So Alistair, you started We Made This. Can you tell me how and when that started and what were you doing before that?
I set up We Made This at the beginning of 2004, after spending a year or so as a designer at CDT, a design group in Holborn that was then run by Mike Dempsey. I got a place on the Creative Pioneer Programme, run by NESTA, that helped creative folk to set up businesses, and that gave me the confidence to set something up by myself.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I don't think I really ever had any burning ambitions as a kid: I just kind of pootled about. Oh, wait, actually, I think I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic. I think I still would in fact...
I'd always done graphic design type stuff, but I don't think I ever realised it was something you could do as a job. When I was at school I did Fine Art, but if you did that you were expected to either become an artist or forget all about it. (I think that's changed now - I certainly hope so.) So it wasn't until I'd spent a couple of years working in advertising that I had the blinding realisation that I what I really wanted to be was a graphic designer.
Is there an approach or a methodology you adopt when starting a project
or is it always different according to the work at hand?
I've always tried to find an idea as a starting point for a project, rather than just an aesthetic. It feels like for every brief there's an ideal solution floating around somewhere, and that the designer's job is to hunt down that solution. I've also noticed that a lot of my work is heavily typographic - I think that's because I really love playing with words and language.
When working with photographers and illustrators how much do you try and
get involved with what they produce early on in the process to tie into
your plans for a design?
I've only actually used a couple of photographers and illustrators so far. Quite often (particularly where the budget is tight) I'll have a go at shooting something myself, which is always really satisfying. When I do work with someone else, I'll normally have a fair idea of what I want, but then hope that they can improve on it exponentially.
You do quite a bit of photography and you mention you child dream
job involved that too. What is it about photography that engages you so
much when clearly it's quite a different process to manipulating type?
Yeah, it is a very different skill. But graphic design is all about playing with words and pictures. So far a lot of my work has focused on playing with words, but I'm just as happy playing with pictures too, and the skills you learn while composing a layout, selecting which images to use, how to crop them and so on, those are the very same skills you use while taking a picture. I love the immediacy of photography - particularly now that I'm working with a digital SLR. I think digital photography has really changed the way people learn to use their cameras - it means you can experiment to your heart's content, without worrying about the cost of film or processing. That's really exciting. Plus there's the interaction you get with other photographers on an image sharing site like Flickr - that's wonderful.
I know you have completed some self initiated projects. Can you tell me
about any of those and what inspires you to begin one?
A couple of years back I put together a passport as a document of a trip I made to Hong Kong, New Zealand and Tokyo. I'd taken a stack of photos during the trip, and made a fair few notes about the stuff I'd seen, and I wanted to find some way of sharing them with people. It was while I was traveling that I realised the passport format would fit perfectly - the whole thing popped fairly fully formed. Then I got back, and it just took a while to work out which print processes and paper stocks to use to make it feel as real as possible. The blog is the big one, and I can't really remember why I began that. I think initially it was a way of documenting little bits and pieces of photography and illustration from the studio - but it quickly morphed into something else, a kind of loose guide to what's going on in the art and design scene. The odd thing with a blog, compared to a piece of print, is that it's never finished, it just keeps evolving. I really love doing it, and it's been my outlet for a lot of creative energy for a couple of years now; but I think it's time to use a bit of that energy to make something printed, something finished. From a more personal perspective, I'm loving Flickr (check here) as a way of sharing photography with other people. It's a staggeringly good resource, and a really fine example of an online community that really works.
Your blog is pretty well read. Did you ever see it reaching those levels and how has it helped you professionally?
I didn't really have any expectations when I started the blog - I was just kind of bumbling along. The large readership has been a bit of a surprise. It's massively rewarding on an emotional level first and foremost - the interaction you get with readers is just brilliant. From a professional point of view, I think it's raised the studio's profile a fair amount, and it's certainly put me in touch with a lot of new people. It's also done wonders for our Google ranking.
Who is the field of graphic design is inspiring you right now?
I know everyone says this, but I generally look outside of graphic design for inspiration. Otherwise it all gets a bit cannibalistic. But my mate Dave Pearson keeps producing disgustingly beautiful work, so that keeps me on my toes.
What's next for We Made This?
Well, hopefully we're about to get a new studio in Clerkenwell, sharing with a few other likeminded folk. It's still a bit up in the air at the moment, so I can't say too much.
And finally what's your favourite TV program?
I should probably choose something refined from BBC4 right? Actually, there was a documentary Stephen Fry did recently about the printing press used by Gutenberg that was amazing http://wemadethis.typepad.com