What made you want to study Graphic Design at Manchester School of Art?
I’ve always been interested in ‘the arts’, but over the last eight years or so I have really become interested in graphic design. When I was a teenager I used to mock up logos for clubs or companies I was around, looking back at them now they are awful though, but in my defence, I was learning. So I decided to study it as I was slowly falling in love with graphic design more. As to why Manchester? Its always been a trendy city to me. Big, bright, loud, and colorful if you ignore all the grey’s. I’ve never really been a fan of smaller cities, there’s more to look at. When I came for my interview, I knew it was Manchester School of Arts I wanted to come to. The building is open, modern, I loved it.
How would you describe your artistic style and your designs?
I’m still trying to find my personal style in graphic design, but one thing I always try to add to my work is humour. If I can design something to try and make someone laugh, I will. When it comes to aesthetics, I love bright colours, and bold lettering and imagery. When I first started experimenting with graphic design, I just worked in black and white, so when I started using bright colours, I kind of went off the rails. I want people to be drawn to my work, and I love using colour to accomplish this.
I love your use of bold colours and lettering in your designs. Tell us about this.
I try to use a pen and paper as often as I can when I’m designing, and this mostly falls under creating my own fonts. I definitely have my own style in my handmade typefaces, which I think evolved when I used to doodle messages to avoid doing maths in school. It has a childish look behind it, I think it gives it a bit of charm. Thats not to say I don’t love using digital type, I just try to make text as striking to the audience as possible.
What projects have you completed on your course?
Throughout my time on this course, I’ve really gone out of my comfort zone. I’ve branded a Topman store. I’ve created a breakfast cereal to map how I spend my summer. I’ve created an animation to showcase a song, which I really didn’t like but hey, I did it. I try to create at least one magazine a year; publishing has really caught my interest recently, so I try to make any excuse to design a publication. It’s became a bit of a tradition for me at this point. My most recent one was ‘Fear of the Frame,’ a magazine that highlights how peoples behaviour can be controlled with such minimal effort. Even though I do enjoy making magazines, I really do enjoy doing things I have never done before.
“When it comes to what I want my work to say, as cheesy as it sounds, I want to make people smile. That’s probably the reason I try to make most of my work have a funny side. It’s also a lot more fun making a piece when you have a bit of a laugh designing it.”
How do you come up with the ideas for your projects? What’s your process?
There is always a lot of research in my projects, obviously. I tend to look through pages and pages of research until a light pings in my brain and I get an idea. Once I have an initial idea, I try to get myself away from a computer, because I get way too ahead of myself. So I make as many doodles and thumbnails as I need until I think I can jump into designing. I’d say most of my time is spend researching, it helps me get an exact image of what I’m creating – I prefer to have an image of exactly what I’m creating before I hop on a computer.
Is there a piece that you’re most proud of?
It’s pretty difficult to pick out one specific piece that I’m proud of. But one that pops into mind is my Penguin Classics redesign, mainly because it was so different to what everyone else came up with. I almost surprised myself with this one. I designed them so the books could potentially attract a new audience, whilst still being visually appealing to an older audience. They are bright and bold – thats what I aim for. Another piece that sticks out to me is the ‘Do Not Open’ posterzine. I collaborated with my friend, another student on the course to create this, and I think it turned out great. We created unique and surreal characters, with bright colours and odd imagery, and piled it all into a slightly disturbing zine. It was a lot of fun to make, and it turned out great.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am designing a couple of book covers for the Penguin Books Student Design Award brief. Yes, there is only one non-fiction book on the brief, but I’ve decided to make a crime non-fiction collection. Mainly to give myself a bit more to design and experiment with. I’m really interested to see what the book covers will look like as a collection. I’m also making some initial designs for another project. I’m planning on creating a way for students to communicate and collaborate with other students. Although I’m still on the early stages, so I don’t really know what way in going to take it.
What do you want to achieve with graphic design? What do you want your work to say, and what kind of commissions do you want to work on?
The main thing I want to achieve with graphic design would be to get a job. It’s such a hard industry to break into, especially within the last ten years or so. I’ll just be happy to say I made it, and I actually do something I enjoy for a living. When it comes to what I want my work to say, as cheesy as it sounds, I want to make people smile. That’s probably the reason I try to make most of my work have a funny side. It’s also a lot more fun making a piece when you have a bit of a laugh designing it.
What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learnt as a student?
Go with your gut. I always hit walls when I’m designing. So sometimes I have to jump in the deep end and go with a certain idea. 9 times out of 10, it’s the better idea.
Do you have a dream project for the future?
When it comes to design, I’m always up for trying something new. So as long as fresh and unique briefs keep coming my way, I’ll be happy. A specific project I’d love to do in the future is completely creating an identity for a store, I know it’s pretty simple but I like the idea building something from the ground up. I also like the idea of trying to pitch the idea to the company, trying to sell them the idea.
View more of Elliot’s work on behance.