Working it out

One of the ways of spotting a good designer is that they tend to be afflicted by two conditions.

Banners by Craig Oldham at the After Hours show
Banners by Craig Oldham at the After Hours show

The first is an addiction to consuming, not food (most of the designers we know are elegantly slender), but consuming information and inspiration. 

Sometimes this can reach an obsessional level (pointing no fingers, but Paul Gray’s penchant for finding and photographing faces in everyday objects seems particularly extreme…).

The other affliction is a constant need to create. Now obviously this is what designers get paid to do, but as The Partners’ Nick Eagleton realised when he was asked to curate a design exhibition at London’s Jerwood Space, the creation doesn’t stop when the designer is off the clock.

For new show After Hours, Eagleton has brought together personal projects from some leading designers.

Some are high-profile, notably Johnson Banks’ Arkitypo project, some are particularly ‘personal’, such as Jim Sutherland’s book about his father’s garage, and some, like Phil Carter’s brilliant driftwood sculptures, are obvious outputs of a restless creativity.

One of Phil Carter's Found Folk
One of Phil Carter’s Found Folk

The show also demonstrates the reasons for developing personal projects. Obviously there is this desire to create, and in some cases a desire to communicate personal issues in a way that can only be done in a more ‘artistic’ fashion.

But one of the things I find most interesting is the boundary between ‘professional’ and ‘personal’ work.

I spoke a few paragraphs ago about designers being ‘off the clock’. Well, as you all know, this doesn’t really happen in design.

I had a conversation with a graphic designer recently in which he talked about billable hours. How, he asked, could he bill the client for the five second flash of inspiration he had while driving along the M25 one evening that had led to an entire solution for a brief?

So it strikes me that a lot of this personal work – while not being constrained, commercial or client-led in any way – is about exploration, about solving problems, about experimentation and ultimately about making you a better designer.

Moth badges created by Jack Renwick to cover moth-holes in her clothes
Moth badges created by Jack Renwick to cover moth-holes in her clothes

Latest articles