‘Graphic design alone isn’t interesting,’ says Craig Oldham. ‘You can only talk about type, colour, format and production for so long. What makes graphic design interesting is what you communicate by using it, which changes with every single job.’
This statement belies a self-confessed graphic design and type geek. Perusal of his personal website attests to a wide-read appreciation of design, with musings on the nature of his profession peppered among examples of his work.
Oldham has certainly been involved in a number of interesting projects. Having graduated from Falmouth College of Art in 2006, he ‘conned The Chase into offering him a job’, as he suggests on his CV. Of course, this was not the case – rather, numerous placements at illustrious consultancies such as Creative Leap, Navyblue and The Partners helped him land his first designer job.
He left The Chase earlier this year to join new Manchester consultancy Music. Feeling he had ‘done the bigger company thing’, he was keen to join a smaller outfit that allowed him to become involved in more aspects of the entire design process. ‘You can be more flexible and creative with your work as risks can be taken,’ says Oldham.
He’s at the point where design is taking over his life, he says. ‘I find it hard to distinguish what everyone else calls “work” from what everyone else calls “life”. I feel they’re one and the same – it’s more like a lifestyle.’
But embracing the commercial side of design is essential. ‘Meetings, answering the phone, haggling with suppliers, getting on your knees and begging clients to go with your recommendation’ and all. ‘Design is a service,’ he adds. ‘Of course, you enjoy the designing bit more than the other stuff, but if you don’t get something from the rest of it, then you’re in trouble.’
Demonstrating an effortlessly humorous and self-deprecating manner, Oldham’s design values are straightforward: he most admires honesty, autonomy and humour in design. And one of his most satisfying jobs is a self-initiated one. For the Hand Written Letter project, he invited fellow designers to send him messages on their own letterheads, to tackle the issue of personality in a world of depersonalisation through junk mail and automated correspondence. Dare, Pentagram, Kerr Noble, Kessels Kramer and Wim Crouwel are among the correspondents, with some letters displaying beautiful penmanship and others a more childlike freehand. ‘I was overwhelmed that people actually [replied],’ says Oldham, who is now trying to create a limited-edition book of the project.
At Music, he has worked on designs for various design magazines, graphics for the D&AD Awards and this year’s campaign for Manchester City Football Club, yet Oldham’s attitude is unfailingly humble. ‘Within design, my only ambition is to produce great, honest and meaningful work, whenever I can for as long as I can,’ he says. ‘If I’m doing that in five years’ time, then I’ll be happy.’
2006 BA GraphicsFalmouth College of Art
2006-2009 Designer The Chase
2009 to present Designer Music
‘Craig Oldham excelled within our ideas-based graphic design degree course and it was no surprise that he quickly found his creative home at The Chase.
Under the guidance of Ben Casey and Lionel Hatch his talents had the opportunity to shine on a national and international stage, gaining recognition within months of graduating at the D&AD Awards. It’s been non-stop since then, with further success at D&AD, Type Directors Club and the Rose Design Awards, to name but a few.
It’s not just awards that have marked his short design career, he has contributed extensively to debate through many design journals, and found the time to deliver lectures and workshops. Now working for those other “rising stars”, Music in Manchester, he’s been a blur!’
Jon Unwin Course leader BA Graphic Design University College Falmouth