TDK recently spoke to the very talented UK-born, LA-based Typographer and Designer, Andrew Byrom. From the shipyards of Northern England to design fantasy design worlds in Los Angeles. and with some kick-ass advice about the design process for good measure.
What advice would you give students starting out? Be a happy designer. Find the joy in it. Start over whenever you have a better idea – no matter how late in the process it comes to you. The design process needn’t be ‘fun’. The design process is hell. My own work comes out over many weeks of painful experimentation and thought. I get satisfaction when things work and are finished, not usually during the process. It’s perhaps the same as running a marathon; a great feeling to cross the finish line, but only after a period of torture. Accept this process and learn to love it.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? I used to create my own covers for my books when I was a child but my current approach to design was formed when I was a teenager. I like to build things and to prototype. My father was a shipbuilder in a ship yard in the North of England, as was his father, and his father before him. I left school, at 16 and went into the local shipyard too. In some ways it was the making of me. After a few years, I realized I could do more that weld and rivet steel. My Father was a little upset and confused when I told him I was leaving the shipyard to go to art school! He didn’t know exactly what that meant… and I think he still doesn’t totally understand my profession. That’s OK though. It is an odd field and I have heard similar stories from so many graphic designers about their own families.
What has been your highlights since you started out? This one is easy… I co-curated and designed an exhibition on the philosophy of Charles and Ray Eames a few years ago for the Getty’s ‘Pacific Standard Time’ initiative – called Eames Words. I got the chance to work with my hero and good friend the late Deborah Sussman. We had no budget, and very little time, but produced something very special that got rave reviews. Working with Deborah was like being in a design fantasy world, where everything seemed possible and good ideas triumphed over constraints. She changed the way I look at life and at the world around me – opening my eyes to a vivid, vibrant, and joyous Los Angeles.
Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
I’m currently on a sabbatical in the UK – working as artist-in-residence at Cumbria University. I’m building a new body of work while I’m here. When i get back to Los Angeles in the summer I’ll be working on two new architectural exhibitions and a book.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? Bring your expertise of other fields into graphic design. Don’t look purely at other graphic designers for inspiration. Be the graphic designer who’s work looks likes its done by a mechanic, a hairdresser, a tailor, a carpenter (for example)… I’d like to see that!