Check out this fantastic (and really relevant) article over on It's Nice that about Ace typographer, printmaker & designer Anthony Burrill.
At this time of year emerging designers are prone to feeling overwhelm - rouding out studies with the always manic portfolio time and then shifting gear to find their way into industry... While those creatives who are employed are swampped with pre-christmas deadlines, and those of us in business are trying to finalise project invoicing before the end of the year and setting business goals/plans for the new year. Its a crazy time of year in our creative industries. So I found this article on creative practice, focus and getting started particularly timely (and inspiring).
Burrill describes his early morning warm up of choosing music, reading the news, tidying his studio and looking out the window as, rather than a diversion, a series of rituals similar to those required when preparing for a run. Whether he is working on a commission or a self-initiated project Anthony makes sure he has a clear brief before getting started: “I don’t find it easy to switch between different projects over the course of a working day, I’d rather focus all my attention on the job at hand. [Although] sometimes it’s necessary to take a break from a project, so I may switch to something else.” He also recommends taking time to switch off, “weekends are good… I hardly ever work weekends, they are a great invention.”
Anthony describes the difficulty he had starting out, “I came from an illustration background and was always scared of typography, it seemed really hard to get right. All the rules felt too complicated and it was only when I started to work with letterpress that I really began to understand type.” He recommends specialising, cultivating your own methods while embracing other ways of working, particularly through collaboration. Anthony sees his practice as a continual body of work, “Once you’ve been working for a few years, you begin to see patterns and themes repeating. I think it’s positive, it shows you aren’t faking it and that [what you’re doing] is what you’re really about.” He goes on, “My personal values dictate and inform what kind of work I produce. I like to keep things simple and straightforward in life and work, to make work that feels worthwhile and positive. It depends on how you look at life and work. Do you want your working life to be fulfilling and enjoyable, or is it just a means to an ends?”
When at the beginning of a project, researching and trying to get to grips with a brief and his solution, Anthony says that he doesn’t “sit down and consciously work out briefs.” He prefers to “mull things over and work out problems subconsciously. I give it a few prods and prompts and then let ideas float to the surface… If I start trying to get too clever or overcomplicate things, that first spark of an idea can get overworked.” Anthony is also a firm believer in working when it feels right, and “not forcing it too much.” In the same turn, he thinks that if you are finding it difficult to focus it’s important to identify why, believing that “we only put things off that we are dreading doing, or are having difficulty working out how to do.” Ultimately, he recommends that the best way forward is to just get on with it, “once you start making, it feels like less of a chore and you can enjoy it.”
When promoting his work, Anthony believes that print still holds many qualities that are impossible to replicate on screen. He says “the tangible look and feel of print is satisfying… [it] hangs around longer and acts as a reminder of a person or event that digital content can’t compete with.” It was finding ways of producing unique printed material that got him started with the process that now forms the basis of his practice, and he still produces postcards and posters to hand out. Anthony finds that working on this kind of material can help to re-focus, “the process of putting together a newsprint publication of work from the last twelve months was a great exercise in taking a fresh look at the work and has helped me think about what to explore next year.” Working out how you want to represent yourself means taking time to do just that, to look at your work, what you have achieved and what you hope to do. By giving yourself a clear brief, you can prime yourself with the materials to push yourself and your career forward.
Above photo by Rob Wilson