Ian Macfarlane

Graduated – 1991


After graduating from Preston, Ian’s first full time job was with Fitch London. He then worked freelance in the capital for several top agencies before joining
Spin in 2004. As a designer for Spin, Ian’s work has been featured in various publications including; Look at This (Lawrence King), Creative Review, Eye, Grafik and Idea. He has judged at the D&AD Awards and had work selected for the following; D&AD Awards, Creative Review Annual and International Society of Typographic Designers. Ian left Spin in 2010 and is now currently working freelance in London.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

How and where did you secure your first job?
I graduated during a recession, so jobs weren’t that abundant. When I came to London, I targeted smaller companies who weren’t necessarily in a great position to employ people. Fortunately I was pointed in the direction of Fitch, where I was seen by an ex-Preston student, who offered me a job.

Did anyone ever ask you what degree grade you got?
Good grades are a reward for the people who are supporting you through university. At industry level, no-one is really interested.

Who’s work has inspired / influenced you the most?
At college, the work of Peter Saville Associates was a bit of a revelation – not necessarily just from a stylist point of view, but the way things were approached conceptually – Saville’s work is also a bit of a primer in art and design history, through his work I became aware of designers such as Wim Crouwel and Otl Aicher.

The college library in Preston is a great resource for students. I found a great book on the graphics of the students uprising in Paris in 1968. Apart from being a great book full of raw graphic work, it also orientated me to the work of Pierre Bernard
and Grapus. Grapus were also a great example of how you can work conceptually but still retain a very distinctive graphic signature.

How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
I think there are two ways of looking at this. It’s either changed drastically due to the impact of technology and variety of communication channels, or, it hasn’t really changed that much as we are still faced with having to communicate to or connect with an audience. Designers still have the age old problem of having to interpret a brief and come up with a relevant solution to that, whether it’s creating an identity, designing a book or introducing a TV programme.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
I believe that the answer is in the brief. There’s an art to writing or interpreting a brief. I think designers jobs are to test and push briefs. It’s a tricky balance to make a solution relevant to a particular client, whilst exploring the creative possibilities.

As far as thinking of ideas is concerned, there is no single approach to this. Sometimes it’s a pencil and paper, sometimes you need to visualise a concept before it’s clear. Often you need space to think on your own, but it’s also good to have someone to bounce ideas off – ideas often arise in conversation. Collaboration is usually vital as a project develops – sometimes the original thought evolves as more people get involved.

What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
At college I had become interested in trying to find my ‘voice’ graphically – which is fine, but I think such an approach can limit your employment potential. I would never suggest not following your instinct, but be aware that if you are after a job you do need to consider the appeal of your portfolio.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
As part of a fashion shoot, photographing Nick Faldo playing crazy golf in Florida ticks that particular box.

What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
An interest in design. An interest in art. An aptitude for typography. Visual flair. An opinion. An indication that they love what they are doing. A flexibility in their approach. Personality is greatly important, they need to be able to fit in and make
themselves useful. Portfolios should be simply structured, the presentation shouldn’t obstruct the work. 

What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about working in design is that you are doing something that you love doing. The downside is sometimes your work gets destroyed in the commercial process, which is difficult if you feel strongly about what you do.

Any advice for students entering the industry during the recession?
Don’t give up and don’t be put off if you don’t get work or placements. If you are set on working in the design industry, keep trying to get work. If you get to see people with your portfolio, ask for an honest opinion – if it’s negative, take on board the comments offered. Ask if they know of anyone you can go and see with your portfolio. Be persistent without being pushy.

The important thing is to get experience – the dream job may be some time away, so try to be flexible in your ambitions. Make sure that your portfolio is as good as it can be, also ensure you have a good portfolio to send to people. If you are not working, use the time positively to improve your portfolio, brush up on your digital skills, get your website going etc.


Dispatches TV Ident - Channel 4

2005 Annual - D&AD

Logo - Laurence King