Viewing Category ~ inspiration

Today allow me to share with you an inspiring individual I came across recently, meet Duncan Shotton. I first came across Duncan’s work via my friend and fellow Art Director Paul Parolin, who sent me this super cool kick-starter for something called “Rainbow pencils”. I did some digging up and found out the cool guy behind the project. I just had to have a few words with him.

I: Let’s start by giving a brief introduction about yourself and background.

D: OK, well, my name’s Duncan, I was born in London but grew up in the west of England in a little town near Bath. I graduated from Brunel University (west London) in Industrial Design and Technology in 2008. After that I worked for a design consultancy for four years, whilst developing my own design projects as ‘homework’ in the evenings. Then only last year I moved to Tokyo to set up my own design studio.

I’m allergic to cat’s, prefer the adverts to the programmes on TV, and my favourite food is probably yorkshire puddings.

I: Great, from the UK to Japan, that’s quite the transition! What would you say were the motives behind moving to Tokyo? and how easy was the transition itself?

D: Mainly, a beautiful girl, but I’d always been fond of Tokyo.
It’s a modern city. Whilst everything’s the same, everything’s different. That’s what makes it surprising, inspiring, and sometimes a little tricky.

I: Ahhh, women, the things they do to us men :) Now that you’ve been in Tokyo for a while, how have you found the language barrier? What would you say is one of the main differences between living in Japan and the UK?

D: I get by, but it’s difficult to express my personality because my Japanese is still pretty basic. The thick, humid heat of the Japanese summer is unlike any I’ve experienced in Europe.

I: So, what is your earliest “Creative related memory/activity” that you can recall?

D:  Maybe in a school play. I must have been about 15. I played a character whose costume included a top hat, which I snuck a white rabbit teddy bear inside of on the night of the performance. In the middle of my part, I paused, took my hat off, chucked the rabbit into the audience, saying something like “I should stop wearing magicians’ hats”, then carried on with the set script.

I: Hahahhaha, spoken like a true artist. And what would be your most recent creative foray?

D:  I did my first pop-up shop this year, it was in a tree. Recently, I’ve been designing and making a new one, which is even more ridiculous, but yet to launch.
My latest live project is Rainbow Pencils, recycled paper pencils that make rainbows when you sharpen them (currently funding on Kickstarter.)

I: Yes, a friend of mine actually sent me a link to your kickstarter, which is how I came across you. You’ve spoken a lot about that on the kickstarter website, I enjoyed reading it and think it’s a tremendously inspiring project. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time, physically & career wise?

D:  Cool, thanks to your friend for sharing and to you for reading, I’m glad you like it! I’ll be in either Tokyo or the UK. I hope my brand, range of projects and products will have grown, but not so much that they lose their ‘specialness’. Someone once commented on my work “It’s nice to just do a few things, really well”, and that made me really happy.

I:  And finally, Inspiration, who? what? where?

D: In 2007, when .mp3 players became the norm, the tape cassette became a nostalgic item, because everyone was sad to say goodbye. It was at that time I came up with Tape Dispenser (a sticky tape dispenser in the shape of a tape cassette). Similarly in 2011, everyone was talking about cloud computing, which is perhaps what made me think of Cloud Keyholder (a wall mounted cloud that uses magnets to hold your keys underneath to represent rain). I think icons and topics ‘of the moment’ inspire me and help make my products easily understandable by others.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

Kaboomi Studio
Design Boom
That Should be mine!

Monday’s are back, meet Macedonian mixed media artist Marko Manev. Marko currently is working as a freelance illustrator and designer while dabbling in some comics every now and then. I came across his artwork recently after seeing his Superhero Noir posters showcased on the web. I was immediately inspired and wanted to know more about this artist.

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

M: If legos count then that would be when I was 2 or 3 years old. I loved legos! I was an introvert kid that played with legos and watched Star Wars all day long! I never touched crayons or pencils until I was 7 and started drawing panels from the belgian comic Lucky Luke. I guess I never stopped drawing since.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

M: Film director! I’m hoping that one day I might do that.

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

M:  Tough question! So many artists, movies, film directors, bands, games! Ok I’ll try to pick 10 in no particular order cause the list will go on forever: Brian Wood, Jock, Banksy, Stanley Kubrick, Sergio Leone, Kazimir Malevich, Alien, Lord of the Rings, Rammstein, Metal Gear Solid. This are just part of the things that ignite my creative spark.

I: Share any piece of your work, recent or old and talk about it.

M: This is a piece form my recent Noir series that I’m really proud of. Inspired by the Man of Steel trailer, I wanted it to be a powerful and very subtle representation of the character. What’s interesting about this piece is when I was working on it, I thought more of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier with his X-1, than of Superman.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

geek tyrant
comics alliance

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, but the obsession sessions are back full force. This monday,
I’d like to share with everyone my interview with a very inspiring letterer, illustrator, Type designer and occasional silly internet person, Jessica Hische. I’ve been following Jessica’s work for quite a few years now. It all started when I bought her first Daily Drop Cap Alphabet Fine Art Print -which is proudly hanging up in my living room- a couple years ago. She has provided constant inspiration with all the
cool quirky projects that she initiates, not to mention the extremely high quality work for top notch clientele that she pumps out at a horrifyingly fast rate. I have to say, what I admire the
most about her though, is the fact that she’s still in her mid twenties and she is running a very successful business that she started from scratch. Her hard work and talent are
what make her quite exceptional.

I’ve been corresponding with her occasionally throughout the years, and when I finally made my way to San Francisco this October, I got in-touch again and she invited me over to her meticulously designed studio in the Mission neighborhood for lunch and design talks, and also since Hurricane Sandy was shutting down everything on the east coast and I was stranded for an extra couple days, I was able to have another round of Design Discussions with her. Here is what she had to say:

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

J: Coming up with a first creative memory is tough… I feel like my first real memory of myself being creative was when I used to draw battle maps of my house growing up. I would draw these really intense detailed maps of the rooms in my house and track the dog’s movement throughout the house. Recently I’ve come upon some drawings I made as a little kid—I was super into trying to make up my own far side comics when I was very young, like six or seven. Things didn’t always make sense in all these comics but I tried so hard to make up my own sarcastic jokes and story lines. I also did a number of punny random drawings like “honeymoon” which was a moon covered in honey. Illustration must have been in my blood because most of my drawings were more like this, humorous wordplays or attempts to replicate comics, than landscapes or anything that might be considered more “fine art”. I think the battle maps came about because my brother and I were always at odds with each other. I was plotting territories throughout the house and our dog was a neural party. Like tracking the movement of fish through the ocean.

I: Hopefully you still have these lying around somewhere?

J: I know that my mom must have them somewhere, but I don’t know, I really want to find them because it’s such a clear memory to me. But she was probably like “oh what’s this drawing full of squares” you know? -laughter-. When I was in college I took Anatomy and Physiology 1 &2 as my sciences and I was the only non-nursing or pre-med person in my class and also the only one to get an A. This sort of freaked me out because they’re all going to be sticking us with needles in the future and I’m the one sitting here drawing fancy letters. -laughter-

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

J: That will be tough to answer because I have a wide variety of interest. I was always super interested in biology and sociology. I aced all of my anatomy classes in school. I feel like I would actually end up in something weirdly medical were I not a letterer…or an anthropologist. When I was in college I took Anatomy and Physiology 1 &2 as my sciences and I was the only non-nursing or pre-med person in my class and also the only one to get an A. This sort of freaked me out because they’re all going to be sticking us with needles in the future and I’m the one sitting here drawing fancy letters. -laughter-

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

J: Where, would be the woods, plus Brooklyn, plus these areas surrounding SanFrancisco and my office of course.

The what, would be everything, it’s difficult to say what specifically inspires you. I think for me a big part of my inspiration is just getting myself in the right frame of mind to just hammer away at something because I think the kind of work that a person does when they’re lettering or as a type designer is really different than a conceptual illustrator. They are probably looking more for the moment of divine inspiration for the most intense concept ever, where as the most difficult part of my work process is finding for the inspiration to work for a long time on something. It can be a break, treating myself to something a really excellent meal, it can be the best cup of coffee plus the best pastry that I could have at one time. Those would be the things the inspire me. Or it can be an album that I’ll re-discover that I haven’t listened to since college and all of the sudden all I want to do is work because I’m suddenly reminded of working into the night in art school I just want to bathe myself in warm feelings of nostalgia.

The who is a lot of folks that I see out in the industry working super hard. Other people’s work ethic is certainly inspiring. A big part of that is that I’m in a transition period after your early twenties and after you’ve had a bit of success in the field where you don’t have to work for 20 hours a day anymore and would have a hard time doing it if you tried. Part of that is that I now have so much other stuff going on surrounding my business like answering interviews, traveling for conferences, etc, that I can’t actually spend as much of my time creating as I used to. I’m super jealous and super inspired by people that plug away and work and draw 24 hours a day. Also, surrounding myself with lots of friends and colleagues that I admire and respect is super motivating. Sharing a studio with Erik helps tremendously because he works way harder than I do right now. It makes me sad and jealous and proud all at the same time—and he’s shaking his head… laughter-

I: I think like you said earlier, it’s stages that you go through, so you knew that in your early twenties that you had to really buckle down, while you’re getting your name out there.

J: Well it’s also the way that your business is run when you’re starting out is so different then the way it runs once you’ve been going for a while. I deal with things now that I’ve never dealt with when I was twenty four, now half my day is devoted to going through email, answering interviews, dealing  with requests for really weird stuff, managing conference talks that are coming up, billing conferences and dealing with all that paperwork(y) stuff. When I was starting out, I still had paperwork to do, but I was just like “Invoice .. done”. I wasn’t getting a lot of random letters from people or random requests to do speaking, I wasn’t getting a lot of interviews and because of it I had a lot more time to work, so now I feel I don’t work hard enough, because so much of my day is devoted to doing the businessy stuff that I have to do and I’m jealous of my former life in which I was just drawing all day.

I: Yeah, it’s a bit different when your name has a certain clout, there is a maintenance that comes with it.

J: It’s not even like I spend all day trying to maintain my name, it’s more like I get fifty emails a day that actually require a legitimate response, whether it’s some parent asking you a really intense question about their kid who’s applying to art school, or whether it’s a kid who is sixteen who is loosing their mind because they’re failing on a client project—which is so adorable and amazing, that people now when they’re 16 know what they’re doing—or whether it’s a legit sounding magazine, blog or conference that is contacting you, you can’t just send a canned response, it all has to be very customized, you have to really think of everything before you send it, you can’t just spam everything and walk away from it. It’s just not something that you really think about when you’re starting out, that six hours of your day would be devoted to this (business aspects) rather to just plugging away in illustrator.

I: Share any piece of your work, recent or old and talk about it.

J: I’d love to share all the work that I’m working on right now but unfortunately I’m a little NDA’d (Non-Disclosure Agreement) on a couple of them. So the work that I’ll share is the Penguin Classics project that I’ve been working on that I’m super psyched about. I feel like I have so much ownership over the project—usually when I’m brought in as an artist to work on a book cover, you don’t feel all that special being a part of the project. It’s a client job like any other. Even when you’re working with a giant author, often times you never communicate with them. It’s always like, “hey, we were trying to solve this in-house but we’re reaching out to you because we can’t solve it in-house”. But with this Penguin project, they approached me and said “we want this to be a really awesome partnership between you and Paul Buckley—who is the art director for the books— and they’ve been branding the series as being our series. All the promotional materials and stuff mention me by name, and that’s really awesome and rare because it makes me feel so amped that they’re excited enough about my work that they’re putting my name out there as being a major proponent of the project. So, I have so much reading to do for that because there are 26 books in total and I’ve made the first 6 so far. The sketches for the next 6 are due in a couple weeks so it’s getting down to the wire to read some books. -laughter-.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

J: Truthfully, I don’t do a lot of web surfing to look for inspiration visually, almost all of my web time is devoted to email, Facebook, twitter and all the links that come from that. I sort of use twitter as a place to curate all of the outside inspiration sources, because in general I follow people whose work I like, whose opinion I like and I rely on them as sort of being the curators of content for me on the internet. So there’s not a specific daily inspiration site that I goto, nor are there several of them, because it can jump around, I can discover some random persons’ tumblr account and then spend an entire day on it. Or, suddenly re-kindle my relationship with a design blog that I used to check everyday three years ago but I haven’t checked since because it’s difficult to get work done plus get the business worked on plus actually look at stuff online plus tweet often and maintain an online presence.

October 19th, 2012

The effect of colour.

We meet again monday. Welcome everyone, this week I’m back to re-interview an artist that I interviewed way back in 2010 when I started this blog, multi-disciplinary graphic designer Muiz Anwar. Muiz is a multi-disciplinary graphic designer based in England, whose work incorporates typography, calligraphy, photography, illustration, fashion and product design to name a few. I first came across his work through browsing the ever inspiring site dedicated to the Arabic language The thing that I find really inspiring is that he really finds a way to showcase his talent whichever field he tends to pour his creative energy in. It’s been nice to witness his creative growth since the last time we chatted.

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

M: I’ve tried to hard to think as far back as possible, but I always come back to drawing animals and dinosaurs on the back of my mother’s expired time-sheets. She’d collect the time-sheets from colleagues too because she knew how much I enjoyed spending my time creatively. I’m forever indebted to her for giving me the space to nurture and mature this skill in my own time, and for never limiting my potential by enforcing pseudo-cultural stereotypes and community expectations on me.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

M: At high school I was studying both fine art and design and technology till the age of 18. Visual communication, though a combination of the artistic with the technical, weighs more toward fine art than the engineering finesse required to master design and technology aka product design, so I’d quite like to pursue that as an engineer or a designer. I wasn’t too bad either, my final year work in high school was shortlisted in the regional finals of Audi Young Designer of the Year.

I was also very interested and successful in languages, history and sciences because they explained so much about the world we live in. If I had the opportunity to live a few lifetimes, or have a few clones of myself, I’d be a linguist, archeologist, doctor and a scientist-come-engineer developing new technologies and materials on the side too.

Though saying that, the beauty of the field I work in now is that I can still incorporate elements of all the aforementioned disciplines into my work – which ultimately deals with shaping communities through the communication of ideas.

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

M:  Who: Philosopher & scholar, Marshall McLuhan – whose academic background in linguistics helped forecast the evolution of communication into a ‘global village’ aka world wide web, including his succinctly seminal work, ‘the Medium is the Message’ – on the power of visual communication through a mastering and understanding of Semiotics.

Master calligrapher, Hassan Massoudy – the only creative of the 20th & thus far into the 21st Century, to have achieved seamless unity between Eastern and Western aesthetics, by understanding and respecting the philosophy and history of both. In doing so, he continues the inherited legacy of innovation and cultural experimentation from our forefathers, whose harmonising of the arts and sciences centuries ago, have become treasured icons today.

What: Historic sites of religious veneration – for their capacity to project and reflect messages, not necessarily through visual or literary media, but rather their manipulation [and somewhat ironic definition] of space to represent eternity and the everlasting.

It’s also the permanence of it. The idea of a place or object, however preserved or ruined, that has quietly bore witness to the rise and fall of generations and civilisations of humanity over the centuries – and communicated different ideas and concepts to those that were opportune enough to have shared a fraction of a moment with it during its own lifetime.

These ancient residual echoes of humanity’s past, will outlive and out-communicate the tinny cacophony of the self-righteous Digital Age once the power runs out and the world succumbs the primal darkness of nature – an inevitable acknowledgement of our humble beginnings and existential fragility. Look at the Rosetta Stone – an ancient object so complex and sophisticated it remains an enigma in our technologically advanced era today.

We have to ask ourselves, how much of what we create and communicate today will outlast what has been said & done centuries before us?

Where: Home. The East of the Middle. The cradle of civilisation. The nucleus of monotheism. There is no other region on Earth that hosted such an exotic range of topography, race, language and cultural diversity as a once unified, cohesive network of humanity.

What other region can claim to host synagogues, churches and mosques of such diversity and flair, with some [Egypt] exhibiting an unparalleled aesthetic unity modified only to suit respective motifs and icons?

It’s one of the closest embodiments of my ‘Origin of Order’ principle.

I: Share any piece of your work, recent or old and talk about it.

M: Salaam Salute [2009]

My dedication to a dream many generations had hoped to witness in their life-time, but that too few had actually fought to realize, until now.

Visually it represents a formula – the symbiotic relationship between an idea and an action in order to establish a legible result. Note the Arabic despite its contemporary look is actually based upon Kufi, the oldest known calligraphic style, attributed to and named after Kufa, a town south of Baghdad, Iraq.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

New Scientist
Wired: DangerRoom

Hi, I'm Ibraheem Youssef
I'm a Creative,
currently based in Toronto.

Welcome to my blog.

Art Direction / Alignment / Colours
Cooking / Design / Folding
Illustration / Paper / Printing
Ping Pong / Type / Walking

are some of the things I tend
to obsess over constantly.
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