Gordon Reid on how to get noticed and the perils of arm-wrestling boy bands

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We caught up with designer and illustrator Gordon Reid, (also Middle Boop), to talk about his new work for electronic musician Andrew Hung, as well as what it’s like to get your arm broken by a boy-band member.

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Design Week: When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

Gordon Reid (Middle Boop): I remember the exact moment strangely. I was round at my older friends’ house. They were studying a degree at the time and I was a few years off deciding on a degree and through my own naivety I just had no idea you could study something like that. They were doing packaging design and branding and it looked really exciting. I was in my first year of A Levels and spending most of my time bunking off and playing snooker as I was so bored and misguided with what I was studying, but I managed to get my way onto an art and design course pretty swiftly which completely changed things for me.

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Self-inititated film quote poster project

What was your first job?

Apart from working at the pub at the bottom of my road, my first design job is a little hard to pinpoint. I’ve never worked in a studio as after uni I started Middle Boop straight away – I always wanted to work for myself. The first commission I got through Middle Boop was for the band 65daysofstatic, which was a pretty exciting prospect as they were one of my favourite bands. I was initially asked to do a tour print for a set of intimate gigs to promote their upcoming release. As there was no budget to spend on litho or screenprinting I ended up finding a friend who had a half decent printer, bought loads of ink and a bunch of different textured stocks and printed a painstaking run of 50 from here. It certainly wasn’t the easiest (or probably cheapest) way of going about it but the band loved the work and I gained contacts that I still work with today.

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Blanck Mass record art

How would you describe what you currently do?

My work has a pretty wide range these days. I’m mainly working on branding at the moment. I have had the fortune of working with some really great clients from startups to household names and musicians where there has been a lot of creative freedom in terms of creating their brand. I do a lot of illustration and web design also but am finding work more fulfilling in the branding world. There’s more scope for ambitious ideas, more creative freedom (if you’re able to sell in your ideas) and usually a much better budget.

What has been the biggest change in design since you started?

So much has changed since I started out. I’ve only been going professionally five or six years and things are completely different. First and foremost, being a completely trend-driven market, the fundamental factors of what styles are considered trendy and fresh have completely changed, which is something I’ve definitely had to adapt to. What has really kept me on my toes though is just how skilled some of the graduates now are on the Mac. Some of the styles and work the younger guys in the consultancies I have worked with are coming out with has been incredible. It’s really inspired me to keep learning new things and adapt to be able to produce higher-quality work faster. Although I guess the biggest change really has been the huge impact of social media. It came about just before the huge boom of Twitter and Instagram really hit. There were tons of independent magazines and ‘zines where you would promote your work and build a reputation in print, whereas now it’s even harder to stand out as a young creative as everyone is striving to see new work on a daily basis, so making sure you stay in people’s minds is a huge task. The idea that it’s harder to get noticed can hopefully inspire creatives to put more thought into style and ideas. However we’re still very much guinea pigs in the whole social media world and no one knows the long term affects of these tools. I’m pretty glad to have got in there a little while before that’s for sure.

Andrew Hung's Rave Cave EP
Andrew Hung’s Rave Cave EP

What is your favourite project, that you’ve worked on?

I’ve been really lucky to have worked on some great projects recently with some fantastically supportive clients. I would say, my two favourite projects of late have been working on the rebrand for the lifestyle app Journl. They came to me after seeing the branding I did for New Zealand water brand H2GO and wanted to create a look and style signifying the chaos of the outside world being condensed and organised from their app. The site has just launched and I’m really pleased with it. Also just launched is Andrew Hung’s first EP. He is one half of the group Fuck Buttons and we have worked together for years now and had been speaking about ideas on artwork and how to develop his solo brand for a while. I finally got the call about a month ago with the view to releasing the EP a week later. The artwork needed to be adaptable as this is the first in a series of EP’s so I wanted a couple of running themes throughout the campaign which will be developed as the next few get released. We’re now developing the artwork into live visuals as well.

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Journl rebrand

What was your biggest mistake?

Well I’ve certainly made a few along the way that’s for sure. As I’ve kind of done it all myself I’ve always had the motto to learn from your mistakes and learn by making mistakes. That seems to have got me through so far! It’s a tough one to choose my biggest though. I suppose for amusement sake I should say arm-wrestling an X Factor boyband. I had just finished up a tour with Fuck Buttons at the time and met Jimmy Eat World at a festival who offered some passes to their London show. I was all set to go but then got invited to an NME party focusing on getting bands and artists together to write an article about them. I decided to go to the NME party and left in an ambulance. Still not sure what I would have rather have done.

What is your greatest ambition?

My ambition is for Middle Boop to grow to a point where I’m taking on some of the more well known agencies for work and winning. I want to be doing more varied work like web and 3D and to grow the Middle Boop Magazine into more of a hub for creatives and writers alike.

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Capp branding

Who is the most inspirational person you have worked with?

I’d have to say my old mate Radim Malinic, for being completely on it at all times, always the first person to tell me what he really thinks of my work and that guy who just inspires you to go that extra mile.

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Film quote poster project

What piece of advice would you give to people starting out in design?

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This is one of the hardest industries to get noticed in. More so now than ever I would say so it’s imperative that you have a never say die attitude. If you’ve not got any work coming in and sat there twiddling your thumbs, make something, do something that makes you creatively happy and satisfies your creative need. Use your time when you’re just starting out to create work and figure out your unique style. Focus on good ideas and spend time developing your work and your voice. Don’t get upset or down when your work is rejected, it’s a subjective industry and everyone will have their own opinion so make sure when you are rejected you learn from that experience and grow as a creative. Get your face out there at talks, exhibitions, meet people that can help grow your career and always ask for help.

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