Featured Typographer

Craig Black

May 2018

We talk football (soccer), mental health and of course typography with one of the loveliest humans you'll ever meet - Craig Black. The TDK team have been lucky enough to hang out with Craig on both sides of the globe now and we're thrilled to finally get his thoughts and feelings on design out into the world. Here we discuss consistency in your work, making practice a habit, and some really important mental health insights that, as creatives, we should start to acknowledge.

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?

I absolutely loved football (soccer) growing up, I was so fascinated with the design around the beautiful game such as colourful football shirts, team badges, football boots and TV commercials and programmes. This all contributed to my curiosity in design and made me wonder how things like that were made, I remember customising my first pair of football boots in a ‘dodgy’ gold pen thinking it would make me a better football player….unfortunately it didn’t!

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I’m a graphic designer, lettering artist and typography primarily known for bespoke and innovative typographic illustrations, visual identities, packaging and installations. My strengths lie in my ability to cross disciplines without having a fixed personal style.

Typography and lettering is just the starting point of my work. I like to think I can handle any type of brief and work just as well on projects with strong constraints or complete creative freedom. I believe in creating engaging, modern and precise visuals whilst maintaining originality in all of my work.

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

I’m hugely passionate about collaborating with creatives from across the world. I’m involved in an ongoing collaboration ‘Lettering meets Letterpress’ with the wonderful Nicole Phillips who is an amazing letterpress designer based in New Zealand.

Another project I am working on which is a bit closer to home and to my heart is my collaboration with the lovely Ann Hill who is a quilter who does work with Alzheimer’s Scotland. My Gran is unfortunately suffering from Alzheimer’s and I wanted to do something creatively to show my support for the people who help others in need. Myself and Ann are now collaborating to create a stunning typographic quilt which will be auctioned to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Scotland.

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Stress should not be used as a form of social currency - it’s not a badge of honour, it’s a mental health problem. We need to start showing that putting in outrageous hours doesn’t equate to being more passionate, productive or creative.

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How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

I think one of my greatest assets is that I don’t have a specific style. I have a versatile skill-set within typography and lettering which benefits me as well as my personality as I constantly like to challenge myself rather than doing the same thing over and over again. I pour my heart and soul into my work and aim for the highest of standards and by doing so, I feel that that leaves my imprint in the design...in a weird way!

It’s important to develop your own unique voice. This is why consistency is key when making your work recognisable. I’m a firm believer in doing self initiating projects. This is the approach that I have taken and as a result, my skill-set has become more natural to me over time as I continue to experiment and practise.

What advice would you give students starting out?

It’s essential that you think about putting together an online portfolio of your work as soon as you can. If you’re serious about getting commissioned and approached for work, you’ve got to get out there – and that means having a presence online.

Practice has to become a habit, it’s the bedrock of any designer’s career. You have to devote yourself and spend time mastering your craft until it becomes natural and then push yourself out of your comfort zone so you can become even more innovative and versatile.

It’s important to engage in the creative community. Reach out to other creatives, ask for help and feedback, attend talks and be open to sharing your expertise – a passionate and positive attitude will pay off huge dividends.

What do you think the design community could do more of to give back?

I think there could be a better support system in place for the mental wellbeing of the creative community. Creatives can be sensitive people as we tend to develop a deep and emotional connection to our work but we have to realise that stress should not be used as a form of social currency - it’s not a badge of honour, it’s a mental health problem. We need to start showing that putting in outrageous hours doesn’t equate to being more passionate, productive or creative.

If you notice someone not being themselves, then be brave enough to ask the question “Are you OK?” - 5 mins to get something off your chest can be hugely beneficial and do not be afraid to seek counselling or talk to friends or fellow designers and illustrators regarding any issues you may have. If we are more aware of the issue, we can tackle it better.

Website: craigblackdesign.com

Instagram: @_craigblack

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