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An exploration of self initiated Graphic Design.

>Holly Gleave


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Introduction 05 - 08 Motivations for Design 09 - 12 Political Design 09 - 12 Jonathan Barnbrook 13 - 14

Design Output 21 - 22 Publication Design 21 - 22

Creative Sabbatical 29 - 30 Self Promotion 35 - 36

Self Initiated Studios 45 - 46

Opinion 53 - 54

Conclusion 57 - 60

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In any society our basic human needs are health, warmth and food but we also need pleasure and this can often be found in design. Alain De Botton explores this idea through his book ‘Architecture of happiness’, he states,

(De Botton, 2006). In the book he is referring to how the designs we are surrounded by do not need to simply be practical but can effect our standard of life. Good design evokes an emotional response from its audience whether that be a positive or a negative reaction. Whilst De Botton’s main focus is on the physical environment the same sentiment can be applied to the design

As designers we are faced with a vast array of possibilities for our design processes and how we wish to communicate messages. This can range from the commercially driven client set brief to a self starting creative designer pursuing personal ideas. Through my research I aim to explore the idea that the most creative and original work comes from designers who have the freedom of working without the constraints of a third party or client and what the motivations behind designers setting out to produce work of their own objective may be. This is a challenging idea as the underpinning reality to being a designer is to create a product which can produce economic value and help to ‘pay ones way’, but with an entrepreneurial outlook can this be done by creating ones own work of value or is a client necessary to design? The application to practice will be to explore whether self initiated briefs are one of the principle underpinning factors which assist the very best in creative design. Graphic Design is simply a way of communicating a message visually, this can be done by using image or text. Design is a part of every bodies daily life, it can be used to inform, persuade, organise, and provide pleasure and is used to provoke emotion within people. Design is used to sell us products, encourage us to behave in a certain way or to direct us from one place to another. With the rise in computer technology the general public are now becoming more aware of graphic design but to many people they are still unaware

Design can also be used to address contemporary issues and as designers we have a responsibility towards the people who have to live with the designs we create. Graphic design is a recognised business process and is used to gain economic value for clients projects. When working for clients we have to think about what message they want us to communicate. It is important that we understand who the client is and what they represent so that we give their audience the right message. There are also constraints when working with a client; time, budget, audience. Whether the design reinforces awareness; overtly sells a image or introduces a new product success will be judged by whether or not

Critics such as John O’Reilly author of ‘No Brief, Graphic Designers personal projects’ (2002) argues that graphic design is simply a business service, but with the rise of the internet and cheaper design software technology it gives more people the chance to “play” at being a designer. Designers are now not only looking to clients for problems to solve but using their own initiative to look at what they want to do or say personally. In other words they are promoting design ideas as a creative force not as a response to a commission. The concept that graphic design is becoming its own creative force rather then just a commercial response is interesting because it shows that designers have passion, that they possess ideas not because they have been set a brief. Graphic design is a great medium to express social and political views as well as just experiment with new ideas or experiences. Taking account of O’Reilly’s views it becomes apparent that any designer should avoid becoming over absorbed within client work.

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< â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Untitledâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; by Corey Holmes Wood & Wire, Linotype Didot Italic lowercase v as rendered in wood voxels, held up by wires. Created as part of his experimental type series.

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many designers as well as and reminding them of the passions that encouraged them to get into design in responses and solving problems but in a society where money is so important it is easy to lose this sense of â&#x20AC;&#x153;playâ&#x20AC;? when purely working with clients. It can be argued that some personal projects are unnecessary and can be seen as a self indulgent exercise but many of the most exciting work can come from personal even leading to new client prospects. David Joyce said of self initiated work, (Joyce). It is important to have a balance between both personal and client based work so they encourage

For this research I am interested in looking at graphic design that has been created purely because the designer had their own message that they wish to communicate. Many designers feel the need to work on personal projects alongside their day jobs as another form of creative outlet. When working with a client brief it is expected that personal views and beliefs have to be sidelined in order to create the right message for the client and their audience. Corey Holmes has worked on posters, ad campaigns, and print media to support motion pictures with clients including Warner Bros, Universal and Paramount. But in his spare time he is always producing personal projects,

(Holmes, 2005). Although balancing time for personal projects alongside commissioned work can often be (Holmes, 2005). Designers can use personal work to experiment and do things they want to do but are not able to when working within a client brief. When asked by Adrian Shaughnessy about working for a big design company but also managing to complete personal projects Holmes responded,

(Holmes, 2005). When working with a client designers often have designers personal taste becomes secondary to those of the client but when working for yourself you are given a complete free reign. This make personal work

Holmes then goes on to say how he also pursues personal projects because

(Holmes, 2005). It is important to feel a connection to the work that you do especially within personal projects as there is no pressure to complete the projects it is important that you stay interested to see it through. This doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mean that all personal projects need to have a serious purpose or meaning. One of Holmes projects started from a series of posters he based on jpegs that became corrupted when he saved them to his hard drive, (Holmes, 2005). It is this freedom to experiment which is important within personal projects for designers to get the chance to challenge themselves and learn new skills and





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â&#x20AC;&#x153;Commercial work has always paid the bills, but many graphic designers have now let it become, in large measure, what graphic designers do. This in turn is how the world perceives design.â&#x20AC;?

> First Things First Manifesto (2000)

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As a designer it is important that we consider our motivations for design especially when creating self initiated projects. Not all graphic design needs to have a serious purpose or message. It could be that a designer simply wants to explore a certain subject or amuse an audience. Design can be a form of self expression and can give us a chance to express and of escape from the limits exerted by a client set brief. We can use work to express our own values and beliefs rather then trying to express the ones of others. It is also a chance to create something that can have an impact on society, whether that be political or by representing a certain cause which they think is important. We can use design to raise awareness and inform our audience about a certain issue or event. It is common to describe this genre as Political designs can often be seen as a form of rebelling against the norms of a designer with politically led posters being the opposite of traditional posters or advertisements which are to promote ideas of consumerism. With the rise of computer technology it is now more then ever possible for anyone to access programs which can be used to create a piece of design. This in itself has increased the amount of self initiated design as there is a greater opportunity for people to express their own reactions to social and political change creatively through their own designs. With this opportunity though comes responsibility and when creating a piece of design we need to seriously consider what is our motivation for doing so. We also need to consider the medium that we are using and how that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll help to convey our message.

After the Japanese Tsunami disaster there was a sudden reaction from the design community in that many took it upon themselves to design a poster. Many of these were circulated through design blogs but for what purpose? Many were simply designed as a memorial that then circulated the internet for appreciation of other designers. This is an example of how design needs to be used correctly otherwise it can become meaningless. Limited Edition 100 is an online gallery which creates prints of limited runs of 100. They designed a poster in response to the Tsunami which they sold and then donated the money to the British Red Cross. In this case they have used the designs successfully to raise awareness and donations. Whether or not these designs are deemed successful is open for debate as although they may have raised a certain amount of money, they have not resolved the problem.

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< ‘Untitled’ by Daniel Freytag as part of Limited Edition 100’s Tsunami appeal. 100% of the money raised was donated to the British Red Cross.

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JONATHAN BARNBROOK Jonathan Barnbrook is a British designer who is head of one of the most well known creative studios in Britain – Barnbrook. Barnbrook specialise in producing innovative books, corporate identities, CD covers, custom fonts, websites and magazines alongside self initiated projects. Barnbrook has a reputation for choosing to stay away from commissioned briefs where possible,

him out to work for them as he never actively pitches for projects. Through this he has worked for clients which include the ‘Biennale of Sydney’; Damien Hirst; Thames & Hudson and David Bowie. A distinguishing characteristic of the design output from Barnbrook is that he spends a lot of his time working on personal Barnbrook has created various work on serious political events that have happened through his years as a designer. His work covers major events and world issues such as 9/11, The Gulf War, North Korea and Nuclear Power and he has also been involved with the

His personal political work varies in medium from posters to websites; for his project (Barnbrook, 2012). Barnbrook’s main specialism is which he completed in 2003, Barnbrook in his typefaces, which he sells through his foundry created a series of posters featuring international ‘Virus’. He creates his typefaces out of his own desire to be creative but will often use them within client reveal what Barnbrook believes is the work as well as self initiated projects. These posters feature the U.N Flag with all the countries removed apart from the USA, this highlights which (Barnbrook, 2012). Through his personal nation and which politicians it is that holds the most work he has gained a reputation and clients will seek power within this supposedly ‘equal’ organisation.

< Taken from the ‘Collateral Damage’ series this work is named, ‘U.N.ILATERAL’ (2004)

< Taken from the ‘Collateral Damage’ series this work is named, ‘U.S.RAEL’ (2004)

14 < < Taken from the ‘Collateral Damage’ series this work is named, ‘We are building a new world’ (2004)

The poster shown above is another from the series Barnbrook watched in which it was stated that in the wars that took place in the beginning of the twentieth century the percentage of civilians injured was 10% whereas today it is 90%. He decided to present the fact from WW2 with the more recent statistic to show and the way we perceive it. This is an example of how Barnbrook has responded to quite an alarming fact, he has been so intrigued by the documentaries message that he has felt the need to respond visually and thereby informing other people. Barnbrook has simply used the existing statistic from the documentary but through his design has created something that will most probably reach a greater audience and by contrasting it to the current statistic it becomes

a poignant piece of political design for this age. Even though he is a strong believer in creating personal work Barnbrook does not do it to be self indulgent, when it comes to talking about his work he says, (Barnbrook, 2012). He goes on to say that what he is most interested in is solving a problem through his design whether it be through his personal or commissioned work,

(Barnbrook, 2012). This explains why he choses to undertake so much personal work as in his view they are of the same importance as his commissioned work.


> 15 In 2001 Barnbrook was one of 22 designers who signed the updated version of the ‘First things manifesto’ originally written and published in 1963 by Ken Garland. Another example of a non client led project, originally created by Ken Garland as a response to the role of a Graphic Designer in the 1960s. This was at a time of great economic growth and one in which advertising featured heavily to encourage the purchase of consumer goods such as televisions, fridges, washing machines etc. Ken Garland wrote the manifesto to highlight the fact that the designers role was becoming purely commercial. Whilst it wasn’t against commercial advertising it suggested that designers should readdress the balance of the work they were doing in favour of work with more . At the original time of publishing 22 visual communicators signed the manifesto and in 2000 the manifesto was readdressed and 33 new visual communicators of the current age Jonathan Barnbrook, Irma Boom amongst others. The renewed version of the manifesto was so important because it highlighted that the need for designers to assess their roles and the impact they have in society edition was published. Even today 12 years after the revised version of the manifesto was signed the message can still be seen as relevant if not more relevant then ever. Even since 2000 a lot of things have changed within society, the Internet has grown dramatically and with it the rise of Internet shopping and social media, designers could easily get lost in a world of consumerism. Whilst beyond the scope of this research, it could be argued that designers are much more ethically aware now with increased information on global warming, environmental threats etc and should communicate and explore this through their work and through which clients they choose to work with. The manifesto claims that;

good example of designers collaborating through personal work by sharing the same philosophy but not necessarily the same design outputs, they have come together to promote something they feel strongly about and think needs to be understood by the design world but which could also reach a wider audience.

The manifesto itself is calling out for designers to understand what impact they have on society and use that for something greater then producing advertisements for consumer goods. This could be through undertaking personal projects which express political outrage or like Barnbrook’s work can be in response to cultural events. The manifesto states,

Its trying to inspire designers to think that they can stand for more then just (Austin, 2002) on society’s way of thinking. If they look outside of commercial work and create (First Things First Manifesto, 2000). then designers can give the subject a greater purpose and new meaning.

< Right: Jonathan Barnbrook’s visual response to the First Things First Manifesto update for Adbusters, 2001

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Designers often use their designs as a way to respond to major world events, one of these being 9/11. Many designers use design as a way to show their emotions towards tragic events as well as using it as a way to raise awareness and donations towards the subsequent recovery. One on going project that developed shortly after 9/11 is Ji Lees Ji Lee began this project after the attacks on the world trade center and the twin towers. Living in New York City he noticed that many logos for small businesses such as delis, dry cleaners etc. still featured the iconic skyline including the twin towers, (Ji Lee, 2012) As many of the businesses were small it is likely that after time they would change their logos or possibly go out of business and the logos would be lost forever along with the image of the towers.

< A selection of images from Ji Lee’s ‘World Trade Centre Preservation Project’.

The project consists of a series of images which Ji Lee takes himself but also of photographs which have been submitted through his website. He wanted to invite people to share their own experiences of the logos that they see to help the collection grow. He describes the project as, going on to describe it as (Ji Lee, 2012). Ji Lee has worked on numerous personal projects alongside his client work and he says he takes time different ways and they complement each other.” I agree with the idea that designer’s personal projects and their client work can complement each other, sense of self and experiment with ideas without any experimentation means they could discover something that could then be used within future client work.

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DAVID McCANDLES Another project that was created to highlight the use of money in the world and arose from a frustration towards how a billion dollars were being represented in the media is David McCandles. He is the creator of the book the book focuses on info graphics, knowledge maps and data visualisation. McCandles describes himself as a data journalist and information designer. The ‘billion-dollargram’ is a visual representation of how much and where the money in the world is being spent. Having it all next to each other gives the amounts a new meaning which is lost through just using words. It also brings the amounts of money into one place meaning it is easier to compare how much is being spent on one war in comparison to how much is spent on education etc. This piece of work is a good example of how as a

He often uses his data visualisation to show important political information such as, the worlds drug use, the number of wounded and dead in Afghanistan, and through his work on the billion dollar gram highlighting where the world’s money is going. He uses his work to highlight these issues and describes his projects as being part of an effort to help him understand. Through the use of info graphics he does not need to make a personal comment, he is simply highlighting where the issues are and bringing to light issues that many people may ignore when presented with them on the news through words alone, whether spoken or written.

information in a clearer and more understandable way. It also reveals how he aimed to resolve a personal problem, he was frustrated with how news organisations when mentioned. He felt to understand the sums of money it was important to see them in comparison to one another. He then took it upon himself to design his info graphic which arranges and colour codes the sums of money so that they sit next to each other on one page. The piece of work was then featured within ‘Graphic Design, Now in Production’ an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Gallery in New York City.

< Right: David McCandles ‘Billion-Dollar-Gram’.

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;Most designers think the whole graphic authorship debate is worthless and most donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do work of their own unless they are getting paid for it. But self initiated work is not a bad thing because it expands the language of graphic design.â&#x20AC;? > Peter Miles, FUEL

Design can appear through many different mediums and it is up to the individual designer to decide which is best for their message. Design is everywhere you look from signage to advertisements and posters. It used to be that there would

Images and text were historically applied to the available

designer etc. but with an increase in technology and skills it is now possible for designers to cover all areas, meaning their options are wider for how they present their ideas. Designers are now trying out new ways to communicate with their audiences. The internet means it is possible for designers to get their work noticed and to publish it to the world. Many designers will have a blog or website which they can use to present themselves and their work as an online portfolio. Designers also have various other different mediums at their disposal for which they can use to express a message; videos; websites; publications; photography.

time it makes it ever harder to have a lasting impact. The basic premise for the designer is however to understand how the most creative and worthy designs are created.

power of the digital image has dramatically shifted the paradigm. Instant image, access and message gives

Often design agencies and individual designers will turn towards the medium of books and publications to express their personal work. This can lead to designers starting up their own publishing houses. Designers who create noncommissioned books often do so simply because of a love for the medium but also because it can be the most suitable format for the work they produce. Books can be seen to have more of an intimate presence to them and can command more attention, especially in a digital age.

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< Spreads from the Kesselskramer publication entitled ‘Tree Paintings’.

24 < Kesselskramer are an international communications studio based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. As well as working on design for clients they are an example of a studio that has taken it upon themselves to begin publishing their own books. Their books are not promotional tool but they are for the organisation itself. It could be argued that some of Kesselskramers work is self-indulgent but they use the books to express their personal passions whether that be through found photographs, short stories or unusual artworks. Erik Kessels described how they like to incorporate their own hobbies into their work as people have different interests that can bring different elements to design whether through personal work or work for which they have been commissioned. They began their own publishing company because they felt that a lot of the books they wanted to look at weren’t available, so they took it upon themselves to design them. They use their own publications to sell themselves and it creates a persona for clients to judge them from which may follow further client work, (J. O’Reilly, 2002). They present themselves with great imagination and humour which can appeal to clients. Their publications range through various subjects but are often groups of photographs on a certain subject matter. , collected, edited and designed by Ewoudt Boonstra focuses on looking at the bodies of people in images rather then their faces. Throughout the book there are images of people with their faces removed or blocked out by something else this explores the idea behind the book of whether faces are more important then bodies. By collecting the images in one place Boonstra is inviting us to (Kessels, 2012) One of the projects Erik Kessels created is the series of in which he showcases a collection of his own original pictures. This series is only the second time he has shown his own photographs in a project as he usually prefers to use found photography within the publications. This project focuses on the marks left by loggers on trees due for destruction. Each of the photographs features a close up shot of the mark left whether it be a letter, cross or similar mark. The main aim of the project was to highlight the variation between the simple tags by each ‘artist’. The overall impression from the book is eerie documenting the “outdoor (Erik Kessels, 2012) < Kesselskramer publication entitled ‘Anonymous’

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Another design studio well known for their self initiated publications is Fuel. A studio set up in 1991 the collective is made up by Peter Miles, Stephen Sorrell and Damon Murray. From the outset they wanted to create commissioned work alongside projects of their own.

(Peter Miles, 2012). Beginning in 1991 Fuel created a series of magazines which mainly present a collection of photographs loosely based around a theme, Grey, Dead, Cash, USSR, stills and drawings to create a sequence of ideas.

(Stephen Sorrell, 2012).

< Issue four of Fuel magazine entitled â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Cashâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;

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< The series of publications from Fuel entitled â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopediasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.

Like Kesselskramer, Fuel also have their own publishing company and have published numerous books for clients as well as personal projects. Working collaboratively with authors and artist to create distinctive books on art, design and pop culture. One of these personal projects has been the series of Encyclopedias. Through this collection they explore the photographs, drawings and texts from prison attendant Danzig Baldaev. He documented the use of tattoos within the prison and used it as a gateway into a closed society. Fuel have used the series of books to document their own interest in the subject and to inform and entertain others. The books have been recognised with a series of awards winning the D&AD Silver Award 2005 and being nominated for the Brit Insurance Designs of the year 2010.

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< Selection of images taken from Phillip Carter’s ‘1057’.

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Publication design can be a great medium for documenting projects. For his project ‘ Philip Carter looked at how the bicycles in cycle lanes were painted. After using the bicycle lanes regularly he noticed that the bicycles painted on the pavements were often done with a ‘laissez faire’ attitude. This inspired him to start an ongoing project in which he photographed the various bicycle symbols that he came across on his journeys. He has created a book of the photographs on which the cover is the platonic ideal of the department of transport bicycle sign. He describes the works as being and that is what has interested him about them as it appears to him as a bizarre

< Selection of images taken from Phillip Carter’s ‘1057’.

The project has interested me as it has a simple idea behind it but when seen as a whole of all the images it makes a big statement about part of our culture, as it is a remarkable piece of documentary work. This is an example of how Carter has used his design work to have a social and political impact but it is also an example of how he as a designers has used his personal projects to challenge peoples existing beliefs and take notice of something which is often overlooked. Overall he has taken over 300 photographs over 3 years that



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â&#x20AC;&#x153;Unlimited freedom can be a curse, particularly for a design studio used to working with strict briefs and within tight deadlines.â&#x20AC;?

> Stefan Sagmeister

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STEFAN SAGMEISTER In a strongly client led industry, graphic designers often lean towards personal projects as a means of escape and self expression. Some studios manage to focus their efforts on purely self directed work whereas as others see it as self indulgent and unnecessary. When working on demand for clients it is easy to lose some of the passions that can provoke our best ideas. One designer who felt that his studios work was suffering from endless commissioned projects was Stefan Sagmeister. In 2000 he and his studio took Sagmeister describes the year before the break as being very successful on the surface with the studio winning a number of awards but underneath he was having (Sagmeister, 2012). The year was aimed to focus on experimentation and it gave them chance to reevaluate what they were doing and

of the time restrictions. He then determined whether one ongoing project was his diary. With extra time on his hands it meant that he could afford to create in depth accounts of his thoughts on a day to day basis. One entry to his diary was titled ‘Things I have learned in my life so far’ a series of lessons and advice which Sagmeister felt were personal to him. Shortly after the sabbatical, Sagmeister was commissioned to create 6 double page spreads for Austrian Magazine. Each month the magazine commissions a new studio to do the design. For the brief they were simply told to do anything, Sagmeister’s response was, . Sagmeister re opened his diary and rediscovered the things he has learned in his life so far, underneath this was one statement that he felt would work “everything I do always comes back to me”. He made the typography from found objects in the grocery and hardware shops. He says of the project, “

successful that Sagmeister’s studio did it again in 2007. Sagmeister knew that he was taking a risk by leaving his client work for a whole year and as a precaution he told all of his existing clients what he was going to do. This was in fear that he might go back on his word and give up on the experiment early. Another risk of leaving clients for a full year was that they would be forgotten and lose work when they returned. However the result was the opposite. On return to the studio they found they had received more press for not working than they ever had for when in work. They also began to had a lot more freedom attached to it.

(Sagmeister, 2012). Sagmeister knew that he needed to experiment outside of client set briefs but where do you begin when you can do anything? This is often a problem discussed with self initiated projects as a designer we are used to being set problems to solve and when the client is taken away and it is just us what do we really want to ask?

a subject which we feel a personal connection or at least an interest in. Throughout the year he focused his time developing projects that would be impossible to complete parallel to commissioned work because

(Sagmeister, 2012). Following the spread a New York exhibition featuring artistic responses to Buddhist ethics displayed a version of the magazine piece. He describes how at the time of writing the list there was no intentions of were produced more and more reactions came in from new clients wanting to be involved with the series, wanting to commission new sayings. This is an example of how working on personal projects to be a separate thing, the two can work in harmony. led on to a whole series of works which attracted new clients and a completely new audience. However it is important to set yourself a deadline when working on personal work, it can be over a long period of time like Sagmeister’s year which he describes as ‘scheduled experimentation’.

(Sagmeister, 2012). Sagmeister felt the need to experiment and explore new ideas however felt that there was not enough time with the pressure of client deadlines.

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< ‘Trying to look good limits my life’, one of the typographical experiments taken from Sagmeisters book, “Things I have learned in my life so far.”

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< : Sagmeisters typographical project. This chair was created during his sabbatical in Bali. The words on the chair are taken from Sagmeisters diary entries from his stay.

An Interview with Stefan Sagmeister

Was the open-endedness of the year intimidating? entirely?

What is the concept behind your seven yearly sabbatical?

Was there a point where you decided, "now I am ready to work again with so-and-so knowledge gained." And how did this experience inform the client-based work you do post-year-off (i.e. a theory that drives your work now)?

How do sabbaticals expand what you do as a designer?

What is your approach to work/life balance? How important do you think a sabbatical is for replenishing creativity?



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â&#x20AC;&#x153;The beauty of the project for me is the virtuous cycle it creates between personalised and professional. The more annual reports I create the more work of this type comes my way and the more data visualisation work I create the better my annual reports become.â&#x20AC;?

> Nicholas Felton

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A different type of creative sabbatical could be found through producing self promotional work. With self promotional work the only client is yourself meaning we

task to do without sounding too vain or self indulgent it is often a risk to pick a subject that could be seen as too personal that no one else may be interested in. Like Sagmesiters sabbatical self promotion can be seen as an exercise of self understanding.

The papers are used as promotional material for Pentagram which describes itself as a multi disciplinary the diverse interests of its 19 partners. When looked at collectively they give a good insight into what Pentagram is and the culture they have. Pentagram have described themselves as a ‘community of taste’, because they are made up of the ‘leaders’ of the creative industry it is important that this is represented.

The paper is sent out to clients however the collection of papers is also available to buy. Pentagram use this medium to promote themselves but by also not seeming to, they design the publication which has ‘curious, entertaining, stimulating, provocative and occasionally controversial points of view’ and distribute it to the right clients making them feel as though they are part of something exclusive and exciting. At Pentagram they use the book format regularly to promote what they have been working on and to promote themselves. Another project was named ‘The Black Book’. The Black Book was a compilation of projects that pentagram have worked on and spanned across 800 pages. By choosing to use a similar format for all of their self promotional material, the book, it means that they have a vast catalogue of references that represents them and their way of working. .

< : Pentagrams ‘The Black Book’.

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< : Pentagram Paper number 1 ‘A Dictionary of Graphic Design Cliches’. < : Pentagram Paper number 37 ‘Forgotten Architects’.

> 39 < NB: Studios project based on the idea of the world ending. They sent a ÂŁ1.00 bet out to potential clients as self promotion.

40 < < In 2011 they used paper cutting to illustrate the government cuts making them sharper.

NB : STUDIO Another design studio who use their self promotional material as an opportunity for creative freedom and self expression are NB: Studio. As a studio they focus on branding, websites, brand guidelines, annual reports, campaigns etc. One piece of self promotion that studios often create is the company christmas card, NB: Studio decided that they wanted to avoid this though and instead decided to concentrate on the new year ahead. Each year they create a limited edition piece of work which they then send out to clients and friends of the company. Every year there is a new theme to the work and they collaborate with a new group of creatives in a different medium to previous years. For the year of 2012 the collaborators included Andy Smith, Dan Funderburgh, Jean Jullien and Paul Davis. They played with the idea that the world was going to end and placed a ÂŁ1 bet on it happening for each receiver of them. Along with the bet was a series of illustrations on the given theme. This project works well as it gives them chance to show off their sense of humour and personalities which might not always be possible through client work. It also gives them chance to communicate with potential clients, old and new and distinguish themselves from other studios who may just send a standard christmas card.For 2011 they focused on â&#x20AC;&#x153;the cuts making us sharperâ&#x20AC;? meaning the government spending cuts. It was a play on words and used cut out illustrations on the same theme. Having a theme which loosely connects to the new year ahead gives them creative freedom to show off their talents and by also creating clever responses to current themes makes them out shine the standard designer.

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CHRISTOPHER DOYLE One example of a designer who created a very personal project is Christopher Doyle. He is a designer based in Sydney who has looked into creating brand guidelines for himself. Most company’s will have a set of rules that they follow as to how they want themselves represented with their logo, typeface and all things that make up a visual identity. As part of his self promotion Doyle decided that he

would turn himself into a brand and using the format he created his own. Included in the guidelines were items such as the correct colour palette, correct usage, clearance space and even looking at his tone of voice. He decided to undertake the project after engaging with so many different identities in his work but non more regularly then his own. Of the project he says,

The project was featured as part of the “Graphic Design, Now in production” exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Museum and has gained a lot of attention also being featured in Creative Review.

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< The images above show just a few pages from Doyles extensive guidelines. Other pages include, colour variations and clearance space.

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Doyles work is a good example how even when work is based solely on yourself it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to seem self indulgent or pointless. It is possible to use yourself as Another designer who has done this is Nicholas Felton, he has produced a printed annual report of his year since 2005. The reports include data such as the number of songs he has listened to, miles he has travelled, books read etc. It began in 2004 when he started a end of year report called this included a few numerical details and the following

The information for the reports is gathered from memory, his calendars, photos and online sources and last fm. In the beginning when starting the projects he thought it would only interest friends and family but was surprised when the project started gathering interest and was popular with people he had never met. His commercial work is also led by data visualisation with clients including, The New York Times, Maxim and Esquire. He describes how personal work and commercial work can often loop together,

(Felton, 2012).

Like Sagmeister, Felton believes that even within personal work it is important to set yourself strict deadlines and keep within a schedule. During the year he collects inspiration and experiments with maps and content that will be included, â&#x20AC;&#x153; (Felton, 2012). On January 2nd he starts to compile the information and after two or three weeks of work will leave the design

(Felton, 2012). Before deciding on creating the annual reports, Fenton experimented with numerous personal projects but never found one that resonated with himself or an audience. But on the reports he says that (Felton, 2012). The reports have been in numerous exhibitions and featured in magazines such as IdN Magazine and Domus.

< Various pages from Feltons annual reports.

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46 <

“We get much more satisfaction out of people wanting to talk about, or buy our own work, when it’s something that you’ve done just because you wanted to make it happen.” > James Quail, Dorothy

Whilst most designers have to maintain a balance between client work and personal projects there are some studios who have managed to use their entrepreneurial spirit to harness their self initiated work to earn money and treat it as a business. Graphic design is itself a business. economical value for both yourself as a designer and for the client. But the question remains; can we set personal briefs and still earn enough money from it to pay the bills? If we create valuable design whether it be useful or simply desirable for an audience that want it there will be people

commercial graphics. The line between artist and designer is now blurred slightly when covering work of this kind, Daniel Eatock describes himself as an artist and a designer. designers can use their personal projects to make extra income. Attractive pattern graphics, posters and selling typeface designs are all examples. Art and design will sell because it has a value and a purpose, even if that purpose is to just be a beautiful print. The desire for artistic products is a fundamental characteristic of the human condition – it has been throughout generations – and whilst not for debate within this research – will almost certainly remain so.

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TOMATO time to create personal work outside of the studio there are studios who focus their attentions on just creating work for themselves and using that to earn a was Tomato. work and make money from it. Tomato was founded in 1991 as a collective of artists, designers, musicians and writers. Tomato’s work ranges from publishing, exhibitions, live performances, public speaking and hosting workshops as well as occasional work for clients. One of Tomato’s projects was ‘ ”, designed by Karl Hyde and John Warwicker. It is a typographical response to conversations they overheard whilst wandering through New York City. They have created a map featuring numbers, letters and fragments of words which works as a typographical journal of their trip. This project then name and parts of the book were used in the cd sleeve. Several Tomato members also founded the music group Underworld. This is a great example how work. When released in 1994 the book was hugely successful and still available for purchase today. Tomato have always been keen to not identify themselves as an agency or company and would rather be known as a ‘art design collective’. They have worked for clients such as Chanel and Adidas and have also spent time organising exhibitions and creating sculptures. One of the exhibitions they held was in collaboration with London Ginza Art space, the work was an illustration comparing London and themes. These ranged from urban perspective, love, faith, food, money, transport and communication. The exhibition ran for a month and attracted over 13,000 visitors. Tomato have also created numerous directed by Tomato and follows a man split in two who < Various pages from ‘Mmm Sky Scraper, I love you’.

takes the battle to its ‘ultimate conclusion’. Tomato show how you can create work that is cross platform alongside your commissioned work for clients.

48 <

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Do you prefer the work you create for personal projects or when working with a client?

A further example of a studio who have decided to become self commissioned is Manchester based Dorothy. They have been known to produce work for clients such as Tate Liverpool but are now focusing on work that they set themselves. I asked James Quail, 1/3 of Dorothy the following questions: Dorothy is a studio which combines its commissioned hard to manage time between personal projects and client work?

Are there any negative aspects you have come across when doing personal work as a designer, if so what are they? And how have you overcome, addressed them?

What is it that motivates you for self-directed projects i.e. self-promotion, awards etc.? What is the most rewarding outcome you have had from a personal project?

Do you think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important that designers make time to create personal projects?

Dorothy have worked on projects such as the 'Film and also 'The Colour of Music' posters which are made up entirely from either band titles or song names. They have been featured in Creative Review, Dezeen, Nme, Q magazine and many others.

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< Dorothy’s ‘Film Map’ < ‘The Colour of Music’

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< Four images from Eatocks ongoing photography project, ‘Vandalised trees reorientated’.

52 <

Daniel Eatock is a London based artist and graphic designer. He is another designer who has decided to spend more time working on personal projects alongside his client work. However when asked how actively he was seeking out commercial work to support himself he said he wasn’t looking for any. Most of his work is self initiated and he used his website to showcase a lot of his photography and asks people to contribute to it, ” (Eatock, 2012). One example of his work is This is a project with no brief and no description, he relies on contributions from the public however the submissions have no guidelines people just sense what it is about. He says (Eatock, 2012). However not all of his projects are this ambiguous. Another of his projects asks people to create alternative no smoking signs to be placed in public and private spaces. Or his ongoing project, No Photo, that asks people to photograph signs which tell you not to photograph them. A lot of his work is photography based but he creates collections and gives the images more meaning,

(Eatock, 2012). He uses coincidences and accidents in his every day environment to create themes within his photographs. This can be seen in his ongoing project,


(Eatock, 2012). His work is one that can be seen to blur the boundaries between art and design. With his work being featured in many galleries but he says,

When asked what his favourite project has been he answers with his own book, Imprint. Within the book are 224 pages of his work seemingly juxtaposed together in a random order. Each of the books has Eatocks own thumbprint on the spine and a hand drawn circle which is randomly inserted to the book. His work is one shaped by discovery, invention and (Eatock, 2012) which within client work is not always possible.

< The front cover and spreads from Eatocks book, ‘Imprint’


54 <

â&#x20AC;&#x153;If you do great work, if you do effective original work full of emotion or intellectual resonance you are unlikely to go unnoticed.â&#x20AC;?

> Adrian Shaughnessy

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When asked most graphic designers will have an opinion on how they treat personal projects, whether

The main problem is that some designers think when creating personal work they will produce the work that

unnecessary or whether they think they are essential for a graphic designer. Adrian Shaughnessy discusses self initiated work in his book, Although he thinks it is important for individuals and studios to partake in personal projects he does not agree that it will help to gain clients,

design world now confuses fame with having a good reputation. It is more important for a studio to have a good reputation then to be featured on hundreds of blogs which may only be viewed by other graphic designers. He states that

(Shaughnessy, 2005). He feels that personal work is often self indulgent and its not what clients want to see, Craig Oldham also discusses the fact that the risk with personal work is that it often becomes work and clients will not be interested by it. Adrian believes that clients are less interested in personal work because when compared with a real life brief that shows how it works aesthetically but also in the commercial world it can often fall short.

(Shaughnessy, 2005). Although this statement refers to commercial work I think it can be applied to all aspects whether client led or personal. It is important that the personal work designers do is done with a meaning or message behind it rather then just being self indulgent or pointless. When approaching self directed work it is important that designers treat it in the same way as they would a piece of work for a client. By setting deadlines even if they are for a couple of months and having structured time to work on projects it means that the work will

56 <

Craig Oldham is a designer who works at the studio on many different personal projects. He has many on going projects such as in which he simply photographs ampersands and also asks people to contribute their own. Projects like this he has simply begun because of his love of the ampersand form. He also has more in depth projects such as the Hand.written. letter.project. For this project he sent out a series of letters to some of the leading creatives asking them to write back by hand. The project came from an interest in what would happen, he was curious to see peoples responses, (Oldham, 2012). He tried to keep the project away from himself as much as possible saying (Oldham, 2012). This shows how if you have a genuine interest in something it is possible to create personal work that will inform and help a designer learn from it without it needing to be self indulgent or a form of self promotion.

Craig also has strong views on personal projects, in an essay he wrote for the Design Assembly Book he discusses how even though he himself works on self initiated projects its important that designers don’t just focus on creating novelty and banal works for other designers and that their personal projects have a purpose. He describes how he works on personal work alongside professional practice because (Oldham, 2012). He feels that his need to do personal work stems from his education where the clients needs it gives designers the freedom to education and learn new things that professional work doesn’t allow them. Craigs own self initiated projects “have proved to be not only my biggest

personal successes but have been informative, helpful and useful to many others” (Oldham,

2012). It could be argued that his personal success is connected to the fact he has set out in his personal work with certain goals or interests he wishes to educate himself about which have then been reached.

< Examples from Craig Oldhams, ‘Hand Written Letter Project’.


58 <

“The whole nature of this profession, at least in theory, enables one to continue to challenge their own ideas and to move away from what they have already accomplished.” > Milton Glaser

questions arising are,

It is evident that there is no single solution for a designer in today’s creative world and in drawing this research to a close the following conclusion is offered.

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60 <

At the outset the intention was to explore the relationship between the quality of any creative output and the origin of the design process. The question raised was The drivers may be economic (a commercial brief for a commercial outcome); political (making a statement for personal or organisational reasons); There are clear overlaps between the drivers but the fundamental issue is of how the work is commissioned. Is it an output bought by a client for a fee or is it an output generated as a creative offering (what has been generated as personal work). A further question regarding personal work is whether or not the creator has any intention to achieve value or income from the work. Is it produced because entrepreneurially the designer ‘sees a market’ eg a typeface or a saleable print or is it produced for joy or exploration of an idea? By researching the subject and look at what designers chose to do as personal projects it has shown that everyone has very different ways of working. Some designers believe very strongly that self initiated work is essential to a designers overall well being. Barnbrook for example sees no difference between his personal work and the client work he does,

Barnbrook, 2012). encourage each other. The new creative paradigm is that as a designer if you have the right balance then you can work on both client commissions and on personal projects and they can help to keep both areas energised and original meaning that both areas will be producing some of the best creative output’s.

Personally I think it is very important for designers to make the time to work on personal projects. It shows that you still have a passion and interest in what it is you do and differentiates away from the every day of client work. The projects I have looked at have varied from more formal projects to just collections that designers have gathered over time. As a designer it is by everything surrounds us. Roland Barthes said, “it

(Roland Barthes, 2002). Design is about solving problems and working on personal projects it work we have already produced or to learn a new skill or interest. Even when completing self initiated work it is important to set deadlines whether that be a full year as in the case of Stefan Sagmeister and Nicholas Fenton or more short term. Self initiated work can be a great opportunity to fail, and then learn from your mistakes without any real consequence. Personal work can also be a good way to keep working, if you have a time with no client work coming in it helps to grow your portfolio and help you stay productive. It is not always necessary for designers to do personal lead to further things whether thats as simple as helping you to learn something new or inspiring a different project. Milton Glaser described it perfectly,

(Glaser, 2010).


62 < AUSTIN, J. (2002). Graphic originals: designers who work beyond the brief. Hove, RotoVision. (n.d.) +-+ B A R N B R O O K +-+. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. BLAUVELT, A., LUPTON, E., & GIAMPIETRO, R. (2011). Graphic design: now in production. Minneapolis, MN, Walker Art Center. DE BOTTON, A. (2006). The architecture of happiness. New York, Pantheon Books. (1975) designboom asked british artist / graphic designer daniel eatock about his recent book and upcoming projects. [online] Available at: http://www. [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2009) Daniel Eatock – Imprint — The Designer’s Review of Books. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2012) Index : Daniel Eatock. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (1999) Emigre Essays. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (1999) Eye Magazine | Feature | First Things First Manifesto 2000. [online] Available at: http:// manifesto-2000 [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (1994) Eye Magazine | Feature | There is such a thing as society*. [online] Available at: http://www. [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2011) Nicholas Felton | [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) FUEL › PUBLISHING / BOOKSHOP. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. Glaser, M. (2010) Interview: Milton Glaser. It’s Nice That, (3), p.19-23. (2009) Information Is Beautiful | Ideas, issues, knowledge, data - visualized!. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) KESSELSKRAMER PUBLISHING. [online] Available at: http://www. [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2012) NB: This Year…. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. Oldham, C., (2012) GARP Interview. [email] Message to Gleave, H. (hollygleave@ Sent 8/12/12. O’REILLY, J. (2002). No brief: graphic designers’ personal projects. Hove, RotoVision. (2012) Pentagram. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) Daniel Eatock - Artist and Designer. [online] Available at: print_dialogue_eatock [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. Quail, J., (2012) GARP Interview. [email] Message to Gleave, H. Sent 7/12/12. SAGMEISTER, S., HELLER, S., NETTLE, D., & SPECTOR, N. (2007). Things I have learned in my life so far. New York, Abrams. SHAUGHNESSY, A. (2005). How to be a graphic designer, without losing your soul. New York, Princeton Architectural Press. (2012) tomato. [online] Available at: http:// [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. Walters, J. and Bantjes, M. (2009) Marian Bantjes. Eye Magazine , (72), p.15-23. (2012) Dorothy - Making art not war. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) WTC Logo Project. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012].

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64 < FTF2.pdf (n.d.) +-+ B A R N B R O O K +-+. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (1975) designboom asked british artist / graphic designer daniel eatock about his recent book and upcoming projects. [online] Available at: http://www. [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2012) No Photo : Daniel Eatock. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2011) Nicholas Felton | [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. Flickr (n.d.) WTC Logo Preservation Project. [online] preservation_project/pool/with/3410807350/ [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. Flickr (n.d.) CODE 1057. [online] Available at: http://www. [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) FUEL › GRAPHIC DESIGN › DEAD FUEL. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) FUEL › GRAPHIC DESIGN › CASH. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) FUEL › GRAPHIC DESIGN › HYPE. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) FUEL › GRAPHIC DESIGN › GIRL. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) FUEL › GRAPHIC DESIGN › GREY FUEL. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2005) FUEL › PUBLISHING / BOOKSHOP › RUSSIAN CRIMINAL TATTOO ENCYCLOPAEDIA VOLUME I. [online] Available at: russian-criminal-tattoo-encyclopaedia-volume-i/ [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2004) FUEL › PUBLISHING / BOOKSHOP › RUSSIAN CRIMINAL TATTOO ENCYCLOPAEDIA VOLUME II. [online] Available at: russian-criminal-tattoo-encyclopaedia-volume-ii/ [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2010) FUEL › PUBLISHING / BOOKSHOP › RUSSIAN CRIMINAL TATTOO ENCYCLOPAEDIA VOLUME III. [online] Available at: publishing/russian-criminal-tattoo-encyclopaedia-volumeiii/ [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2012) Hand Written Letter Project. [online] Available at: http://www. [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2009) The Billion Dollaro-Gram 2009. [online] Available at: http://www. [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (n.d.) KESSELSKRAMER PUBLISHING. [online] Available at: http://www. [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2012) NB: This Year…. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2011) Code 1057 (Noisy Decent Graphics). [online] Available at: http:// [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2012) Pentagram. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2010) Featured Work | Sagmeister & Walsh. [online] Available at: work/featured# [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2012) tomato. [online] Available at: http:// [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2005) Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia | Uncrate. [online] Available at: russian-criminal-tattoo-encyclopaedia/ [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012]. (2012) Dorothy - Making art not war. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 Dec 2012].

An exploration of self initiated Graphic Design  

A research project looking at design studios who partake in self initiated projects.

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