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Week One: Contemporary Practice


Understanding perspectives: case studies of Julian House + Adrian Talbot (Intro Design), Sarah Boris, Tom Finn + Kristoffer Soelling (Regular Practice), Sam Winston and Simon Manchipp (SomeOne).

Case Studies: Who? What? Where? and Why?

Julian House and Adrian Talbot: Intro Design

Julian, a creative partner, is from South wales, 20 years in the game, mostly doing design related to music and film. He studied illustration and collage and got into print design and typography in college. A pivotal point for him was one of his first music graphics for ‘Broadcast’. Being at “Intro Design”, they produced a video in the style of the original artwork as a visual language and this was when the design techniques changed from being predominantly print to being a visual language that could expand into whichever medium you want it to be.

I found his pivotal point interesting because now, they are able to design more, creating a whole world of design to inhabit for any project. Expansion is inspiring.

Adrian Talbot, the other creative partner, since 1990, he has been more traditional with his grahic design techniques; 2D printed communications. He mentioned that he enjoys ‘regular’ graphic design, which I found hilarious. His background is based in identity and printed communications, he enjoys type, letter forms. He has experience designing identities for ‘Young Vic Theatre’ and ‘BishopsGate Institute’. I took note of the fact that as he has grown, he has developed the ability to tell a story effectively with the minimum number of components, still combining type and image but to a minimum, to tell story effectively.

I thought it was very interesting that they are a curious collective of “1 man bands”. They both work in isolation but together, physically. I can relate to being lost in your own world of design thinking and execution and it seems to work very well for them. They handle their own clients and projects, using their MD to organise schedules.

They are based in London, East (obviously). Most of their clients are in London so this works well for them. With the rise of the digital era, they have a few clients that are farther afield but most of them are in London.

Another thing i picked up from them is that ‘Design’ is such a broad visual language that can become a reference point of all sorts of things. Design varies from job to job, typography or imagery might come before the other. I love that because this is why I fell in love with the practice.

Words and pictures in combination to tell a story, this is ‘graphic design’. My passions for all things cultural are brought into every project.

They discussed that the digital revolution has changed their content. It has introduced other streams of practice, for example, animation to cater to the television market. However, they made it clear that they still forge a lot of their reputation on 2D, traditional typography and design which underpins everything. They have had to adapt because the world outside has changed.

Another thing I picked up was that they have had to adapt to is budgets dropping at a massive rate because of the ability to download content. They explained that the ability to make things, particularly moving imagery has become easier. There are more tools available to make moving illustrations.

Sarah Boris

She was born in London but grew up in France and the USA. I strongly related to the fact that she is influenced by people, not just graphic design things. I draw inpiration from the streets, strangers, family and random things, mostly.

Sarah does a lot of editorial graphics and visual identities. She works on a lot of Art books, cookery books and also with theatre companies, quite cool! She spoke about “happy design accidents” and I absolutely love that, I get that a lot when i create. She turned an accident into a book- “Le theatre graphique” - a project that led her to meet a publisher and it snowballed from there. I LOVE THAT!

Sarah is based in central London, the buzzing city, she said she used to visiting and hosting a lot of exhibitions and most clients are based in London. I like that she described design as a function, a way of communicating, I totally agree. Her practice has adapted and shifted as she has moved around the world and she has tried to be flexible. Her skills went from cultural institution and small identity to big editorial projects. Notably, she has had to learn alot about mass production in general and producing in Asia, rather than locally. She has also had to work on communication, editorial design and digital demand. I think it is important to note that she realises she can't be a pro in that and everything else she's doing as well.

Tom Finn + Kristoffer Soelling: Regular Practice

They are a newer (over a year) design studio. They are typography centric in graphic design. For them, a pivotal project in university, a project they had to make a brand for an exhibition. They are based Hackney, East London. Understandably, they live and work there. They share a studio with friends, which must be fun. The local area of Hackney is cramped with different creatives, printers and other studios. so they seem to be thriving with their peers close by.

They explained that they chose this field because it is one that is rewarding field and so is the process; this, I totally agree with. I could also relate to them talking about how trying ones best to do what someone else wants is rewarding. Achieving something at the end of it is nice. They seemed very interested in “how” they work, which again, is relatable. There are so many ways to achieving one goal.

They love problem solving. There have noticed that there are many people offering the same types of services but all differently and I think it is beautiful to have stylistic and conceptual differences and approaches to the same problem. They embrace that everyone has a different process.

I remember that they said they figure a new approach with every project. I found this quite endearing. It helps them avoid getting bored as they evolve with every project. They are curious and want to learn something new on every project. To have a new and fresh approach and keep things interesting must not be an easy task as a lot of us fear change that comes with the fear of failure.

Another thing I noted is that when they first started, the mistakes they made due to inexperience have caught up. For example, contractual laws. They had ideas of how one should work in college and sometimes got the opportunity to work like that but ‘in the real world’ they have noticed that it is all at a much higher and different pace. I appreciate that they have learned a lot through things not going as planned.

Sam Winston

Hi background is in design at University of Arts. He has lived and thrived with dyslexia his journey. A long journey, he describes, working out how to write and read. This fascinated and led him to design and grew his interest in problem solving. He thought he was going to work in books, either in design or writer.

He works in a mixed used studio complex in London. He mentioned that he needs silence for his work. If he needs to collaborate people come in and work but he needs at least 2-3 days to think in an uninterrupted way. He shared that there are two people come in to help by way of studio manager and the other is production and design. Space studios complex is run by a charity and each unit is specific (artist, photographer, painter), he describes that there are shared spaces below for multi use creatives. From the video it looks like he's in London Fields.

He said that he feels like he doesn't necessarily have to be in London, he is usually in the USA, so he travels for work but there is something about his environment that allows him to absorb stuff on a subliminal level and in a much more interesting way. He gets the inspiration from his studio, which I love.

Sam described design in a very interesting way. He said “design is more of a verb than a noun. If it is a noun then it is a thing and it is what you do.” He treats design as a verb, “the same way you can go running, you can do designing.” In this way, he explains that design is applicable to other things. I do not totally understand this, although a part of me is trying to relate. What I do relate to and fully understand is when he said, he has always been a designer in that he will design a book, a story, a project and that has allowed fluidity to play with a client and fellow artists to make publications and exhibitions.

If he said “I am the designer” then a curator would give him some money to create xyz. He hasnt had the focus on being paid for the job, rather he focuses on a longer harder route to create the job, find the payment and then pay himself to be the designer. I think that is awesome. I see what he means, I just don't necessarily understand how and why he has explained it that way. Maybe it's just me. I understand wanting autonomy and freedom to express rather than being curated and working for someone, on their own terms.

I agree with the fact that design only exists towards solving a solution. You ask a question, it is deliberated and then tried to be solved visually and creatively by playing with objects, letters, pages or photos. Sam expresses that asking questions can be a deep process or a superficial process. Colours affect emotions and how it is used in our culture can cause different outcomes. He said “design for me is just asking questions and it is the exploration of those questions” - boom!

Simon Manchipp: SomeOne

14 years ago SomeOne was formed. His interests are in literature and what he refers to as “weird stuff. What he does is branding, everything a brand needs. From creating films, sculpture, typography to general design. He loves storytelling, for example, one of his projects - The Olympic Games. He likes big, difficult and complicated projects. He has worked for Parliament and expressed this to be a hard but satisfying project. His studio is based in Shoreditch and is creatively led. He also has studios in Sydney, Australia, Berlin and New York, which is impressive.

When he talks about change in the design movement, I appreciate that he expresses that “you don't want to be too innovative and pioneer a solo path but you want to time things in the right way.” He advises to not be too keen on rushing ahead and to listen to what people want, I think these are some valuable nuggets.

For Simon, the digital age is absolutely the heartland of things now, the rise and how best to use it is on everyone's lips. However, he goes on to explain that there is a bit of fight at the moment, between the graphic designer and the digital designers. The graphic designer is seen as the architect and digital designers are seen as like the engineers and for obvious reasons, there are often clashes even though the two go hand in hand.

Now onto the challenge...