Tickets for the launch can be grabbed over on Eventbrite here.
For all in the info on the event and their upcoming services hit up: strutandfibre.com
For more work from Delight check out their case studies here.