me stuff

posters in amsterdam, interview

this is a the transcript of Q&A session i did for the for the posters in amsterdam blog (run by mister jarr geerligs) plus a slightly different version of the interview which was featured on the amsterdam adblog in june 2011

Can you please give a little bio of yourself.
Where did you study? What work experience do you have? Can you tell us something special about the way you work?

born in bristol UK in 1967, went to grammar school, (yes we had to wear a school uniform & tie everyday) very strict teachers and people still got the cane… then four years at art school (lincoln & ipswich, suffolk: 84-88) worked in Cambridge UK for a year at design agency ‘optimus’, moved to NL worked in-house at Philips design for 1 1/5 years, moved back to london worked for an american design firm ‘corporate graphics inc.’ for a year then moved to amsterdam worked at Michael Peters design (6 months), then VBAT for 5 years, then helped set up CCCP media collective for about 2 years, then design director / art director at FHV/BBDO (4 years), left in 2003 to become creative director at PPGH/JWT, left in 2005 after 3 years, i consciously decided to spend about 15 years first working for others getting as much experience as possible and seeing how it all works before going solo and starting my own thing… i usually work alone and do everything from talking to clients, doing the design work, making the coffee, writing the bills and cleaning the office, it is sometimes a bit of a solitary existence but i enjoy tackling design projects ‘hands on’ fron start to finish, the whole process makes it interesting and i feel that i still always have a lot to learn so it will never become boring or routine, i love my job just as much as i did more than 20 years ago when i started… lucky me

What made you start as a designer?
(Can you tell us about a childhood memory which influenced the way something looked. Where did you find the joy of designing?)

i lived in france for 4 years as a child and felt quite isolated
from other kids my age so i decided to research, write illustrate
and design two books on the history of the second world war
(strange choice for a 10 year old i know) that’s when i knew
what i wanted to do and those two volumes
are still in my bookshelf to remind me..

What do you like about designing posters?
(What is it about the process you like. What is it about
the result you like? What about the medium it self?)

the poster is a highly analogue, old school medium and
yet it convenes very neatly to the norms of the
digital ‘thumbnail’ visual culture we now live in, it a
very direct communicative piece of design and everything
about a poster is there on the surface in one viewing,
this makes it unique and very challenging for me
as a designer and probably stilll the ultimate form of
graphic design that i love to make, my work
often ends up at A0 size and i love the process of
organising and visualising in my mind
the way all of the elements will come together on that
large expanse of paper… and how it will
function out on the street…

Where do you get your inspiration from?
(Do you get it from other posters, books, films,
nature, fashion or from any other places or particular people?)

yes all of those things you mention and photography,
music, pornography, other graphic designers, artists, mistakes,
bad television shows etc. etc. in fact anything and
everything can be inspirational, even shit stuff, what
makes something inspiring is yourself and how you
look at a thing, not the thing in itself

music is definitely my greatest personal source of inspiration

What makes a poster a good poster?
(What are the things you pay attention to make sure a poster becomes good?)

it’s funny i regularly sit in design juries and look
at a great deal of work all the time
but find it very hard to answer that one, in theory a
good poster has a strong focal point, a singular image
or strong piece of type and yet there are so many
examples of posters that do none of that but are still amazing…
originality is important, but even that is debatable

look for example at the work of michiel schuurman,
he uses type as image/image as type, he constructs
patterns and builds confusing multi-layered pieces that
have no real focal point or singular image in a conventional
manner but still work amazingly well, in fact they perhaps
work because of the fact they look so unusual…
so i suppose the answer is there is nor real formula
for making a great poster, which is to me a fortunate
state of affairs, anything is possible

What are your three favourite (series of) posters – done by someone else?
(Could you explain why these are your favourites?)

the classic ‘staged photography’ series made by studio
dumbar in the late eighties for holland festival
are still a real benchmark for me, the same background image
was used over and over again with different colour typography
screenprinted on top for differnet productions,
way ahead of their time… those posters were probably partly the
reason i came to live and work in the netherlands even

a lot of anton beeke’s old work still appeals to me for his
sheer design ‘flair’, the striking use of imagery and uncoventional
choice of styles, currently the ‘mahler’ series
(concertgebouworkest) by rené knip for impact and confident
use of type and the ‘matter of monument’ series
recently made by michiel schuurman, these are some the
freshest posters i’ve seen around for ages…
weird colours, unexpected approach etc etc.

Which designer do you admire?
(What do you admire about this designer? Why do you
admire this aspect/trade/art of this designer?)

i admire most designers to be honest, there is so much
talent around, especially in a country with such a rich
graphic tradition and pool of skill as the netherlands

someone who really inspired me at a young age was british
designer ‘peter saville’, his approach was more that of an
art director than a traditional graphic designer,
in the late 90’s i was fortunate enough to be able to invite
him over to amsterdam to talk at a design event i organised
with friends (mind the gap) we got the chance to spend a
couple of evenings with him, peter is a bright, uncoventional,
well-read, intelligent person who has the enviable quality
of being curious and interested in everything

What’s the most exciting design project you ever worked on?
(Why is this project so exciting? How does it compare
with other projects?)

i’m not sure i’ve ever felt that any project was ‘exciting’ really,
the dutch national ballet which i’ve now worked on for ten years
has been a good source of experience in all kinds of ways over
the years, i designed their new identity back in 2003 and was
then able to implement my own design for the following
decade, which is quite rare i think, i learned a lot about dealing
with clients, managing expectations, handling disagreements
and learning how to convince a client about your ideas, in the
past year i have been approached with some very interesting
jobs by all kinds of new clients and this is certainly an ‘exciting’
development, seeing where my profession wil lead me next…
never a dull moment

What design project are you currently working on?

i just finished a poster for ‘cinéma arabe’ a small film
festival, which i’m really pleased with, two new posters for
the dutch national ballet (the first in ten years without a dancer
pictured) a whole new series of posters for amsterdam nightclub
‘the sugar factory’ and i’ve just been approached to make a
poster for the ‘picnic’ media event in amsterdam this year

m / 06-06-2011 19:50 - tags: , ,  

1 comment

  1. […] amsterdam adblog later this afternoon, a transcript of the original text can also be read here in me stuff m / 06-06-2011 20:02 – tags: inspiration, news, opinion, posters […]

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