Even though Matt Judge has always liked art, what he really enjoys is restriction. ‘I’ve always liked a brief,’ he explains. ‘That’s what appealed to me and why I took this career route. In a way, I’m a bit more commercial.’ Don’t get him wrong. Judge has much appreciation for the artistic side of design. It was the typographic emphasis of the work at Sea Design that particularly appealed to him, for example, and he has worked on a number of high-end photographic tomes with the likes of Rankin. One of his current projects is The Oldest and Greatest, a collaboration between Sea, photographer Simon Phipps, and Iris in Sheffield. It is a limited-edition book contrasting Fifa order of merit football clubs Real Madrid and Sheffield United, officially the greatest and the oldest clubs. Large in format and case-bound, it is ‘quite a sumptuous book’, says Judge. ‘You don’t get to do that every day.’
But for all his appreciation of beauty in design, Judge never loses sight of that other emphasis: the client. ‘You have to remember that you are not designing for your own portfolio,’ he says. ‘As much as I love cute processes and all the other dressings that go along with making something look beautiful, it needs to function. And that’s what makes me passionate: making something that works for the client and the brief – that’s the hardest bit of the job.’ At Sea Design there is scope to deal directly with clients, and Judge has worked on projects for environment awareness charity Global Cool, French chocolatier Goovaert, Twenty stationery and the 2008 Teaching Awards, among others.
One of Judge’s first projects at Sea was also the most challenging – working on the design and production management of the D&AD 2006 nominations exhibition. ‘This is one of my favourite projects because we were working with several constraints: budget, timescales, space,’ he says. ‘It was a tricky project, but that’s what makes it satisfying, the fact that we worked with what we had and hopefully did a good job. Ultimately, it was incredibly rewarding.’
In his spare time, Judge recently co-launched Design Assembly, a blog/website that aims to share ‘a collection of influences that we all feel passionate about’. ‘A lot of people are naturally influenced by other graphic designers, but it’s really important to get a feel for what’s happening in other sectors, and to look outside what we find comfortable and what we understand,’ he says. A number of high-calibre contributors have already got involved, from studios such as North, Spin, Browns and Apple.
Judge also has longer-term plans. ‘It’s important to try to have a voice in this industry,’ he says. ‘One day, I’d like to do my own thing. I’d like to have my own company.’ It’s a little while off, he concedes, but ‘if you’re opinionated and passionate about what you do, it’s a natural progression. Be your own boss and get a bit closer to clients’.