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Artist Profile: David Sedgwick – Ignoring Style

If you, like us, are fans of the work of Foilco, it should be no surprise why we are chatting with David Segwick. His latest book is a 30×30 homage to the great work produced by the company presented through the minds of a range of amazing artists. It doesn’t end there. David himself has a style that captured our eye and made us fall in love with his work. (Even though he isn’t a fan of “style”). So naturally, we wanted to do an artist feature on him just to learn more.

Can you talk a little about the influence of your style?

I’m really not 100% sure if I have a style as such. I think having one particular style can be really difficult to maintain over the years. I know some may disagree. For me, I try to approach each project differently and create design work that answers the individual brief or talks to the audience. If that demands a certain style, then I try to create work that reflects that. If I can’t ‘do that style’ I bring in the right person, whether that be illustrators, artists or whatever works.

However, over the years I do quite like the fact that people may come to me because they’ve seen my work and want something like that. It makes it easier to work with them as they know what they are getting or at least they have a better idea what they might get in advance. I can see how that’s a little contradictory! What I am saying is I have a certain approach to design and I want my clients to understand that. But a style to me is different. It puts you in a certain box or pigeons holes you. Like how an illustrator could be very good at doing one particular style, my worry would be that eventually, the work might dry up or people might get bored of it. So, it’s important to keep evolving and doing new stuff and never resting on your laurels.

In terms of influences, I’m really influenced by everything that’s around me from books to TV, from music to films. I make an effort these days not to try to look at online design blogs or stuff as much. Obviously, it’s hard, but I found that my work was starting to look too much like the things I was seeing all around me. If we want to try to create new work, we need to really try and step away from influence in its obvious sense. The aim is to find influence in the strangest places. Then perhaps the work we do might start to be more original.

Tell us about the last project you worked on that really excited you?

If I’m honest I tend to get bored quite easily, so I get really excited by new projects that come into the studio. I think for me I always feel that my best project is always the last one I did. I find myself coming up with ideas quite quickly for new jobs and that excites me. Even when a client initially starts to talk to me about the project I get very interested and begin sketching ideas, even whilst still on the phone. I find that I get my best ideas quite quickly and then I work hard to craft and refine them over time.

I am fortunately working on some really interesting stuff at the moment which excites me a lot. In fact, since 2018 started I have been really grateful to get some new briefs that I am working on. I like it when I have a few projects on the go at the same time. But no more than 4 or 5 as after that I start to go a bit crazy.

The last project I did with Foilco was a nice little book and was an exciting project to work on as the client allowed me quite a lot of creative freedom and we had some good production budgets to work with. But I get equally excited creating little branding projects for small cafes or bars. I love the variety. It keeps me busy and on my toes. No two days are the same and it’s that variety that really excites me.

What was the hardest part of establishing yourself/your brand?

Good question. One of the hardest things is sometimes being taken seriously by clients. I think they perhaps think of me being a really small agency and it scares them. Even though I’ve been designing for almost 20 years now it’s hard to break down that barrier. I see some larger agencies getting work from clients and If I am honest I don’t always think it’s particularly amazing work. But they get it sometimes due to perception. I know I’ll not be able to compete always due to size and structure and that can be frustrating as I believe creatively I can compete….maybe!

I try to do the best work I can in my own way and keep aiming to be the best designer I can be. It’s hard at times. There’s a lot of creatives out there and some really good ones as well. We are all fighting the same battle and establishing yourself is one of those battles.

When I started working for myself in 2011 it was hard as I’d been working for agencies for years and maybe I was in a bit of a bubble. It took me some time to get my work noticed. Doing BCNMCR, a design event in Manchester featuring Barcelona designers, helped me I think. Certainly, in terms of establishing myself in this City.

I also think social media plays a big part. I use Twitter and Instagram a lot and I’m amazed by the amount of interest I get via those platforms. I’m trying this year to be not as reliant on it. But it’s a good way to get your work out there and seen by loads of people.

How do you feel the design scene has changed in the last five years?

I think the rise of social media has allowed us to see loads more design work quickly, so we tend to get lots of styles crossing over and lots of things looking quite similar, which can be a bit annoying. We also seem to get opinions in seconds about new work. Sometimes I think this is a little reactionary and we need to take more of a step back. It’s fine to have an opinion, but maybe you don’t need to voice it all the time online. I’ve made a better effort to keep my mouth shut if I’m not too sure about something and discuss it with the people I know in the industry as opposed to being a keyboard warrior.

I think we are also seeing a lot more smaller agencies doing great work. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a place for the bigger guys. But it’s great for clients to start taking more risks by working with the smaller setups.

I think one thing that seems to be changing as well is the quality of students leaving University. As fees increase I think students are taking their studies more and more seriously. This has given rise to a better quality of graduate starting work in the industry. The level of work is getting stronger and stronger. I do however worry we are creating robots! I worry that the increase in fees has made students so afraid of taking risks at university. A desperate need to get the grades to back up the cash they (or their parents) have spent, they often forget that University is about learning, life and making mistakes.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’ve started 2018 with loads on which is really good as I’d start to panic if it was quiet. I’m fortunately working with Foilco on a few projects organising the next Multiplicity event in Bristol this April. Some exciting things are coming out of that partnership. There will be more to show in a few months on this. Also, this year is the first Highest Point Festival in Lancaster and I have been working on that brand for the last few months. In February an art exhibition launches at the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester (and across the UK) and I have created the identity for that which has been a nice project.

I am working on so much it’s hard to keep track of it all. I get in every morning and make a long list of things to get done and I just seem to be adding to it every hour. Let’s hope that this year I can really start to settle into a rhythm more and finally get around to doing my own website and pulling together all my work. It’s been on the cards for months and I just need to dedicate some time to it, to be honest. I’d also really like to dedicate some time to more personal projects. I often find myself firefighting and I think it’s important to make more time for myself. When I teach at University I find myself getting really excited about ideas and I keep pushing the students to just go out and make something. I think in order to be true to myself I need to do the same.

Always a struggle but one I’d never change. I love my job.

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