How did you get into graphic design?
Bear with me on this, it’s important. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me begin…
I remember when I was choosing my O-Levels at school (yes, I am THAT old) and really loving art. My then art teacher, Mr Ryans, told me categorically there weren’t many great art-related careers, maybe Graphic Design, but I shouldn’t bother as it’s way too competitive and I’d never get a job doing that in a million years. I didn’t actually know what Graphic Design was if I’m perfectly honest, but with that inspiring encouragement under my belt, I took O-Level art, along with the usual staple school curriculum subjects and boy did I show Mr Ryans. I got a ‘C’. Yes, a ‘C’. A big, fat, average, ordinary, run-of-the-mill ‘C’.
But I didn’t care, I loved art and art clearly loved me, I was so proud of myself. So much so I went on to study it at ‘A’ level (still with Mr Ryans, lovely guy, honestly) and once again, I climbed the heady heights of the artistic academic ladder, topping out with an ‘E’ at A-Level. It was a pass, that’s all that mattered.
What happened next? Well, I stumbled upon an Art Foundation Course at Sunderland Polytechnic (younger viewers might want to Google ‘Polytechnic’) and I have to say it was the best thing I ever did. 12 months of fine art, life drawing, 3D, fashion and wait for it, Graphic Design. There was that phrase again. What’s more, the guy that taught the subject, Charlie, was a complete fruit cake, full of madcap ideas, weird thoughts and an establishment-challenging attitude that was truly inspirational. He also knew someone, who knew someone that was a lecturer on the BA Hons Graphic Design Degree Course at Preston Polytechnic. “Go do a degree”, he said, “Go do graphic design” he said, “You might like it” he said, “You might even be half decent at it” he said. So I did.
Four fantastic years at Preston Polytechnic, taught by Forepoint’s very own Mr Simon Bailey, doing a six month industrial placement in London, earning a 2:1 Degree in Graphic Design and getting my first job at The Chase in Manchester as a junior Designer. I hope you’re reading this Mr Ryans?
What qualities do you think a good graphic designer needs to have?
There are three things in my opinion.
The first is a good brain. But make sure it’s a spongy, absorbent one. One that takes in everything that’s around you, one that sees and listens, that looks at things in a slightly different way to the norm. A brain that makes connections between seemingly unconnectable things, that finds coincidences, seeks for different answers, or maybe even asks a different question in the first place. A brain that thinks differently. Why? Because having a creative brain is the saviour of our industry. (See my blog ‘Creativity is dead. Long live creativity’). That’s why in this digital age we’re unlikely to be automated or replaced by designer robots because we use our minds in a random, bizarre and wonderful way.
The second is being a great communicator. You NEED to be able to talk to people, clients, colleagues, people, any people and connect with them to express your ideas. If you can’t get your ideas across, you’ll fall at the first.
The third is hard work. One thing I have learnt over the years is that nothing comes easy, even if you have a talent, you still need to keep trying, keep working, keep pushing yourself to improve and never ever give up. If I’d listened to Mr Ryans, who knows where I’d be?
What do you most enjoy about working at Forepoint?
That’s a tough one, as there are so many things. I love the people that I work with. We often describe ourselves as a slightly dysfunctional family and that’s about right. We’re a concoction of very different and varied characters each contributing very different things to the mix that combine brilliantly well to produce some fantastic results.
I love it when I meet a like-minded client. When we find that ally, that someone on the same wavelength with the same passion, understanding, work ethic and drive to do their absolute best. They do what they do best and let us do what we do best, when the two things combine they produce the best work. They are a rare beast but I have been lucky enough to work with some over the years and I still do today. When it clicks, it’s awesome.
I also love it when you have that lightbulb moment. You know the one, when that idea just pops into your head and you go ‘Yessssss’.
What projects are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working on some really challenging but exciting integrated communication campaigns for BAE Systems Maritime Submarines. Still in the early stages but we have some great ideas flowing and working collaboratively with the team there to push the boundaries and do things differently. I’m also working with Hewlett Packard Enterprise on some work around Digital Government, IT in financial services and mobile workplace productivity.
Who has been most influential in your career, who inspired you to become a graphic designer?
Mr Ryans – for giving me the determination to go with what I love, despite his advice.
Pablo Picasso – for bringing art history to life for me. He was actually alive during my lifetime which really connected with me, not just some dead person from the 16th century. Plus in spite of being a precise realist painter he chose to challenge the establishment, break the rules contributing to such a revolutionary abstract art movement. I love his line drawings especially.
Noma Bar – Such a simple and clever designer/artist. Nothing more to say really.
Simon Bailey – for teaching me at Preston Polytechnic, showing me the ropes, getting me my first job at The Chase and giving me the opportunity to work at Forepoint, plus having faith in me to grow into the role I now have here.
Forepoint – I’d be nothing without the people I work with. So ultimately the people that have the biggest influence and inspiration are the people here at Forepoint.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I try to keep fit doing circuit training, crossfit and boxing classes. I play guitar (badly). I love being outdoors, walking in the Lake District with my dog Enzo. I love spending time with good friends and my family. I love driving, especially my old VWs ‘Ruby’, the 1967 Karmann Ghia, ‘Doris’ the 1968 Bay window campervan and ‘Dino’ my Land Rover Defender (yes, I know, I name cars). I love listening to music, anything from Foo Fighters and Elbow, through to Corinne Bailey Rae and Tom Waits. I’m also a proud dad, I love watching my son Harvey turn into a great personality, character, athlete and a genuine human being.
Tell us about a memorable moment about working here or a project you’re really proud of?
I’m proud of everything we do, our work, our people and the strides we make for the people we work for. But I genuinely think we are getting better and better at what we do, so the best is yet to come.
Tell us a fascinating fact about yourself?
I look my English O-Level 5 times, got 4 ‘E’ grades followed by a ‘B’. Never give up!
My dad as a young Police Officer once jumped into the river Wear in Sunderland to rescue someone that had fallen in.
What’s your favourite TV show?
Currently watching The Fall, which is brilliant. Love Top Gear, Stranger Things, Daredevil, Marvel Agents of Shield, Jools Holland, Strictly Come Dancing (did I say that out loud?).
If you were a brand what would your tagline be?
“In a nutshell, don’t be a sausage machine”
Do you have a favourite quote/saying?
“A water bison, is what you wash your face in”