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Critical Study


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Peter Mitchell

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Collaboration Brief: 
The aim of this brief is collaborating with as many people as possible and creating a series of smaller final pieces of work. The only guidelines for this brief are that the work must be related to my practice and must be produced working in line with someone else. This can include projects produced while collaborating with people working in other disciplines.


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Comic Book Brief: The aim of this brief is to produce a body of illustrated bookwork based on a series of scripts I wrote when I was younger. The style will be my own, but I aim to draw inspiration from other comic books and graphic novels. One of the things I am hoping to do with this project is to work out what the best way to print the comic would be by talking to Jonathan, which should give me a better insight into printing. I also hope to print off and bind few to distribute among my peers.


3D Printing Brief: The aim of this brief is to produce some 3D printed children’s toys and then to brand and package them. This will allow me to explore 3D printing, which is something I find interesting, as well as allowing me to produce some branding and packaging designs. My aim is that the toys will be made up of interchangeable pieces, which would produce a more creative and interesting toy, however this will depend on 3D printing limitations.


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In The Fade Brief: I am working with Will House on this brief. Our aim is to produce a photography book that explores both natural and urban environments. I am hoping that we will be able to produce a hardback book for this project and that it will have an element to make it unique and separate it from other photography books. We have decided to call the book, “In The Fade� as it is supposed to reflect the idea of fading the boundaries between nature and urban, as well as the idea that the countryside is fading into urban environments.


Tour de France Brief: This briefs main purpose, at the moment, is to produce a series of jersey designs for Polaris Bikewear to celebrate the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire. However I intend to continue with my designs even if I don’t get to work with Polaris and pitch them to other companies or organisations that would have an interest in celebrating the Tour de France. So far the brief has been based around producing patterns that would be suitable for cycling jerseys.


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The Crab Brief: This aim of this brief is the continued development of designs for “The Crab� team in order to help them manage the space. I will be collaborating on this brief and hope to produce leaflets and posters relevant to the space and any events taking place within.

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I initially found out about the “Hinterland” exhibition, which took place in the gallery space at Colours May Vary, through word of mouth, however it was the online information that inspired me into going. In my mind the advertising and publicity running up to an exhibition is almost as important as the exhibition its self, as this informs people about the event and entices people into going, but it must also be indicative of what the exhibition is about. In my mind the publicity for “Hinterland” was well designed and had a simple, graphic style that was indicative of the simple illustrative style of most of the work in the exhibition. I also feel that the simplicity of the publicity work is reminiscent of my own, in that it involves simple bold lines that I would think were done in illustrator and utilises only one colour. A custom font was also designed for the title of the exhibition, which added organic shapes and rigid lines to an existing font to create a font that has a style more inline with the mythical, folklore theme of the exhibition. The font has a natural and arcane feel about it that seems to draw upon old ornate Celtic fonts, but brings them into the world of 21st century design. When I entered the space the exhibition was taking place in I was quite surprised, as Lord Whitney are synonymous with large interesting 3D work but the room was, for the most part, fairly bare. The artworks were simply placed at roughly head height on the wall, equally spaced around the room and the only notable feature was a grouping of cut-out leaflike objects placed against the window. In this respect I was somewhat disappointed, as I felt that some more features could have made better use of the space. However I appreciate that this would also have detracted from the artwork, which would have been unwelcome in an exhibition composed of work by so many different artists. As for the artwork its self, I felt there were some really strong pieces in the exhibition, though I have to say my personal favourite was probably “Cocktail Hour” by Hedof. This piece is a colourful four layer screen-print that draws you in with its bold and bright design. It then utilises a range of imagery compacted into a small space to create an image that is slightly confusing but draws you in further, in to finding details. I like to think that the bold use of colour and different focal points in one image is similar to my earlier montage work, however I was always drawn into using outlines, which as this is a screen-print Hedof has not.


The second piece that caught my eye was Lyndon Wallace’s piece, which was again another screen-print. This piece features a series of arcane symbols printed in white and gold onto a black background, including the “eye of providence” as a larger centrepiece. This piece differed from the other works of the exhibition due to being dominated by the black background and because it featured the phrase “Do not allow the eye to fool the mind” printed in vinyl at the bottom whilst no other piece contained text. Whilst it may not have sat perfectly with the “Hinterland” theme, it was more indicative of the arcane arts than any other piece there and was the most unusual. The final thing that really caught my attention with this piece was the use of bolder and finer lines to draw the viewer’s eye and almost create a difference in depth within the image, this is something I also try to use in my illustrative work, though I personally usually use it to highlight bolder aspects, such as outlines. The final image that drew my attention was a watercolours piece by Dick Vincent called “The Badger Funeral”. This piece featured a group of painted badgers sat looking at a rough grave and was apparently created around the myth that badgers bury their dead and hold a rudimentary funeral service. The main thing that caught my eye in this image was the use of negative space. The earth and the trees that comprise the background of the image were simply left white, whilst the sky was painted black over the top. Negative space and a simple shadow like imagery is something I often try to add to my graphic design work, most recently in my initial “The Crab: Grand Opening” invitations. This image really relies on its own simplicity to create a feature out of what it does include, which creates a minimal illustration that displays nothing more or less than it needs to. The badgers in the image are created as simply as the background, but still have a sense of mass on the canvas, which is created by the layering of the badgers and the slight shadowing. The rule of thirds has also been vertically abided to in some degree, which helps to ensure that the image sits right on the page. Overall the exhibition was a success, though this was mainly due to the quality of work displayed. I perhaps would have liked to have seen some larger scale works or some more features within the room, though I suspect the inclusion of small works was a conscious choice by Lord Whitney. The amount of work that was shown in the exhibition was a good choice, any more and it may have overcrowded the room but any less and it may have seemed a bit sparse, both of which are a risk when working with such a small space. Ultimately I would recommend the exhibition to anyone, as it contained some simple attractive works that would entertain adults or kids alike.


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“Design is moving an existing


– Milton Glaser

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condition to a preferred one.”

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I really admire Milton Glaser, not only for his design work but also for his musings on graphic design. I chose this quote as my epigraph because I feel it fits well in line with my own sense of what design is. I believe that Glaser is referring in particular to graphic design here, as the world could still function without graphic design, it just wouldn’t be as appealing. To me, graphic design is the process of taking something that otherwise would simply exist and creating something that is appealing and functional. I feel this is why I always like to have a purpose or a final aim to my work; as for me design is as much about the functionality as it is about the aesthetics. In my mind this quote also highlights the main thing that separates art and graphic design. Art is about creating something to exist as its own entity, whereas graphic design is about creating something that must support something else. The line between the two is obviously quite a tenuous one; both communicate to the viewer; both require creative skills; both are based around aesthetics and both have developed a range of genres and styles through their existence, but the main thing for me is this idea of graphic design being used to improve something else. A lot of my own design work is based around the improvement of concepts that run independent of the work its self. For example my work for the recent LabAid project aimed to take a concept and create something from it that would be more appealing than something that was simply created without any thought given to the design. However I would argue that all the design aspects of my work that I have done of intend to do are about producing something that is otherwise superior. An example of Glaser applying this principal to his own work could be taken as his famous “I love New York” campaign. In 1977 William S. Doyle, Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Commerce, hired advertising agency Wells Rich Greene to work on a new marketing campaign for the city. Doyle also had the foresight to hire Milton Glaser to work on the aesthetics of the campaign. Glaser took the ideas for the campaign and developed the visuals, such as the iconic “I love New York” logo, to accompany it. In developing his work from their campaign, Glaser improved the existing condition and developed something that has lasted the test of time. In my opinion one of the reasons the “I love New York” campaign was so successful was Milton Glaser’s ability to work with the minimalist principal that less is more. A preferred condition doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is more complex, just something that works aesthetically and reaches the target demographic. This leads me on to my piece of writing from the Sixual brief, which is about William Caslon IV’s “Two Lines English Egyptian”, which was the world’s earliest know sans-serif printed typeface.


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In 1816 William Caslon IV created what is widely regarded as the first sans-serif font under the title “Two Lines English Egyptian”. “Two Lines” refers to the size of the font, which was roughly 28 points, and Egyptian refers to the absence of a serif (though later Egyptian came to refer to slab-serif fonts). At the time the font was widely dismissed, with only one known example ever being printed and it wasn’t until roughly five years later that other sans-serif fonts would start to be produced. The act of creating a font without a serif can certainly be regarded as before its time, but Caslon’s font has also lead to the creation of great minimalist fonts and arguably minimalist movements. For example if we take a sans-serif font commonly used today (such as Helvetica, which was widely popularised by the minimalist Swiss Modernist movement) we can see echoes back to Caslon’s original font. In removing the serifs from, what was at the time, the standard for typesetting, Caslon took a bold move. He took something that was designed to be ornate and reduced it down into the essentials, creating something that was more legible and had no more than was necessary. Though he may not have been the first person to ever use a sans-serif font, in trying to pioneer it as a printed typeface he took a daring step into the ideals of minimalism and using no more than is necessary to get an idea or point across.

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When would you say you first decided you wanted to be an illustrator and what was you biggest influence at the time? I have always had a very broad interest in ‘Art’ and have always felt happiest drawing and creating things. It was in sixth form when I was studying both art & graphic design as separate subjects that I realised that ‘illustration’ took the best parts of both realms – communicating a message using art techniques. I went to university with an open mind still – studying ‘Visual Communication’ – but it was the work of other illustrators I was exposed to, current & legendary, in my 3 years at university that really made me aspire to focus solely on illustration.

You’ve got a pretty impressive bank of work now, when you first started illustrating professionally how did you get the jobs, was it something you actively pursued or did your work just bring people to you? My degree course had a lot of ‘live projects’ and personal projects, and tutors were always encouraging us to enter competitions. I think by just keeping hold of the work I did for these projects and posting them online and using them as part of my first little portfolio helped me to get my vibe across. I applied for a job at Nation Of Shopkeepers whilst in my second year, to help with the promoter there at the time, Ash Kollakowski, to book bands. He saw my work and began giving me design jobs instead. As well as stuff for Shopkeepers he would also get me to design posters for other gigs around town and really introduced me to the ‘Gig Poster’ community that got my work a lot of exposure.


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Your work is now obviously very well known through Urban Outfitters (which makes me look smart when I talk to my non-design friends and say “Ah yes, Kate Prior did all the illustration for Urban Outfitters”), but when you first entered the professional world of illustration with your older work, how did it feel? Was it a sudden leap or a slow transition? I feel that my transition to ‘professional’ illustrator has been very gradual and organic. I still find it shocking that people like my work. I feel comfortable with what I do as I’m in a situation where clients are wanting me to ‘do my thing’. I find this hugely complimentary and I feel very lucky as a designer to work this way, but I also would like to evolve as a designer/illustrator. I feel that this is happening, but very gradually.


You said in the interview on Urban Outfitters’ blog that you were perhaps planning a series of short graphic novels and that you find your own projects the most fun, do you find personal projects like that an escape from your commercial work or is it all one big happy whole (also is that still in the pipeline)? A lot of the commercial work I do, especially for Urban Outfitters, has a very quick turn around so I have to think fast and come up with a final design within a day – to make this as efficient as possible I stay in quite a safe realm of my ability and don’t get too adventurous, to ensure that I meet the deadline. With personal projects it’s a great opportunity to try out different illustration techniques that you’ve been admiring what other illustrators do – it’s a great way to grow as an illustrator as you learn what works and what doesn’t. I’d love to find the time to do more of this! (it is still in the pipeline – probably finished in 2020 lol)

A lot of collectives and collaboratives have started to spring up recently, do you collaborate with anyone at all on your work or do you prefer to work alone? I have always worked alone. I have been bossy my whole life – which I feel has its negative and positive sides. I’d love to learn how to work collaboratively and get involved with group projects as it looks really fun and social whilst allowing you to learn from other people’s work processes. I tend to be quite insular when it comes to ideas and drawing though.


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Finally (to roll out the old cliché) do you have any advice for creatives leaving university and seeking employment? To answer with a cliché too, stay motivated! Keep rolling out work and keep showing people. Work for free and work on personal briefs if live work isn’t happening. Clients will admire both. Make your work accessible online and keep things up to date. Stay inspired by looking at blogs and books and going to exhibitions. Keep an eye on what your peers are up to but stay original.

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Your work isn’t afraid to be a little rude at times (like the cat-shit campaign and the poo icecream). Would you say this sense of daring is something that comes naturally to you or did you build it up over time and what did a large-scale company like Urban Outfitters first make of it? I really like design which is easy to read on the surface and then sometimes with a few little extras which take the piece deeper. I like things to just look good though at a first glance. I find using humour a good way of catching attention, but also I do just like to make people laugh – usually with crass potty humour. I also find that these designs are more likely to be shared around the Internetz!!!! (= exposure!)


Pearson, L (2010). Hildafolk. London: Nowbrow ltd. Rowson, M (2012). The Waste Land. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Foer, J (2010). Tree of Codes. London: Visual Editions ltd. Hedof (2013) Cocktail hour [Online] Available from: <http://hedof.com/ Cocktail-hour> [Accessed 5 December 2013] Instagram (2013) Colours May Vary [Online] Available from: <http://instagram. com/coloursmayvary> [Accessed 5 December 2013] Blogger (2013) Dick Vincent [Online] Available from: <http://dickvincent. blogspot.co.uk> [Accessed 5 December 2013] Milton Glaser (2013) Milton Glaser [Online] Available from: <http://www. miltonglaser.com> [Accessed 5 Decemeber 2013]

Urban Outfitters (2013) Interview with an illustrator [Online} Available from: <http://blog.urbanoutfitters.co.uk/?p=12720> [Accessed 5 Decemeber 2013] Kate Prior (2013) KP - priooor@gmail.com [Online] Available from: <http:// kateprior.com> [Accessed 5 Decemeber 2013]

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Study Blue Inc (2013) Slides [Online] Available from: <http://www.studyblue. com/notes/note/n/slides/deck/2552135> [Accessed 5 Decemeber 2013]


Critical Study Draft  

My draft Critical Study for the Christmas deadline.

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