Monday, 11 May 2009

Compare and contrast practitioners.

Sky Broadcasting v Double G studios.

I have chosen to compare these design institutions for very specific reasons. They both produce work in the same field and this happens to be the type of work I have produced work for in my major project. It is a title sequence for a documentary documenting an Antarctic expedition. Also I have a personal dilemma that I am trying to resolve as a graduating student do I aim to go freelance or in-house?

Having met the creative director of sky and receiving a lecture from Grant Gilbert both heads of seemingly similar design companies, have notable differences. The most notable being the fact that Double G Studios consisted of one person who would hire extra hands when necessary.

The work they produce is for the same market, the television audience. The companies have to fight for the viewing majority in a saturated market with ever more important channel identities. This world of idents and advertising is increasingly slicker and polished especially with advent of HD, I always wondered what I was getting myself into. Sometimes deigns are so machine lead that they become sterile and face less. This is a problem I had with corporate design but after analysing the full spectrum of the designs that sky prepare for its hundreds of channels, it seemed to be that there was a need for a more human approach with room for simpler designs that steered away from the banality of the generic 3D logo spinning around. Some of the animation I was generating in the studio was very hand made and labour intensive I wondered in a world with such short deadlines would there be any room for such simple practises?

Before going down to sky I assumed they would have to look after themselves, thinking that everything they are concerned with has to be considered for the good of the share holder, there would be many rules and constrictions, a code of conduct that if it wasn’t followed their would be dire consequences, This is true to a degree but because of the variety of their production, with all those different channels, you can do something that you have specialised in or have better natural ability doing. This would mean that there is hope in enjoying the things that you like within such a big company.

I was pleased to see Gilberts designs for MORE4, they had a reserved corporate feel to them but their simplicity added to their charm, jut simple explorations on a theme that gave the channel a strong identity, without alienating the channel that spanned it. His ideas were not bound by software or production constraints, anything he envisaged could be created to a degree by any means necessary. He is a designer with universal roles and would see the design over at every stage of production. It is these qualities I suppose he learned from Channle4. Something that is apparent on Gilberts part is that he wouldn’t be getting such high profile jobs if he had not had the experience of working for channel4, bigger companies are probably more accepting to some of his more maverick ideas to design problems because of his affiliations with such a respected company like channel four, giving him greater creative freedom. Being a ware of this leads you to think that at Sky you may have less creative control; is that a sacrifice I would be prepared to pay for a secure job?. This is all hypothetical, but it does create a real dilemma about what to do after I have graduated.

GG studios pitched ideas to potential clients and nothing seemed certain, he said he would be paid more for a job but the jobs would be few and far between. Most pitches seem to get turned down. One would need a great deal of confidence in their abilities to approach such big clients without the support around you.

Gilbert, under his alias, Double G studios, has a similar role to what was described to me by Paul Butler of Sky. Butler said that the people working under his supervision become directors of sorts and have to come up with a whole array of things to contribute to how their vision will come to life. Anything that you are uncertain with like typography for example, could get assigned to someone else but its creation would still be influenced by what you have outlined in storyboards etc.

Gilbert said that he chooses and hires the people he needs through contacts that he has built from working within the industry, a benefit of this would be being able to pick people who you know are reliable and have maybe produced good work for you before. This process would be more streamlined because you could be very specific with the people you hire for each job. Working at Sky, with all of these hordes of specialists at your disposal I imagine the expected work turnover is very high. Compared to Gilbert Months of preparation for a single pitch. Sky would have more of an open discussion, more of a team mentality not just one persons vision, even though sometimes it could be; many other hands and eyes would oversee its production.

Gilbert firs job was in-house with a large company like sky, Channel 4 Television. Although nothing has been totally resolved this has given me something’s to think about. If I was to work freelance I would require a lot of discipline and self-motivation to get started and to get a name for myself self amongst the droves of graduates. But like Gilbert I could perhaps work in a place like sky, this would instil a better work ethic and sense of professionalism in me that I gravely need. Plus one would gain benefits of security and a steady income these would all ensure a better start if I chose to become freelance at a later stage. Obviously I would always keep an open mind about this kind of thing, yet all Jobs probably have compromising rigors and confines, and it seems to be obvious that you might have to do something that you had never envisaged to get yourself off the ground.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Martin O'neil


Subject: Re: Just a couple of things

Date: 9 February 2009 16:01:11 GMT

Hi Dave,

Details for buying a book are below.

Unfortunately I'm not around those dates. Taking a well earned break. I also now live on the Coast in Hastings. So not in London.

In answer to your question regarding how I work, it’s a process where I refuse to let a digital aesthetic dominate or overwhelm. I strive to create collages in a purely analogue way, I do not resize images and apply filters, every detail has to be meticulously contemplated, chosen from my archive that I have been developing over several years. I feel this gives me something to kick against and react to. Composing found images on a computer can be immensely powerful but in many respects it still struggles to replicate the intuitive fluidity of physically making a collage, tipping out draws full of images – making connections and links between the elements, fighting for hierarchy and prominence, searching for missing bits that will compliment, repel or contrast.

Good luck, a career in Illustration takes a lot of hard work and determination, but is very rewarding when things go well.

All the best,


Books are £10 plus £2 pnp to a UK address.

Please send a cheque payable to Martin O’Neill to:

Martin O’Neill

Cut it Out Ltd.

9 Marine Court

St. Leonards on Sea

East Sussex

TN34 3LH


Can you also include a sticker or piece of paper with your name and address clearly on it. If you havent got a chequebook, let me know and I can arrange for an alternative payment method.

Many thanks,

Martin. 0142 444 1972

On 06/02/2009 13:59, "David Mercer" <> wrote:

Hello Martin,

I have a couple of questions and a big favour to ask. first off I would love to purchase your recently published book Dogs and Dice, the website I found it on told me to contact you directly. Secondly myself and 3 friends are budding Illustrators from Manchester. We are taking a 3 day trip to London on the 3rd to the 5th of march. I was wondering if you could ever so kindly take some time out of your busy schedule and meet with us to discuss and give us insight into your design making process and maybe take a look at our portfolios. This would be very informal and a great help for some Illustrators inexperienced with the professional world.

Lastly I’m currently writing a personal journal, in the journal there will be an on going discussion about hand made illustration over computer generated imagery. I understand that the work you do is so far removed from the computer that you don’t even resize your found imagery, its amazing that you can fight the urge to enhance certain things digitally. I was wondering if you could elaborate on why you stick to such practices without giving in to temptation?

yours faithfully,

Dave Mercer.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Issues and Practises

Aesthetic Style or Content?

Within Illustration and design in general there seems to be two trains of thought. On one hand there are designers who only think about their aesthetic style thinking a designers role is to just make things look good. This is indeed a big part of what it is to be an illustrator but i find these things can lack sophistication in that much of the time the content or the way it is delivered is overlooked. What’s lacking I feel is their own insight or interpretation of the text or a lack of play between the relationships of a cast for an illustration.

On the other hand there our Designers/Illustrators who do not concern themselves with the aesthetic at all, almost seeing it as a bi product of conceptualizing an idea. Designers such as Patrick Thompson, Who’s subject matter is at the core of his images and sometimes the only thing it has got going for it.

After reading an article in EYE magazine I realized some of the themes for this essay were discussed here by Paul Bowman. He refers to the notion of style, not just in an aesthetic way, but referring to style as the content within an illustration and the way it is delivered, He says “good creative work challenges the viewer to question things. The subject matter is served by the style not the other way round, and the first question asked should be – is the subject matter any good?”Boman has a point but he emphasizes content over aesthetics which is something I do not agree with.

Thinking of style in these two separate entities, the content and the form, they are both at opposite ends of the scale, but when fused with balance in mind they can combine to create more divers, thought provoking and visually pleasing work.

The strongest element of David Shrigley’s style is content, I think his little illustrations are exceptional. allot of the time the way it has been produced has very little to do with that, just the outstanding humour and observations make it excel. He has once said that art is like a joke without the humour, from this you can imagine he spends alot of time thinking about the concepts within his own work but also the bigger picture of art itself.

David Downon is a fashion illustrator, he would sit on the aesthetics without content side, but still anyone would find it hard not to like his illustrations because they are objectively really well produced and beautiful, like Shrigley he generates images but the differences between the two are worlds apart and its all to do with the context of where the image will be used/seen. Shrigley probably thinks of concepts and jokes with the same amount of intensity as David Downton puts into practasing his drawing skills and brush strokes. In a way it is not what you like but why you like it, and if you obssess over it and work really hard this integrity shines through wheither its form or content, and art should be given credit based upon this, not just content alone.

Gillian blease is a contemporary illustrator I feel sits comfortably in the middle of this debate. She has a strong visual style, her illustrations are well composed and the colours are beautiful and well considered, her ability to strip down elements to their most minimal form yet fall short of abstraction and remain in the real world is mesmerizing. She also has the sophisticated thought processes that go into deciphering a text and picking out the most relevant things. Although sometimes Blease’s work seems simpler visually, the designs are forever more complex because of the careful considerations and reservations required to pull them off. I feel the key to Blease’s success lies in her acute judgment for striping elements back without loosing their universal meaning and understanding. I would love to have this degree of balance within my own work, it is something i will certainly strive for.

Unfortunately I have made a graph to try and explain what I mean. One must remember this is subjective and I’m not saying what is objectively good/bad or right/wrong, just subjectively saying what I like and dislike, just a personal view of how I have become to perceive art and design. You can see a correlation between aesthetics and content. Some people have strong attachments to each end its just that I prefer balance but these people could say that I’m just average.

Your style is your personality and to say that one should be valued over another is just nonsence, in the end it would seem that an illustrator needs a style, It is what you are hired for after all. But I feel stressing about content is just unnecessary when sometimes all we need is a pretty picture; yes at times they can be frivolous or sentimental. But stressing over content can be elitist, this can be evidenced in elements of the modernist movement. Last time i was stressing about content Ian Murray told me to 'fuck integrity' nobody could have put it more eloquently.

GGstudios: Grant Gilbert

Grant was not part of a company as the name would suggest or even a collective of designers. He used his initiative and added the "studios" he said just to sound to a potential client like he was more professional and give the illusion that he was worth investing in. He is totally aware of the benefits a group of people has to offer and exploits this using his knowledge he obtained when first working for channel 4. He realised that these kind of people take other "companies" more seriously that just Grant Gilbert and his sketchbook of ideas.

Having said this he does also work with other people hiring them when he needs specific skills to help him complete a project. He seems to have got himself into a good position having the flexibility of freelance whilst giving off the professionalism a studio or collective has to offer. In essence he is a director much like the role described in my visit to Paul Butler at Sky only doing it all freelance off his on back. He said this does have draw backs as you don't get paid for pitching ideas to big clients. Sometimes you can put in months of work and no even get the paid job at the end of it all.

Grant showed us some of his past failures and successes, i thought this was good as he was able to explain why they failed and where they went wrong. I think his success lies in the experience gained from working for big clients giving him a very good work ethic and obviously in the long term bettering his freelance work, and giving him the confidence to want to approach the bigger clients. This is something i should bare in mind when considering a job in house, the experience would be invaluable.

When Grant gave examples of work he had done the strongest in my opinion was the work for More4. Part of me has a hatred for this field of design such as branding for telly where all to often there is excessive use of 3D but i was drawn to this because of its simplicity and playful interactions with the shapes much like Tal Rosners work only more modernist in approach. It was simple but not sterile like these things can all too often look like. It was just a playful interaction between the logo and the medium it was to be used in.

Grants re brand for the BBC was a similar brief set out for More4 he talked us through the development of the project/re branding. He shown his research in to the history of the BBC indents and explained that he went back to the basics for the BBC re brand, revolving everything around a circle to symbolise community and unification


Otto Dettmer came to collage to talk about his illustrations and the practicalities of trying to make a profession out of them. I used to dislike ottos visual style in the first year but i have learnt to appreciate it more over the years and recently i think its safe to say i really like it. I like OTTOs work in the same way that i like Gillian Bleases, the imagery is very stripped back in terms of aesthetic the use of flat single colour and there is rarely a landscape just little vignettes but the imagery unlike Blease has a character all its own and is unmistakably Otto. Ottos work looks its best in the context it was designed for, in a newspaper accompanied by text. It is in this situation it shines. I used to think the imagery looked a little stark on screen (no qualms with content) but in the paper it provides a good contrast to the words. At first i thought this might be unintentional and that this is fortunate that he happens to illustrate like this; then you realise he was conscious of this and that it was all considered and intentional. His own books provide a contrast to this and are much more colourful, intricate and contain allot more depth with landscapes rather than little vignettes, showing how much of an accomplished designer he is.

When he talked of industry he didn't seem fond and much preferred his own book making work, he said the best money can be earned from advertising but this is usually very hard and a little demoralising but worth every penny. He said another good way of getting those all important extra pennies was to keep the copyright after an image is used, this way you can resell it at a later date, he had some examples of this.

Ottos influences include: Russian and Polish illustration, Konstantin Makovsky, El
Lissitsky, Nicolas Poussin. He said that he draws inspiration for figurative positions from Renaissance artists and sculptures who were obsessed with perfecting how to paint and sculpt the human form. Old movies he said are also good for layout or characters, particularly the silent ones because they can communicate so much with such little much like a good illustration.

Fake ID

Fake ID from the outset seemed like a very different bunch of guys compared to our usual lecturers. It seemed usually we receive lectures from people who are highly practical within their design discipline; applied art that is practical, and can be seen everyday and understood by most people Fake ID were not like this in any sense and almost revelled in the alienation of others

Usually even the most established designers will show you their work but these guys assumed that i had already seen their work and thought they would just explore notions of what interest them from a conceptual point of view. But they couldn't even do this, they just showed clip after clip of obscure cultural references and seemed enthralled with it yet at the same time had nothing to constructive to say about any of it.

The most interesting bit was when they refereed to the way people speak and the way their writing sounds and how this can change under different circumstances but these were all ideas based on other peoples work and wasn't elaborated on or interpreted in their own way. A good quote, which again was someone else's, was about an audience and its inability to close its ears off in the same way one can close their eyes to divert attention from something.

When asked a question about industry and its sudden surge of interest toward this type of conceptual art and design they said something along the lines of. He thought that they were trying to give something back culturally, close the gap between consumer and producer. I feel for a company like Nike approaching people like this is always for profit, to open up new target markets, to infiltrate anything, they seemed naive in this notion but when your getting paid who cares, right?

So in the end Fake ID seemed to be conceptual artists that were into obscure things that they could hardly relate to for no reason other than to just produce even more obscure work which they couldn't talk about earnestly, they had to read lines as though they were extracts from books they couldn't understand, they just seem unconvincing and unsure of why they were in the position that they were in. As though they woke up one morning and thought "this will be a laugh".
It seems that they get hired because of their leftfield way of tackling a brief, i'm all for the leftfield and weird but this just seemed pretentious and they weren't saying anything constructive about the things they were showing us. They were obviously intelligent and knew what they liked and why but i found it very hard to gain a better insight into their world,. Oh, and the PLEASE HOLD joke was just tedious, funny for a second but utterly pointless. I suppose that was the biggest question in my mind. What was the point?

Patrick Thompson

Patrick Thomas was born in Liverpool, England. After setting up a studio with fellow graduates he relocated to Barcelona he said this was partly because of the upcoming Olympics and the buzz around the event and city. He divides his time between directing the studio, working for the International Press and producing silkscreen prints. His collaboration with the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, has given him more than 150 Jobs usually the front cover. Other clients include The New York Times Op-Ed, Book Review and Weekly Review-sections.

He spent along time going through his design work images – published work, personal work, influences and found objects – giving us a huge insight into his work and the thought behind it. Editorial work is notoriously short lived, and Patrick's simple work is suited to this, the core of his work is the simplicity of the message being relayed.

One thing that struck me and my new found love of knowing what i like within design, was a lack of aesthetic beauty. He agued, in a very modernist approach that it was just the message that needed to be conveyed and the aesthetic is just an after thought. He made a point of this by reproducing allot of his work in just black and white, trying to make a point that the message is still clearly communicated. It was but I was very unhappy with this and began to despise him, weather it was the hangover or not, im not so sure but his blatant disregard for the way his designs looked pissed me off, pixelated internet images for collages, his crap use of colour; it seemed it would be the kind of thing that if brought forward in one of my own tutorials the aesthetic would be mocked, "nice idea but it looks shit". And yet there we were making him believe that he was some sort of design guru. Perhaps i was just jealous of his life style and home, but i didn't like his work, i felt a little alone in this thinking especially after looking at his client base. I don't feel the work looked good aesthetically but his integrity lied in the way the message was conveyed his adept ability to do this means that he can afford to not pay so much attention to the way in which the designs look, although i feel it wouldn't hurt to try out both.