Me & EU Beazley Designs of the Year : Graphics Nominee
Q&A with Nathan & Sam
In this collection of interviews, some of this year's Beazley Designs of the Year nominees share their design stories, challenges and aspirations.
What makes good design in your opinion?
Good design seems like a collection of so many qualities and subtleties that we could probably write a small essay talking around it. However, in an attempt to distill just the very top line, we’ll try and answer in three sentences. Good design has to be useful and solves a problem and ideally fulfils something that wasn’t possible previously. It also has to be so simple and intuitive on a human level that interacting with it is instantaneous and seamless. And the very best design is, in addition, ethically, socially and environmentally responsible.
What three words would you use to describe your project?
Reconnecting. After. Brexit.
What was the first conversation you had with your team, which brought about the inception of your design?
Our process with this project was slightly different as this was something that the two of us have been collaborating on in evenings and weekends. This means us two are the ‘team’. The first conversation we had was actually as soon as we woke up on the day of the EU referendum result (23 June 2016). Both of us were actually away in the EU (Nathan in Croatia, and Sam in Corfu) at the time and so we were directly surrounded by what we were going to be missing out on. Brexit affected the two of us in a way that a political decision hadn’t affected us previously - we felt that we definitely needed to do something.
Take us through your thought process and design thinking for this project?
There were multiple different avenues we could have taken the project (campaign posters, pins, flags, pickets) but we knew this wasn’t the time anymore. We were very aware that we didn’t want this to become about trying to reverse Brexit and change political discourse. The reality was the vote had happened and that the UK was (sadly) exiting the EU. Our issue was that the event had fuelled a state of introspection and negativity as both ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ camps attempted to imagine the possibilities of a post-EU Britain. The projection being exerted through mass media outside of the UK didn’t add up with what many people felt inside of the UK. This left a lot of people we knew with an embarrassed, misunderstood feeling. It was this that made us realise we needed to do something that aspired to look outward, reach beyond our island shores and reconnect. Outside of all the political division and definitions, we all wish to remain in touch and keep talking, right? And so how better to connect and get people’s voices heard than to share a personal note on a postcard? It felt like a perfect medium.
How did the subject matter influence your design approach?
I think it is fair to say that we both have never seen ourselves as ‘political activists’. This was the first time we’d ever worked on a project like this and at a time of such political heat, we felt it was very necessary to imply an additional sensitivity to our design approach and be politically smart. The cards, of course, represent the heartfelt opinions of people who wished to remain and so we had to be careful this didn’t get misconstrued as a political campaign to force a change of the result. We had to make sure that the way we executed the project, and even steered some of the art direction for the individual cards, continued the same sentiment of positivity, with good humour, and the underlying sentiment of staying together.
Who has inspired your design career?
We are inspired by lots of design projects and designers. However, a common theme of the people who inspire us is their dedication to their craft. For example, Sam in inspired by the work of Richard Long and Michael Landy and Nathan by Christien Meindertsma. But an example who is specifically a designer would be Tony Brook. We love what he has done at Spin and his desire to change the studio, and also what he has done with Unit Editions and wanting to expand his practise into education.
What obstacles did you face whilst working on your project?
Money & sleep.
What does it mean to you to be nominated for this year’s Beazley Designs of the Year?
We were stunned when we found out that we had been nominated — completely blown away. Probably one of the best emails we’ve ever received. It really is a massive honour to have the project featured alongside such amazing, inspiring work and designers.
What’s the one thing you’d like people to remember about your design when they leave the exhibition?
That postcard where Nigel Farage is Jack Nicholson in the The Shining was hilarious! No, we’d quite like it to be remembered as the tagline the Design Museum gave it: ‘A way to say we’re still together’.
What does changing design mean for our cities and communities?
Changing design for us means helping people as much as you can. It’s about making things as simple for communities, creating communication and dialogue, and also breaking down barriers. In a small way, this project embodies this thinking. It allowed us to work on something we stood for, evaluate our beliefs and opinions and communicate this. Whether that’s for yourself, on the behalf of another or with a whole bunch of people.
If you had one piece of advice to a young designer, what would it be?
This is definitely cliché and we’ve all heard it before — ‘It's all well and good having an idea but you’ve got to do it’. But as much as we’d heard it again and again, this project proved it for us. It was just a case of making small, sometimes repeated, steps and starting really small. Don’t be afraid to just go for it, some things work out, some things don’t and some things take a while. Take the risk regardless, because you will learn from either experience.