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Interviews

Alex Spiro

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Granary Square

Round About

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Granary Square

The facade of the school in Granary Square

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Interviews

Alex Spiro

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Round About

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Details of the intern of The Western Transit Shed

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Graphic Design studios, head offices

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The Platform Teatre

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Interviews

Alex Spiro

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Interviews

Photography Tim Marshall Interview Jordan Harrison Twist

Be ambitious and aim high Alex Spiro 2


3 Alex Spiro Interviews

What was it that you learnt from your time at CSM? I was here (Central Saint Martins) from 2003 to 2007 and I spent the first half of the four years, mainly focusing on graphics. At the beginning of my second year of the BA I decided to switch over to illustration. I was answering a lot of my design briefs with illustrated solutions and had always straddled the two disciplines, I thought I'd give it a shot. I had already completed a degree before I came to CSM, so I was a bit older, 21. For my first degree I read modern history at Oxford, as you can imagine, I was coming from a very different background to many of my design classmates. I learnt a lot at CSM, but I have to admit that much of what I learnt was self-taught. I think that’s what’s quite good about Saint Martins, it forces you to teach yourself things that you’re scared of, things that you aren’t comfortable doing, because there’s only so much help you can get from the technicians when you aren’t a third year! But I think that it was an encouraging and very creative atmosphere. It helped having a lot of talented students around to inspire and collaborate with, it pushed you to keep inventing and innovating to compete. As I was on my second degree at CSM, I was working quite a bit on the side whilst at college. I was mostly working on music videos and idents, little AV projects. My forte was digital matte painting and in-betweens for animation, so I did a lot of that. Initially I was working for a director who I had known socially, Sam Arthur, I had experience working with other directors too, but Sam was the most talented (and the best to work for). As we worked together more, we found that we had a good work dynamic. So I kept coming back to him to work in my holidays and any down time I had from college. I was mostly going in that direction when I graduated, AV and music videos.

However, I also began working as an illustrator, at first with children’s publishers; I did some work for Dorling and Kindersley on a new non-fiction list. The first book I worked on was called Take Me Back. That was an interesting experience, not entirely positive, but not negative either. What was particularly enjoyable was that I was allowed to combine the two halves of my (very long) education, as the spreads required a lot of research to render them useful to the editors (research I was more than familiar with from my time as a historian). Having said that, I found that many of my ideas were being ignored because of the necessary contingencies of editorial control. That was to be expected, I’m sure, but I felt that illustrators should be trusted more in the art direction process, so the idea for Nobrow began to gestate. Sam was also looking for a change and he was as much of a print enthusiast as he was a great storyteller, publishing just seemed a good area for both of us to explore. So we set up Nobrow, with a screen-printing bed, a small budget for Issue No 1. Our aim: to develop a publishing company that would focus on the qualities of books as covetable objects and to always respect the illustrators’ vision.


Was there a lot of collaboration at university? Or was it the people you meet outside CSM or by proxy that you end up working with?

When you left was there a defining moment after leaving university that you could characterise as your big break? I spent a year working after I left Saint Martins mostly freelancing I was also doing a part time post graduate at the Prince’s Drawing School. So I was dividing myself between those things and I realised that besides working with Sam, I hadn’t really enjoyed working for anyone else. It may be

Yes, don’t expect too much as a result from having been here, [CSM]. You’re still going to have to work your arse off. You’re still going to have to do some unpleasant work placements and internships and work for some unpleasant people. Nothing is handed to you on a silver platter once you leave; it’s all down to you and your work ethic. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but you have to have realistic expectations when you leave; you aren’t going to immediately be an art director in a design studio, and often you’ll have to work your way up the ladder, gradually. But at the same time be ambitious and aim high, just don’t expect rapid success, it happens to the few and even then it can be short lived. But enjoy your work and do it well and anything is achievable!

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I have to say with Nobrow it was very much a case of assembling a group for the first project based on their qualities and skills, as illustrators and it had almost nothing to do with the people I was at college with. It goes without saying that you get help from friends, but it was Sam, my former boss and now business partner who was the most formative in my development after leaving college.

If you knew then what you know now… Could you give any advice to anyone starting out?

Alex Spiro

I can’t stress enough the importance of doing internships whilst you’re at college. Design studios vary greatly in size, from 3 or 4 people, to hundreds of employees, if you’re talking about something like Pentagram. Whatever size, these studios can always do with extra help, but can’t always afford it. That’s where interns come in.* Internships are a great way to learn and get stuck in. Who knows, you may even end up with a job! (*Don’t do internships without pay for more than a few weeks! They’re a good ‘in’ but they can be exploitative, be careful). So I would say do internships while you’re still at college. Because when you leave you’re going to need a job and you might not have the luxury to try out all the internships you’re interested in.

because I’m a bit bolshie and I don’t like taking orders from people. So I thought the best way for me to work was to set up something with an equal partner. It started small and with a few projects, over time we built a proper company with employees, even a water cooler! No longer is it just a room with a screen-printing bed, some Japanese Kaiju toys and a pot of Indian ink.

Interviews

Are there any specific practical tips you can give?


Interviews

hing edges esign Marcos & Christopher

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Marcos & Christopher

Pushing the edges of design

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Photography Tim Marshall Interview Jordan Harrison Twist

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What attracted you to CSM? C It was actually my Dad that kind of made me go to the college. I sort of originally applied to do several courses in Dublin beforehand, and actually got accepted onto some industrial design course and decided for whatever reason to not go and then submitted into CSM. First, heard about it through my Dad and then did a little bit of research, went to the open day and liked the university, or, at least, I liked the building that it was in. M For me, it was more random. I started another degree, previously, in Spain. And then I got interested in graphic design but wasn’t sure, and was in a similar situation, with a friend, looking at random schools like a school in Dublin and another school in Stockholm. I didn’t have any idea of what CSM was or what it represented, but I found this portfolio course that was quite short and intensive and seemed to suit what I wanted and I came for the short course which was six months and I fell in love with graphic design and with the school, as cheesy as it sounds. Then I came back for the BA.

Interviews

So, what is it you do at the moment? M We have a joint practice called VillalbaLawson, http://www.marcosvillalba.com/ our surnames, and we started almost a year ago. C Yeah, just over a year ago. And before that, I’d been working on magazines pretty much on and off since I graduated. M And I was doing bits and bobs: my last employment was in book design. It was very good, but very hard. Before that, I had several experiences with branding and graphic design freelance. We both graduated in 2008, so like three months before the collapse, the meltdown, so our generation had a bit of a hard start.

C I started working for one magazine, actually, just before I graduated. It was for a bi-annual and there’d be two months downtime and then four months again of magazine. So, I found myself in a nice situation where I’d graduated, and already found a job. It only lasted four months, and at that point, the art director I was working for had left, so it sort of severed my tie, and so I found myself without a job. I felt that some people had sort of had a head start over me, because it was three months, or maybe even a little bit longer than that, but they’d all been looking for things, so at that point I tried to basically work freelance which went quite badly, because that’s when the Recession started. You’d find that you’d start jobs, get jobs, and then a month down the line, they’d be like ‘well, there’s no more budget, so we’ll have to kill the project’. Which is sort of, in a sense, worse than being refused a job from the get-go. It stinks. What is it from CSM, specifically, that you find makes it distinctive and unique? C I’m not sure if it’s changed a lot since then, but the structure was very much that the tutors would leave you to your own devices half the time. The facilities weren’t necessarily the best; you weren’t always assured space… M Some of the tutors weren’t the best. The technicians tend to be great, when you want to do something. The tutors, some are good, but often, they are not there enough because some are part-time. Then, you learn a lot from your classmates, you learn the most. We were talking about it last week with some fellow graduates; it’s like, if you hang around with the right people, like-minded people, in the right cliques: you learn a lot. It’s very sad, because is that the way of learning? I don’t think you get everything from the actual teaching staff and the teaching structure. You see, like, very, very young students


C Exactly. There have been so few instances after having left the college where someone asks (a) for a mark, and then (b) for… M …a paper. I could not have graduated. I could have left in second year or halfway through third year and now my career would be exactly the same.

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M Yes, it is different, because BA Fashion, they are selective and 90% of the people who go there are good. Probably with your experience of Graphic Design, half of the people there are weak. I think it’s probably the way the whole education system in England is structured, which is good - for some people - but it’s not very selective. Going back to Spain, people were like ‘Oh, you study at CSM, it’s so hard to get in, and it costs a fortune’. It didn’t cost a fortune back then; it does now. It wasn’t really hard to get in if you did a portfolio course or a foundation course. Once you are in, let’s say then you graduate. As long as you hand in something at the end of each project, (it may be a piece of shit) at the end of the course you have 40% and you will pass! Which seems bizarre to me.

It’s devalued, and now it’s no longer an achievement, but a necessity.

Marcos & Christopher

C I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case for all the courses in the university, because I mean, obviously the fashion course is something that is revered because of Louise Wilson…

I was mentioning before, when I was considering one design course in Holland, random things: my friend went to one where, just half of the people of the course graduate. They know, half of the people are not going to graduate; they are going to get rid of them. At the same time, if you’re not going to get good designers at the end, I think you should be a bit more selective. It’s a bit unfair the fact that here you can get a degree, and that degree might be worthless.

Interviews

who don’t speak the language very well. Say there are just two of them and they don’t socialise much, they miss a couple of classes and they don’t get shit from the course. If you like, the very basics of the course are very basic. They don’t give you much. I don’t think CSM gives you anything special that other colleges don’t have, but the whole mystique of CSM brings some outstanding people and if you hang around with those outstanding people, you learn.


Lifestyle

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Caravan

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A restaurant, bar and coffee roastery serving well-travelled food and mighty fine coffee. They are open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. Situated in a beautifully restored Victorian grain store in the heart of Kings Cross with a large outside seating area on Granary Square. Granary Building 1 Granary Square Kings Cross and St Pancras N1C 4AA, London +44 (0) 20 7101 7661 www.caravankingscross.co.uk £££

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Bistro de la Gare

Canteen

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With a variety of cold, hot meals, microviews space area and coffees, situated near the CSM entrance, this huge space is where students love to hang out for a chat and enjoy their break with reasonable prices.

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This French-Italian restaurant serves generous portions of home made pasta (from£3.95), plus burgers and pizza. Specials include: monday's 'eat as much as you like',free glass of wine with loyalty card, 10% studdent discount, and cocktails from a fiver. 184-186 Pentonville Road N1 9JP, London +44 (0) 20 7837 2292 www.l-gare.com

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1 Granary Square Kings Cross and St Pancras N1C 4AA, London +44 (0) 79 7258 3648 www.ualcatering.wordpress.com £

St. Pancreas Renaissance Hotel

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The St Pancreas Renaissance is a London icon & a model of modern hospitality. Behind the fairytale façade that Sir George Gilbert Scott fashioned for the Midland Grand is a 5-star London hotel like no other. The Gilbert Scott is an elegant British brasserie and bar, run by Marcus Wareing's team where beautif food is served. Kings Cross and St Pancras NW1 2AR, London 020 7278 3888 www.thegilbertscott.co.uk ££££

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Luardos

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Luardos isn't only great because of its delicious, proper and lovingly put together Mexican food, but it feels like family around the king’s cross area just when you approch this Californian style Mexican food painted Citroen H vans. Everything made from scratch, on the day it’s served, using all sorts of fresh ingredients and authentic Mexican flavour. www.luardos.co.uk ££

Fundi Pizza

Good & Proper

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Bringing better cups of tea to the streets of London: loose leaf, custom-brewed and served from a 1974 Citroen H van. People fall in love with the idea of a food an van, because it is mobile, yet permanent expression of one person's passion, brought right to the customer to experience for themselves their tea is perfectly brewed to the blackboard walls and the crumpet toasters.

Combing complimentary bushcraft, carpentry and kitchen know-how they bring natural processes and simple deliciousness to the street. With an oven designed and built by this two brothers Charlie and Rory they are baking traditional pizzas at blistering heats and frickin' good ones! www.fundipizza.com ££

www.goodandpropertea.com £

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Parcel Yard

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Raising the bar for station pub food, The Parcel Yard at King's Cross delivers first class 'train fare'. Set in a Grade I listed building, this beautiful pub spans two floors and showcases original features throughout - making it the perfect platform for fine food and drink. King's Cross Station N1C 4AH, London +44 (0) 20 7713 7258 www.parcelyard.co.uk ££

Student Bar

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The student Bar is Located inside Central Saint Martins just near the theatre and it’s open from 4pm onwards . This is a new space recently improved for students; selling a wide range of drinks at reasonable price. The Platform Theatre

B@1 Cocktail Bar

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B@1 prides itself on great cocktails, 'fantastic service and a real party spirit'. Not a cheap night at £7.50 a pop, but if you’re going all – out for indulgent pleasure why not opt for a fabulous ice cream cocktail? Or perhaps you’re more of a Johnny Cash fan – that’ll be a splash of rum with added spice!

Central Saint Martins 1 Granary Square Kings Cross and St Pancras N1C 4AA, London £

144-145 Upper Street, N1 1QY, London +44 (0) 20 7226 7660 www.beatone.co.uk ££

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Scala

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Scala is a beautiful multi-purpose venue with four main floors and events for as many as 1,145 people. There are three bars, two dance floors and a stage for live performances. The scala hosts regular weekend club nights but is also a popular venue for live music on weeknights including: Coldplay, Foo Fighters and Suede. 275-277 Pentonville Rd Kings Cross and St Pancras N1 9NL, London +44 (0) 20 7833 2022 www.scala-london.co.uk

Egg

Weird, wonderful, deafening – EGG is very much a ‘full on’ clubbing experience. Not for everyone, but for those willing to immerse themselves in a dizzying world of old school rave and hallucinatory lighting, a memorable (or dememorable) night awaits. With 24- hour licence and respectable breakfasts. 200 York Way Kings Cross and St Pancras N7 9AX, London +44 (0) 2078717111 www.egglondon.net £££

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Koko

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One of the coolest venues for music ever...the music is incredible with an amazing sound system...and it is a little expensive at the bar but the atmosphere, the people, and the great bands make it totally worth it. The venue is a good size with a really nice stage. 1a Camden High St Camden NW1 7JE, London +44 (0) 870 4325 527 www.koko.uk.com £££

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All Visual Arts

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All Visual Arts is a contemporary arts organisation founded in 2007 by gallerist and writer Joe La Placa, and Mike Platt. All Visual Arts runs a regular programme of exhibitions through its new gallery, highlighting both the work of the artists that it represents and through the development of new themed exhibitions and group shows. 2 Omega Place Kings Cross N1 9DR, London +44 (0) 20 7843 0410 www.allvisualarts.org

Lethaby Gallery

The gallery space at Central Saint Martins is situated on the ground floor of the Granary Building at Kings Cross. Access to the gallery is via the reception area at the front of the building. The gallery window display is situated in a public walkway bisecting the building and can be viewed at any time. Central Saint Martins, Granary Building 1 Granary Square N1C 4AA, London +44 (0) 20 7514 7023 www.csm.arts.ac.uk/about/lethabygallery

Gagosian Gallery

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The Gagosian Gallery has branches in New York, LA, London and Rome, with the latter two cities being forced into something of a backseat behind those on US soil. Nevertheless, the gallery has built itself a solid reputation as one of the capital’s top contemporary/ enfant terriblism establishments. 6-24 Britannia St London WC1X 9JD, London +44 (0) 20 7841 9960 www.gagosian.com

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London Graphic Centre

CSM Art Shop

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The art shop at CSM stocks a wide range of Fine Art and Design materials. It's located near the front entrance of Central Saint Martins. The opening times are MondayFriday: 9.30am - 6.30pm and Saturdays 10.00am - 2.30pm. 1 Granary Square Kings Cross and St Pancras N1C 4AA, London ££

Cass Art

London Graphic centre is a specialist graphic materials supplier serving the London design and advertising market. They also sell a selection of materials and supplies. The London Graphic Centre specialize in a wide range of graphic design techniques giving students a 15% discount in all products. 54 York Way London +44 (0) 20 7253 1000 www.londongraphics.co.uk ££

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One of the cheapest art stores in London, and this is the flagshipmother-of-them-all. Really friendly and helpful staff- if you can't find something you need in the store they're guaranteed to have a good suggestion of where else you might obtain it. Excellent student discounts (15%!) just ask in store, and check out the paper cards they shove in your bag with any purchase, often great deals are to be discovered so look before throwing away! 66-67 Colebrooke Row N1 8AB, London +44 (0) 20 7354 2999 www.cassart.co.uk £

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