Wed, 17 Feb 2016 16:06:22 GMT
A teacher once told Seb that if he stopped drawing all over his books in class he’d be more successful. Fast-forward to 2016 and Seb’s success can be measured by an array of awards rather than a scribbled note from a teacher. The young graphic designer credits his curiosity and sensitivity to travelling the world with his parents and getting caught in the orbit of various subcultures.
A career in graphic design, however, did not come easily – when funding for his masters fell through, it was his employers at Feed who saw his potential and came to the rescue. After two years of balancing work with his MA at the Royal College of Art, Seb now finds himself at Feed full-time, and is part of FEED FUTURA, a platform analysing the digital design field and its future. LBB’s Jeannie Corfield caught up with him to find out more.
Sculpture Piracy -
Sculpture Piracy -Royal College of Art Final Show
LBB> Where did
you grow up and what kind of kid were you?
S> My Parents were Hare Krishna devotees, which lead me to travel around the world often, staying in ashrams in various temples. We visited the Temple in Soho every Sunday. This was in the 90’s when it was the epicentre of diversity - strangely enough, Russell Brand taught me to kick flip on a skateboard there.
Regarding how my childhood informed my practice, getting a broad understanding of what makes people tick was important. I was satelliting around sub-cultures, soaking up everything, everyone was so interesting. Creativity is the only benefit I can see from being highly sensitive to things.
I grew up just between Essex and East London, where the intensity and over saturation created a cultural melting pot. Counter cultures were very fluid and active, kids had this one shot attitude in creating their voice which I feel is quite unique to London.
Bob Proctor said, 'Dissatisfaction is a creative state'. I was dissatisfied a lot as a kid and worked hard to get out of the woods. I recently found a school report that said if I ‘stopped drawing all over my books in class I’d be more successful’. Last year I framed it and showed it in an exhibition about Education.
LBB> When did you realise you wanted to be a graphic designer or do something artistic? Has it always been a passion of yours?
S> The element of play is expected to be knocked out of you by the time you reach your teens; the people that resist this end up making the most interesting work. When I met artists growing up, they were people that were as fascinated and excited by the curiosities of the world as I was, they rejected social conditioning and didn’t seem to grow old, they just developed.
Where I came from it was a long shot to pursue a career solely as an artist, so I chose a route that had commercial viability. I studied Graphic Design at College, where a sense of naive curiosity wasn’t just allowed, it was encouraged. Art and Design to me is the most human of industries. In a lot of ways, it’s a blessing that the production of cultural value can be commodified.
‘Disruptive’ was the buzzword of 2015 and rightly so. The zeitgeist has always been led by the non-conformist, it is perfectly digestible for clients to understand that it’s an option to subvert the norm or what competitors are doing. We live in the age of incongruity where you could spend days crafting the perfect headline and someone else recuperates a meme and completely trumps your idea. I believe the digital native is comfortable and reactive to this notion: this is the edge that Young Talent can bring to the table.
LBB> Who and what are your main influences?
S> My work is concept led, so my influencers are rarely of a visual nature; my work is inspired by subject matter, the news, conversations and museum visits. When I was younger, Guy Debord’s book ‘The Society Of The Spectacle’ was a major influence; the Situationist attitude is something I hold quite close to my heart. Recently I have been reading Joshua Simons' Neomaterialism, which I would highly recommend to any practising contemporary artists or designers making current work. My creative director Simone is a huge inspiration to me, he has a profound ability to always see the big picture. I have learnt so much from him.
An artist group I have been following for a while are Slavs and Taters who came to lecture at the RCA Eady Forum. Their work is as striking as it is conceptually engaging, often dealing with geopolitics, linguistics and vernacular oddities, it’s very exciting. Hans Ulrich Obrist is of course a visionary in the Art world and an admirable devotee to his work. I also achingly admire the work of Lawrence Weiner, poetic spatial, compositional and typographic.
I often engage in mutual misunderstandings with people that generally lead to either something interesting or something dreadful. A mutual misunderstanding is essentially what collaboration should be. In the past few months I have collaborated with some people whose work I have admired for a long time - I’m currently working with one of the tutors at the RCA on some exciting projects involving some influential record labels. The type foundry Colophon has also been significant; they are extraordinarily nice guys creating some very original work. Eric Gill said ‘Letters are things not pictures of things’ - I respect anyone dedicating their career to this pillar of visual communication.
LBB> Would you say you have a ‘style’? How would you define it?
S> I describe my practice as merging graphic design with the satirical interrogation of contemporary culture. In other words, visually saying what everyone’s thinking. The objective is to expose society’s problems through exaggeration until a big question emerges, with the hope of provoking a big answer.
In terms of execution, my latest projects have been typographically focused, creating a new typeface or typographic effect for each project.
I find the designer achieves a unique sense of control if a typeface is crafted especially for the content; it becomes a fully integrated piece of communication. I feel there is something sublime in the message having reign over the materiality.
I focus on speculative works that deal with themes of ethics, authorship and identity, communicated with a Graphic anchor.
LB> Your work has been featured in a range of exhibitions from the Science Museum and Tate Modern to the Korean Typography Biennale. What was featured? How were those experiences for you and what was the reaction like?
S> In 770 years’ time there will only be one square metre of dry land per person. That is if the population continues to grow as it has been. This is the subject matter I found and presented at the Science Museum in the form of a dystopian housing model, which fit all house amenities into 1m2. As far as projects that expose future catastrophes go, I would say it was well received. Last year I showed some work in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall at the Publishing Show Offprint.
The Korean Typography Biennale was the first time showing outside of the UK, which was an interesting experience. I was asked to work with Google map co-ordinates and design a huge banner that was exhibited as part of Adrian Shaughnessy’s Special Exhibition. Through my research I found that some scientists believe there is a spiritual part of the brain that activates only when people pray or meditate, and this notion fed into my graphic work. I have now donated the body of work to the National Hangeul Museum in Korea.
Unfortunately I couldn’t make it down to the show, so I didn’t see any reaction first hand, but the project got some good coverage. This project Blurred the lines between typography and fine art, something I feel should be pushed further in contemporary art.
LBB> We’re big fans of the Sonic 20th Anniversary project - am I right in thinking it involved you winning a competition? And we hear you won an award with the BBC last month? Tell us more.
S> I won a Young Creative Network Award back in 2013 as part of the Sonic 20th Anniversary Project, but most recently, in December last year I won the BBC Creative Prize. I won the opportunity of designing a billboard for them, advertising a new channel for 16-24 year olds. The brief was to present a tone of voice and define a visual style for the channel. I came to the conclusion that we are advertising to a generation that is fed up of being advertised to, so any tech savvy media tactics will be quickly counteracted by pop up blockers and ad blockers. The key was in channeling this energy against advertising and subverting it into a campaign for the voice of the youth. It was all about trust and honesty - nothing is more important when speaking to the new generation.
Seb's work for the BBC Creative Prize
Seb's work for the BBC Creative Prize
LBB> Feed sponsored your two year MA - how did that relationship initially come about?
S> My bosses Matt and Rob are really my heroes for this; I would never have been able to go to the RCA without their help. I was working at Feed a year beforehand, which was a sensational learning curve where I acclimatised to the industry. It had been a long-term dream of mine to go to the RCA and in the year I applied it was ranked the world’s number one art school. I won’t go into the detail but, long story short, after writing hundreds of emails, my funding fell through and I didn’t have anyone supporting me. I wrote a huge letter to Matt explaining the situation, which in retrospect could have been very detrimental to my job, but he understood what it meant. I worked two days a week throughout my MA. Nothing could have meant more, it was a genuine act of kindness. My boss Rob told me it’s a cycle and I’ll help someone out who needs it as much as I did one day.
This experience was an emotional roller-coaster and it brings to focus how hard, almost impossible, it is for young people from working class backgrounds to study the creative arts to this calibre, which is a tragedy as I believe they have the most to say.
And what will be the result? I predict the bourgeois art movement will only have itself to feed from, rendering the UK art scene culturally homogenised. This simply can’t be the case.
The RCA wasn’t as much a place as a set of ideas, these were transient between College and my studio work at Feed. By the time I started full time again, we had dramatically expanded, we had opened an office in Berlin and had a plethora of new prospective clients for whom we needed to make pitches. It’s been mind-blowing to see the development considering when I started there were only 6 people. I’m very excited to see where we go from here.
LBB> It’s really refreshing to see an agency walking the talk and supporting young talent like that. Would you say that ethos fits in with the whole Feed culture?
S> Graphic design is about making sense of things, it seems to attract people from eclectic backgrounds but they share this attitude. At Feed, a cross section of people from different backgrounds have come together which always makes things so interesting, I’m blessed to work with such funny and talented people.
There is a real camaraderie in the agency, unlike anywhere I have worked previously, my colleagues are so talented and abnormally humble, it is an inspiring mix of work ethic and talent, which is crucial to the Feed ethos.
LBB> You’re now there full time - what does a general day at Feed look like for you? How are you finding the experience?
S> The cross disciplinary demands are in full swing. My time is separated between art directing, copy writing, designing and drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee. When taking on a new project, you subscribe to a stream of consciousness, you live breath and (if you’re lucky) sleep it.
I have been working with a very talented illustrator, art directing a campaign that will be popping up all over Geneva airport this year. I have been writing a lot of Copy for campaigns on eBay and Gumtree alongside running the Feed Typography Club.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as humbled as I have been writing and designing ads, for every one idea that goes through at least a hundred go in the bin - especially when your creative director is right an unnatural per cent of the time. In this industry egos are left at the door or you’ll be picking them up off the floor.
LBB> Your work fuses graphic design and technology. How do the two practices complement each other? How do you see their relationship evolving in the future?
S> It’s a very exciting time regarding this, Feed have one of the best technical departments in London. This year we created a generative logo for our client Temenos that reacts to the usage of the company’s software globally. This was an opportunity to blur the line between Humanist design to digital innovation.
I want to collaborate more closely with the tech department who are on their ‘A’ game right now. The best use of technology is masked by intuitive ergonomics, we have all the ingredients to push things forward both creatively and technically this year by hybridising the two. My MD Matt has launched FEED FUTURA, a weekly Tech/design platform for discussion.
In my personal practice I aim to question the ever-evolving discipline of Graphic Design on the digital interface; I believe it is important to define what will be automated in the future and what will never be, these are the guidelines that will define Graphic Design in the coming years. Lots of experimental projects in the pipeline.
LBB> What do you like to get up to when you're not working?
S> Last year I visited the Venice Art Biennale for the first time which was overwhelmingly beautiful, I also visited Paris for the contemporary art scene whilst embarking on my sculpture Piracy Project. My breaks generally feed into my work and vice versa. Anyone I know who has passion for what they do lives the same all-encompassing lifestyle - give me three days of not working and I’ll get THE FEAR.
LBB> What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
S> 2016 will be a very busy and exciting year.
I will be exhibiting in Florence, Italy as part of the Celeste Art prize in March. We have some great new clients at Feed and I have some great collaborations lined up. My brother is opening up the Sheffield Contemporary gallery, which I have done all the branding for. I see this as a step towards working within the cultural sectors more.
I have also been asked to return to the Royal College to run a series of workshops on Recursion. In my spare time I plan on pirating more sculptures from various different museums around the world and putting them in my living room.
View more of Seb's work
View more of Seb's workhere
view more - Uprising
Genres: PeopleFeed, Wed, 17 Feb 2016 16:06:22 GMT