Graffiti and graphic design artist describes his path as an art director in fashion industry and how it eventually led him to typography
This time we highlight the artistic path of Alex Geoffrey, a graffiti artist and graphic designer from North West London, learn more about typography being some time ago reserved for a narrow circle of professionals. get to know the fact that you don’t need to look too much at works by other designers to overcome a creativity crisis and discover that a good idea is all you need.
— Hello, Alex. Thank you for agreement to share your personal experience of being an artist with Handmadefont. It’s a real pleasure to have you here. So, let’s start? How did the decision “I-want-to-be-an-artist” come to you? Was it a spontaneous thing or a long-planned goal?
— I always knew I wanted to something creative or art based. At school when I was young I was terrible at the more academic subjects like History, science and maths etc and dropped them all as soon as I had the chance. All I wanted to do was draw and paint. By the time I was 17 was studying only Art and Design. After that I went on to do an art foundation course and then later studied Design Communication at the University of the Arts in London.
— But why typography? Why it was special for you?
— For the last 10 years I have been working as an art director mainly for the fashion industry working on everything from branding and editorial design to directing photography and campaign imagery. There has been typography involved in areas of that, in particular the logo and magazine design, but it was in no way a focus or main aspect of my practice. Back when I graduated in 2005 typography was very much something reserved for type professionals. Programs like Fontographer (which is used to create typefaces) was perceived as being extremely complicated and if you needed a bespoke font for anything you would commission a calligrapher or typographer to work on it for you, someone who had studied it for decades in either Switzerland or Holland. It feels like it’s only recently with the development of more accessible software etc that creating typography has been considered something anyone can attempt home.
Partly due to my respect for the craft in the ‘professional’ world, graffiti was where I first felt comfortable to explore and play with the idea of typography, eventually taking influence from my design work and creating more simplified ’typographic’ based letter forms.
— Have you been studying some other graphic design fields?
— I spent a long time designing and art directing for fashion brands and fashion publications as it is a much more ‘creative’ arena to work in. I never did the traditional corporate graphic design thing. I think that would have killed me.
— What was your first experience as a professional?
— My first professional job was designing a fashion magazine from 2005 to 2009. This is where I met my first mentor and learnt most of what I know about typesetting and art direction. However my first really big project of my own was when I opened my design studio in 2010. We created an in-store magazine for a really big highstreet retailer here in the UK. We spent two weeks working on the pitch and I think part of our approach was to put all of our fee back into the production of the magazine to ensure we could get the best possible content and print finishing. Not something I would recommend from a financial point of view but it won us the job and we ended up working on the zine for two and half years – it was a lot of fun and in many ways still some of my fondest work memories.
— Are there any principles you always stick to while working?
— Always try to boil ideas down to their simplest possible form. Always use the grid. Always check over your work thoroughly before you send off. Be reliable. Get back to emails and correspondents as quickly as you can. Never do anything for free. Don’t be precious about your work – I like to say ‘your best idea is your next idea’, always evolving, pushing and developing my aesthetic is a fundamental part of my practice and healthy way to keep things new and fresh.
— And speaking about the motivation stuff – what inspired you?
— The thing that inspires me most is a good idea. The kind of ideas you think ‘I wish I thought of that’. It’s especially inspiring to seeing my peers or friends coming up with great stuff, that is particularly motivating for me.
— Life is not an easy ride, especially for an artistic soul. What advice can you give to those people who lost their focus?
— It may sound weird but try not to look too much at other peoples work for inspiration. It’s really important to go on your own journey with your work and try develop your own ideas bit by bit. What makes you unique as a person are the same exact things that will make your work different and unique. Try to work your own personal interests and character into your practice as much as possible. Plagiarism is an epidemic at the moment, coming from a graffiti background, it’s fundamental to me be original and come up with your own style and ideas. The internet has made it easy to see something and just give it a go, but without the genuine personal discovery behind the style or relevant lateral thinking around the concept or brief you’ll end up reflecting a mish-mash of someone else’s personality and your work will end up being vacuous, insincere and in-cohesive.
— Have you developed any personal hobbies?
— Since I was 12 my other main love has alway been graffiti. For many years my graphic design and graffiti has been separate and like two very different aspects of my life. Recently however they have very much began to inform each other and now my wall and gallery work is very much a combination of the two.
— Can you unfold to us your plans for the future?
— More gallery and studio work. More travel and large scale murals. More hunting for interesting places to paint my graffiti and as little time on the computer as possible.