On September 6th, we were joined by Anthony Burrill in the YCN Shop & Library as part of our summer-long education programme.
The iconic illustrator spoke at length about his longstanding career, which began at home near Manchester, where he was more interested in illustrating pylons and technical drawings than art. He went on to Leeds Polytechnic which, he says, provided a broad education in design; to-ing and fro-ing between graphic design, illustration, printmaking and other art forms.
His talent earned him a place at the Royal College of Art, where he studied graphic design on a more restricted course, championing ideas over technique. This is perhaps where Anthony thrived - in an idea-centric environment where his unique style could flourish.
Anthony went on to describe his time spent collecting phrases, text and images to create photocopied books, sending them out to people he thought might be interested in his work. Phrases and words are clearly pertinent to Anthony’s unique style - collecting them from close friends and family. Using the photocopy shop across the road, Anthony recalled the difficulty of reaching your demographic without the Internet. The books reflected and explored his interest in mail art and the small publishing aspect to the design industry.
Anthony owes his first big break to Erik Kessells, who enlisted Anthony’s ironic and pithy designs to advertise the Hans Brinker hotel in Amsterdam. Anthony created a series of twenty tongue-in-cheek posters, realised in clean smart graphics: “He expected me to choose three or four out of the copy, but I was young and decided to do the lot”.
Although his work leans towards the cultural, the commercial campaigns that he has produced, such as the safety posters for the London Underground, still reflect the “handmade, analogue aesthetic” that he has cultivated. He explained that he used the bodies of his family members as the figures in the project, in keeping with his local ideals.
The commercial campaigns Anthony has produced, such as the safety posters for the London Underground, still reflect the “handmade, analogue aesthetic” that he has cultivated.
He remarked to the group that his stint in London was always destined to be temporary, and his move to Rye in East Sussex, a self-proclaimed “ancient town”, appeared to be invaluable to the future of his work. Meeting Derek, Ian and the team at the local printing press, who use the somewhat outdated wood block prints, marked a new chapter in his work, yielding his career defining motif: Work Hard & Be Nice To People. The print became a phenomenon in the design world and beyond, with one fan even going so far as to tattoo it on her thigh. A series of posters executed in a similar fashion followed, and have been imitated by countless designers.
One cultural project that Anthony is clearly passionate about is Oil & Water Do Not Mix. The prints were made in New Orleans with the oil collected from the beach, following the spill in 2010. Another significant cultural exchange was a 10-day residency at a University in South Korea, creating designs to inspire creativity and cultural capital in the country.
He spoke fondly of his friends, family and colleagues leaving the group instilled with a sense of familiarity, and ready with questions aplenty after the talk.
One interesting question posed was whether other cultures responded to the British-specific wit of many of his text designs. “No”, he said in a deadpan manner, “But the Americans love it.”
To conclude the talk, Anthony contributed the book Graphic Design: Now In Production to the YCN lending library, citing how he is intrigued by the way the book explores the blurring of lines in graphic design.
We’d like to thank Anthony for the effort he put into what was an engaging, vivid and wholly enjoyable talk.
Written by Catherine Sarsfield.
Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:6th September, 2012 at 6:30pm
End:6th September, 2012 at 8:00pm