Michael Johnson – Johnson Banks

I spent an inordinate amount of time when learning how to be a designer with my head inside books on graphic design, hoping that flashes of inspiration would miraculously emerge from the pages of ancient annuals. I developed a sort of ‘when stuck, read book’ modus operandi. No surprise then that, for a while, I only seemed to be capable of subtle ‘remixes’ of work that had gone before.

After a while I started to trust my own judgment, take my head out of the books and back into the world around me. So art, architecture, even music became my new sources of inspiration. Recently I’ve found teaching a useful energiser – there’s nothing like the direct question of a confident 21-year-old making you think, ‘Well, actually, she/he’s got a point’.

One of my best known pieces of work came directly from this – I left a teaching session in Glasgow impressed by my students’ ability to turn their personal fears and angers into projects. That led directly to me designing a poster about the US attitude to the Kyoto treaty. Cutting a hole out of Dubya’s head as a symbol of the depleted ozone layer felt pretty satisfying, on every level, but I might not have done it without that inspirational push from my students.

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