My interest in typography is relatively recent. I did my BA in fine art, and after that started working as a graphic designer. Back then I was clueless about typography and just learned on the job. I fell in love with type whilst studying for my MA at Central Saint Martins, 2006-2008. There I started working with lettering in a completely different, experimental way. This approach was new to me, I did numerous tactile type experiments and I really enjoyed it. Now I work as a graphic designer / illustrator, focusing on tactile lettering.
· Why do you think typography is important?
Great typography is not design elitism or snobbery. It’s essential part of all visual communication. How we read the labels, how we see the signs, how we understand and respond to a message. I believe in the importance of small things. They can really make or break the design. A well designed index page in a book is just as important as the cover.
· What is your creative process and how do you come up with ideas?
With client work the timings are usually very tight, so I need to come up with ideas very quickly. It can be just a few days from initial briefing to delivering final stitched lettering, so the process is very intense. But I don’t mind short turnaround, and I don’t think that generous timescale necessarily results in better work. I usually sketch 2-3 directions and make some material tests first. Then I design the final lettering, which is the most time-consuming part. My medium is embroidery, so the final stage usually means stitching the design.
A lot of my work is personal experimentation, just playing with ideas and trying out new techniques. Then I spend an awful lot of time perfecting letterforms and I create numerous versions. But personal work always feeds into client work, I even think in most cases I’m being commissioned because clients have noticed my personal projects.
I never look for inspiration in other people’s work and I have no respect for derivative work. Ideas always come from researching the brief. Nothing happens just like that, you have to know your subject, understand the problem, and then you can come up with a solution.
· Having studied Art at CSM, how has this helped you in your work?
CSM is definitely one of the best places to study design, and great colleges attract motivated, talented students. We had lots of talented designers on our course, and seeing amazing work being produced around you every week was a huge motivator. I’m not sure the fact coming from CSM has helped me to win commissions or get the work noticed. I think at the end of the day it’s the quality of work that matters, not where you got your degree from.
· What advice would you give to those wanting to get into typography? & What advice would you give to those looking for work in graphic design?
When I started working with stitched lettering 5 years ago, it was a complete career change for me. I’m not an expert on type design but here are some thoughts based on my own experience, and mistakes I’ve made when starting out:
Keep making new work and never stop learning. If you are passionate about type then you will find your way.
As a graduate it’s easy to feel that you have to grateful for everything that comes your way (and some people are very good at making you feel so). Think critically about ‘opportunities’ – not all of them are great. Don’t work with people who waste you time, or with those who don’t respect your work.
Whatever it is that you do, enjoy your work. I’m not sure it qualifies as ‘advice’ but I think it’s incredibly important. If it does not make you happy, then move on and do something else. Graphic design does not have to be a choice for life.