I am a Senior Designer at City ID, based in Bristol and New York, and have worked here for over 5 years. We are a multi-disciplinary team that specialises in the development of mapping and wayfinding information design for cities, regions and transport systems all over the world.
We work in an open studio environment where we stick development work up on the walls to encourage everyone to input into design reviews and crits. It’s a great way of working and means everyone has a say, even if they are not directly involved in the project. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, graphic design, industrial design and urban planning to name a few, so we all have different strengths and perspectives.
A lot of the time we work collaboratively with other companies, from industrial designers Billings Jackson, to other design agencies like Pentagram. One of my favourites collaborations is to work with type designers, like Dalton Maag or A2-TYPE, to create bespoke fonts and pictograms for a project. We worked with A2 to create a new typeface for Moscow, with Margaret Calvert as a consultant, which ended up winning a D&AD pencil and was featured in Eye 90. Recently, we also won a pencil for our WalkNYC project.
I studied Graphic Design at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol. Bristol is such a creative city with loads going on so as soon as I got here it got it’s hooks in me and I never wanted to leave.
I worked stacking shelves on the evening shift for years, did a few design jobs for friends and a couple of short internships but then joined City ID pretty much as soon as I graduated.
I came from a traditional graphic design background with a love for print, poster design and typography. There were a few people on my course that were contacted by City ID off the back of our degree show. Despite them not being a studio that was initially on my radar, I decided to contact them myself and, after a two week internship, was offered a junior role.
Since starting at City ID, I have had the opportunity to work on projects all over the world and spend time in some of the most amazing cities. I spent a year going back and forth to Moscow, working on dual-language information in the Metro system. I had never really considered visiting Russia before but working there was fascinating. It’s a completely different culture and the opulence you see in the Metro stations is stunning! Seeing chandeliers hanging above the platforms is so surreal!
I’ve spent a lot of time working in New York and San Francisco on incredible projects for the city, airports, and even the Super Bowl, but a moment that has stuck with me throughout my career was the first time I went to Birmingham!
When I first started the Interconnect Birmingham project was in an artworking phase so I spent a lot of time drawing bus route diagrams. I remember going to Birmingham after a couple of months of being at City ID and saw people gathered around a Bus Stop Totem with information on it that I had designed and they were using it to catch their bus.
Knowing that the work I do is making peoples day and experience in a city better and easier is amazing I still feel that today when you see someone with one of our print maps, or glancing at a network diagram.
Do Fly, Gavin Strange When working full time, it’s easy to come home, make dinner and turn your brain off in front of the telly all evening. This book reminded me how fun and rewarding it is to make time and work on passion projects outside of work. I’ve met Gavin a few times and his enthusiasm for design comes through in his writing and it’s inspired me to kick off a few side projects that are really different to the work I do at City ID. The book’s a must-read for anyone (not just designers) and I’ve ended up buying it multiple times for people.
TypeNotes Magazine This is a new print magazine from Fontsmith focusing on typography and graphic design. There have only been two issues so far but the quality is fantastic and the articles are really interesting. Print is not dead!
Just My Type, Simon Garfield This is a great introduction to the history of typography and the stories behind them. It’s written with a lot of humour and interesting anecdotes — a good starting point for anyone interested in typography.
Honourable mentions I thought I’d add these as honourable mentions as they’re great books or reference material (some of these tend to be recommended reading for most design courses) Graphic Design: A User’s Manual, Adrian Shaughnessy Thinking With Type, Ellen Lupton Grid Systems in Graphic Design, Josef Müller-Brockmann Information is Beautiful, David McCandless Logotype, Michael Evamy Symbol, Angus Hyland + Steven Bateman
The first thing I look for when looking through a portfolio is not just the quality of the final output but the process and decisions that were made to get to that outcome. It’s really important to us to see that someone has approached a problem from all angles and really thought about the best way to solve it. Then I look for the finer detail and technical know-how — baselines, grids, legibility, etc.
This might just be me but I am immediately turned off when I see a table of programs with experience ratings next to them. I thought I was pretty good at most of the Adobe software as a graduate until I started at City ID. Even now I am still learning new tricks and techniques.
A lot of our team graduated from the Graphic Design course at UWE so we have a close relationship with them and often do talks to the students there. I have also spoken at various conferences, most recently at the Festival of the Future City at the Arnolfini, and the National Urban Design Conference at the SS Great Britain. I’m not the best public speaker but I think it’s important to keep pushing myself to do these things to challenge myself and improve the way I talk about the work we do. It has definitely helped me to articulate ideas.
Recently, we have also held workshops at Redbrick House (a great collaborative workspace in Bristol) to talk about how designing with purpose gives better, more informed results. I am also involved with the Design Buddies Scheme in association with West of England Design Forum. The program is a great way to mentor a student and give them a taste of studio life, as well as advise on projects, portfolio reviews, that sort of thing.