Graduated – 1991
After graduating Andy started work at The Chase in their Manchester office. He was there for over eight happy and extremely creative years before travelling the world. Coming full circle he re-entred higher education in 1999 as Senior Lecturer on the Graphic Design course at Preston.
The Disciples of Design Q&A
You’ve been lecturing at Preston for a while. How’s it all going?
Fast. I have been lecturing fulltime for 14 years now, plus it’s also over 20 years since I graduated. Which means my current 1st year students were just a twinkle in their mothers eye as I was embarking on my design career.
Did you do a placement year? If so how was it?
Yes. I was lucky enough to do my placement at The Chase in Manchester. The Chase had been going for about four years and I just remember it being real good fun and an adventure.
I was the only student in my year working in Manchester, most of my year went to London, therefore I spent most of my weekends travelling down and getting smashed with them in the White Horse, just off Carnaby St, in Soho. Then a very
popular watering hole, especially for young designers working in the city centre, it was true social networking on a Friday night.
How and where did you secure your first job?
Straight after graduating I was lucky enough to be taken on by The Chase, so I must have made an impression at some point.
Has being a Preston student benefited you in any way?
Most definitely, the course was very vibrant at that time and there was a great communal spirit across all of the four years. Everyone drank in the same pub, went to the same parties and slept with the same people. It already had a great reputation
and network of graduates out in industry (most of them on a Friday night, smashed outside The White Horse).
Also the fact that everyone went out on work experience in their 3rd year meant that when we entered our final year we were really close as a group. It was still competitive but always with a friendly edge.
Would you have done anything differently at university?
Yes... studied Law. No, not really, just fancy the salary.
What or who inspires you?
Nature and people, in all their varied forms, art, in all its varied forms, music, film, words, food, etc… in all their varied forms. Everything really. What doesn’t inspire me tends to depress me, so I try to look for something positive in most things.
You have described lecturing as your most challenging job. What’s the best and worst thing? Why do you lecture?
The best thing about being a lecturer in the Art & Design field is the contact with young creative people and discussing ideas free from the constraints of the ‘real world’.
As a student having the freedom and time in which to experiment, take risks and express yourself is such a valuable
thing. The challenge, I have found is getting the average student to understand and realise this.
How do you come up with ideas? Is it a collaborative process or do you prefer to think alone?
Now that is a hard one. I can only speak for myself here but I have found ideas or concepts can emerge anywhere and
at any time. The first thing is to understand and absorb the problem at hand, then carry it with you thereafter. Look hard, look long and try to make connections is also a good rule of thumb.
I have had a lot of success when I have been asleep or semi-conscious, also in the shower (a constant flow of water on the cranium seems to work). Being around certain people, that synergy has worked well before now. Wide open spaces
are good for gathering ones thoughts. Being put under pressure tends to collect your thoughts as well.
However I would say this is not ideal but it’s probably the most common way designers work or are forced to work on
a daily basis. I do know one thing though. If you don’t look for them, then you’ll never find them.
Jonathan Ellery, Stefan Sagmeister and Peter Saville – amongst many others have all produced work that is considered ‘art’ during their careers. What compelled you to focus more on fine art?
First and foremost I would consider myself to be an artist. My route through the educational system was on the art side. I studied art at school, had a talent and an inherent ability to draw. In my formative years I was a voracious drawer and painter. I also studied and practiced pottery/ceramics at an early age. I carried this on through my school 6th Form and onto an Art & Design foundation year in Carlisle (Cumbria), finally landing up in Preston in 1987 as a student on the Graphics course. Visual communications, graphic imagery and typography and creative problem solving had always held an allure and I was pretty sure I wanted to go into that field. Plus it seemed there was also more of a chance of making some money out of it.
Over the years I have begun to develop my ideas and conceptual thinking a little further and from more of a personal perspective, returning to the fine art fold more. Working in Higher Education gives me more scope to develop these ideas and concepts. Does that answer the question, or is the simple answer self expression?
Is there any similarity with design in your experience?
I see more similarities than I do differences. Put it that way. Ideas are the common currency in my view, it’s what you do with them and how you express them. It’s only the context that tends to define you.
Henri De Toulouse Lautrec, Cassandre, Piet Zwart, the De Stijl movement, Aleksander Rodchenko, El Lissitsky, the Bauhaus, Maholy-Nagy, Eric Gill, MacKnight Kauffer, Richard Hamilton, Jasper Johns, Kurt Schwitters, Peter Blake, Andy Warhol,
Damian Hirst, Mark Wallinger – artists or designers? You tell me.
What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
The honest answer is that I don’t really consider myself to have been successful so far. Still working on that one. Will keep you informed of my progress.
Any advice for students entering the industry?
Here are some ‘pearls of wisdom’ that have been passed on to me over the years and I think in the main most of them have proved prophetic – ‘you make your own luck in life’, you’ll find that ‘the more you practice, the luckier you will get’ and ‘it’s not just what you know, sometimes it can be who you know’.
You should never stop learning. It is important to understand that everything in life is connected so keep an open mind. If you are going to fail, which you surely will then ‘fail early and fail often’. And never forget that your imagination is your only limitation. Good luck.