Tag Jon Daniel

4 Corners: An interview with Bryan Bullen and Trevor Bullen

This month we head to the ‘island of spice’, Grenada. A beautiful, tropical idyll I am proud to claim as my maternal ancestral home. I visited Grenada three times during my childhood; the last time being in 1983, when I was 16, just after the US and allied Forces invasion (or intervention depending on your political point of view). Having weathered years of upheaval, either due to the internal forces of politics or the devastating external forces of Hurricane Ivan, I am genuinely excited at seeing this small and lush realm of the Commonwealth starting to blossom in many areas. From the heroic Victoria Cross-winning exploits of Sergeant Johnson Beharry on the battlefield, to the world-class performances of Kirani James on the sports field. Another field of expertise that may not be so readily associated with Grenada is architecture. And it is this discipline to which we turn our attention to now, and in particular a partnership that is at the forefront of Caribbean architecture and garnering a reputation for progressive work and design excellence. Introducing the award-winning talents of Bryan Bullen and his business partner and cousin, Trevor Bullen.Bryan and Trevor Bullen

Bryan Bullen & Trevor Bullen Founders, CoCoA (Caribbean Office of Co-operative Architecture)

What’s your background?

We are Grenadian, first cousins and have spent part of our formative years in the Caribbean, choosing to repatriate after a number of years living outside of the region. We were fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to train at renowned architectural schools in the United States (Bryan studied architecture at The Southern California Institute of Architecture and Trevor at Harvard). Additionally, we honed our skills through work experience in North America and Europe. Our decision to return to the Caribbean to practice has been shaped by our love for the islands, Caribbean people, and the quality of life which it offers. Our practice, which spans over a decade, has been an enjoyable but challenging journey. With our work, we are constantly testing, probing and exploring the many simple and complex issues involved in the making of architecture for the specific context where we live. In the early years of our practice we completed many residential, and commercial projects, however, our practice has grown to include the design of institutional and civic buildings, in addition to masterplans for larger projects. Our office has been fortunate enough to win architectural competitions over the last few years of which we are currently designing the new Grenada House of Parliament.Grenada House of Parliament

Grenada House of Parliament

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

If we are to dig deep into our backgrounds perhaps having both grown up in households with creative influences has been of primary importance. This has provided a very good platform for our development. Before studying architecture we have had prior experiences in the making of furniture, sculpture and objects which have taught us a lot about materials, building processes, and general methods of construction.  Our love for design and passion for creative work has fuelled our desire to engage in the practice of architecture where our creations can positively influence the lives of others, both at the micro scale of the individual and the macro scale of popular culture. We see this as both a privilege and a responsibility.

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

This is a complex question as there are many challenges which we have encountered in our practice. On the one hand, there are the technical and construction challenges of living in a small place where we must contend with low-technology and the additional effort required for quality control during the building process. We are challenged to design our buildings to be efficient in terms of cooling and energy consumption due to the high cost of electricity. Quite often materials are not readily available, so a greater degree of planning is required in the execution of projects. Additionally, as most building materials are imported they are generally costly, requiring us to use local materials to cut down on costs. We have embraced this in our work, and where possible integrate local materials such as timber and stone in the design of our buildings. With the great push today towards creating green buildings with a low carbon footprint, although we promote such principles, our decisions are made for practical reasons and our desire to make sensible choices. Also on the technical side, the harsh tropical marine environment presents a challenge where on top of designing to suit the requirements of hurricanes, and seismic activity, the sun, sea and salt air are primary factors to overcome. With the practice of architecture in the Caribbean today much of the discourse is centered on identity and what is deemed an ‘appropriate’ language for regional architecture. Many regional architects have chosen to adopt a post-colonial language, which we do not necessarily subscribe to. Our pursuit has more to do with engaging the tropical environment, solving issues of the site and programme, whereby, the outcome and issues of tectonics and overall language is developed out of research, and experimentation which allows our buildings to be naturally shaped through this process. Much of the historical references in our work would be spatial referencing, for example, the idea of open-plan living and outdoor spaces such as verandas, or the allowance of air flow through our buildings facilitated by louvers, and the placement of the spaces which permits our buildings to stay cool, or be protected from the driving rains. In this case, the initial challenge for us was acceptance of our contemporary sensibilities, which as I said previously is generally outside of the typical post-colonial agenda.Jadrosich Residence

Jadrosich Residence

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

We are Modernist at heart and have certainly been schooled in this vein. That said, we do believe that our work should be grounded in its specific context. What interest us most are individuals whose work can provide solutions which express a pure thought and executed as such. Artist such as Robert Smithson, Richard Serra and James Turrel are inspirational. Many of the quintessential Modernist architects such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Oscar Niemeyer, Richard Neutra, Louis Barragan have all provided positive directions in the development of contemporary architecture that we have a great appreciation for. Some of the recent practitioners such as Glen Murcutt, Peter Zumthor, Aires Matheus also offer a lot in their practices. These architects are creating work which is deeply rooted their place, with a clear expression that transcends their localised conditions and speak to a wider global audience.Munding Residence

Munding Residence

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

To pin-point one specific project is difficult as there are always decisions made over the course of designing a building, which we think – what if we had chosen to execute in a different way. We frequently discuss the evolution of our buildings from the time of construction to when they are occupied over years, and the changes they undergo. They can take on a life of their own, sometimes in ways, which we may not have expected. For example, when we visit some of our previous projects and see how the landscaping and gardens can allow our buildings to sit comfortably in the landscape, they can have a very different presence than when construction has just completed. Perhaps it is more important to focus on are the specific ideas and the solutions to problems. What gives us the most pleasure is to know that we have made the right decisions given the specific programs. The Munding residence is a case in point. Our first design for the project appeared a good solution and the client was very happy with it.  After visiting the site on numerous occasions and experiencing the force of the wind we revised the design by changing the exposed veranda space and swapping it for a protected courtyard. Additionally, we devised a double skin of sliding glass doors and operable vertical timber louvers, which allowed us to control the wind without compromising the view of the site. At first our client did not understand this decision, but thankfully he went along with it, and we know today that he appreciates that this decision was made as it has facilitated a usable outdoor space that the original design did not. What is most interesting for us was our decision to provide that the doors of the courtyard were designed to slide completely open creating a fluid space with the main living area. This expresses a great deal about our spatial sensibilities and our pursuit of buildings with open-plan living that we hope can be one with the tropical environment.Munding Residence

Source: Brian Lewis

Munding Residence

What would be your dream job or project?

A dream job would be one which our work can have a significant and positive effect on the lives of people. The project does not necessarily have to be a large facility as our current Parliament project, but, could be a small building, which can resonate and speak volumes in terms of its social impact. Our design for a beach changing facility is one such project – tiny in scale, but, with a strong iconic stature that is imbrued with deep cultural references. What is also enjoyable is the process of collaborating with other architects and creative people. We believe that the production of good architecture requires a team and understanding between the architect, owner and those who are involved in the building process. We have in the past collaborated with other architects, designers and artists, whom we feel have brought further richness and freshness of ideas to our projects which we appreciate very much as it adds greater strength and credence to our work.GBT Changing Facilities

GBT Changing Facilities

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

The late regional architects, Roger Turton of Trinidad and Tobago, and Barrisford Wilcox who practiced in Grenada in the 1970s and ’80s. Both were extremely talented individuals with highly personalized styles. Their work exemplifies many aspects of open-plan living, good quality of indoor and outdoor spaces, and general compatibility of building with the natural environment. We very much appreciate their endeavor to create architecture that is suitable for its place, yet, not bounded by the restrictions of post-colonial rhetoric.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Practising architecture requires 100 per cent commitment and consistency of work on a daily basis. It is the everyday work, a step-by-step process that will be the most important over the long term of architectural practice. It requires patience, determination and self-belief. As difficult as this can be at times, it can also be rewarding to see your work come to fruition and have positive effects on the lives of people.Calabash Heaven and Earth Spa

Calabash Heaven and Earth Spa

What’s next for you?

As with all practitioners at this time, we are seeking out the many possibilities for work, and are constantly looking at our business model to ensure that we stay busy. We are currently engaged in the design of a series of case study houses.  Our intention is to partner with others within the building industry, including land owners and financial institutions, in an effort to get projects built. We are inquiring regionally and beyond for perspective jobs, which we can tender on.

Network:

THE U.S:

The Shadows Took Shape is a dynamic interdisciplinary exhibition exploring contemporary art through the lens of Afrofuturist aesthetics. The 29 artists featured in The Shadows Took Shape work in a wide variety of media, including photography, video, painting, drawing, sculpture and multimedia installation. Participating artists include Derrick Adams, John Akomfrah, Laylah Ali, Edgar Arceneaux, Sanford Biggers, Edgar Cleijne + Ellen Gallagher. Opens Nov 14, 2013 – Mar 9, 2014 Studio Museum of Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, New York, New York (212) 864-4500 For more information visithttp://www.studiomuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

10th Annual Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF) The Bahamas International Film Festival is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing the local Bahamian community and international visitors with a diverse presentation of films from around the world. In addition to offering films that might not otherwise be released theatrically in the Bahamas, BIFF will provide a unique cultural experience and set of educational programs and forums for exploring the past, present and future of cinema.  Runs from 5-13 December 2013. For more info visit http://bintlfilmfest.com

EUROPE:

Patrick Lichfield’s Caribbean This is the first exhibition of Lichfield’s Caribbean images, many unpublished, representing all genres of Lichfield’s photography. Ends 7 December 2013. The Little Black Gallery, 13A Park Walk, London SW10 0AJ
For more info visithttp://www.thelittleblackgallery.com/shows/patrick-lichfields-caribbean

IN THE CITY  Graphic Design & Sound Art Exhibition P21 Gallery is excited to present In the City, an absorbing graphic design and sound art exhibition which provides a rare glimpse into four Arab cities. The exhibition will be a first of its kind in London to showcase a series of commissioned and pre-existing works from an eclectic line up of established and emerging Arab designers, illustrators, video, and sound artists. In the City transports the audience through four enigmatic, but overlooked Arab cities – Alexandria, Algiers, Baghdad and Nablus – by recapturing and reimagining elements of those cities. Runs til 15 December 2013
For more info visit http://www.p21.org.uk/inthecity.aspx  

AFRICA:

Native Nostalgia The Museum of African Design (MOAD) is excited to present its first full-length exhibition, running through 9 February. The group exhibition is an exploration of nostalgia in five African countries; Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria, Benin and South Africa. This exhibition tells the stories of bygone eras – positioning them firmly within present day narratives. Through architecture, construction, cartography, photography, communal archives, and historical reenactment, each artist and participant has a conversation with a past through which they did not live by juxtaposing design elements with those of today. Native Nostalgia explores both why young African artists are interrogating the continent’s difficult past, while also probing whether it is possible to be nostalgic for something one has not directly lived. For more info visit: http://www.moadjhb.com/visit/

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

ICONOGRAPHIC: The first exhibition of my graphic poster art

As a budding design student, my first love was poster design. I used to pour over old Graphis annuals (many of which I later collected) inspired by the work of Shigeo Fukuda, Tommie Ungerer, Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Herb Lubalin, Per Arnoldi and Waldemar Swierzy to name but a few. I often thought I could have been extremely happy if I just designed posters for a living.

A couple of years ago, I got to a crossroads in my life where I started to think about what I had done to date and where I was going. I reflected on my previous youthful dreams and the thought occurred to me “when was the last time you designed a poster?”

It was a thought that began to nag at me as I started to think about what creative path I might take next. Little signs and co-incidences appeared along the way, like the fact that I found out that I share the same birthday (31 May) with Jules Cheret; the French painter and lithographer who became a master of Belle Époque poster art and is regarded as the ‘father of the modern poster’

So eventually I decided to design a set of posters purely for my own pleasure and centered around my personal heroes and heroines. I then also built a small online poster store called ‘The PStore’ (an anagram of the word ‘poster’) to sell my own works initially, but maybe one day also the works of other artists and designers I admire.

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“ICONOGRAPHIC’ The first exhibition of my work will be at Art Dept at Clapham Picturehouse in London. This small exhibition of 25 artworks runs from 10 October – 10 November 2013.

The centerpiece of the show is a 70x100cm tribute artwork to the legendary and pioneering Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who would have been 75 this month were he still alive today.

For more information visit the online poster store at www.pstore.bigcartel.com to view more examples of my work and purchase prints.

4 Corners: An Interview with Archie Boston

As summer officially draws to a close here on British soil, we head to the sunny climes of the US and specifically Los Angeles to interview a man I am proud to call a friend and whose contribution to the design and advertising landscape is immense. I first interviewed Archie Boston two years ago, (in fact it was my first-ever professionally published interview) and discovered a man with humour, humility, passion, creativity and deep sense of integrity. Values that shine through in his body of work, and in particular a series of uncompromising self-promotional adverts he created with his brother Brad. Two years on, his courage and conviction remain resolutely intact, as I’m sure this interview will testify. Over to you Brother Archie…Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Archie Boston

Boston served two terms as president of the Art Directors Club of Los Angeles, is one of 35 design pioneers named by Graphic Design USA magazine and was honoured as Outstanding Professor of the Year in 2004 at California State University Long Beach, where he has taught for over 33 years. He published his memoir, Fly in the Buttermilk in 2001, created historical documentaries on 20 Outstanding Los Angeles Designers, in 1986, and is the first African American recipient of the prestigious AIGA Fellows Award.Self-promotional poster for Archie Boston Graphic Design

Self-promotional poster for Archie Boston Graphic Design

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

I received my BFA degree in Advertising Design with Honors from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, California.  My first job after graduating was as an art director at Hixson and Jorgensen Advertising.  My second job was as a partner in, Boston & Boston Design, where I worked for two years, then returned to work at Ketchum Advertising as an art director for eight years.  I received a Masters Degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Southern California in 1977. Then, I opened Archie Boston Graphic Design and became a Professor at California State University where I worked for 30 years until I retired from teaching in 2009.Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

My biggest challenge was racism.  However, rather than be on the defensive, My brother Brad and I went on the offensive and published promotional pieces that were provocative, memorable, daring and different. That approach shock the establishment, but opened the door to many unbiased clients who admired our courage and worked with us in spite of what others thought. However, another problem was that there were many mediocre designers and clients who were afraid of working with a minority firm that they thought we were too talented for the work they did.We've Come Too Far to Turn Around

We’ve Come Too Far to Turn Around

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My greatest influences were art directors and designers like Georg Olden, Lou Danziger, George Lois, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Brad Boston, Herbert Lubalin, Jack Roberts and Robert Miles Runyan. My greatest inspiration was and still is Jesus Christ, My Lord and Savior. I cannot think of any designer that was the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  Great design is timeless.Christmas card

Christmas card

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

I am most proud of my first book, Fly In The Buttermilk, memoirs of an African American in Advertising, Design & Design Education. This book should be a must-read for anyone in advertising, design or design education. This book will be around for future generations of designers who believe in the gospel of good design. I am also proud of the interviews I videotaped in 1986 of 20 Outstanding Los Angeles designers, while on sabbatical.  Some of the designers featured were Saul Bass, Louis Danziger, Marvin Rubin, Jim Cross, Jack Roberts, Ken Parkhurst, Robert Miles Runyan and many more.Cover for Boston's Fly in the Buttermilk book

Cover for Boston’s Fly in the Buttermilk book

What would be your dream job or project?

This might sound wacky, but my dream project would be to spread the gospel of design spirituality throughout the world. We, as designers, don’t talk about religion and how it influences our creativity. Many of us think that it has no place in our profession. I disagree. I consider myself an apostle of design. Apostle means advocate, follower, believer, supporter, devotee, or scholar. Surely, after all my years in advertising, design and design education, I qualify for this position. So why don’t you follow me in spreading the gospel of design?Christmas card

Christmas card

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

I believe my brother, Brad Boston, deserves recognition because he was a better designer than I.  He was like John the Baptist.  He baptised me into design by making me do my assignments over as a student.  I followed his advice until it was time for me to step out in faith.  The rest is history. Marvin Rubin, my other instructor, at Chouinard Art Institute, who helped me to see the reality of the business, encouraged me to be daring and imaginative.  Marvin also rented Brad and I space in his office until we moved into our own. Nick Mendoza, my friend and former classmate, who founded the first Hispanic advertising agency in Los Angeles, Mendoza Dillion and Associates.  He went on to become a creative director at Young and Rubicam and from there to become an international director of television commercials. I cannot end this section without mentioning, Louis Danziger, my mentor, however, he has received his recognition many years ago and is still considered an ‘Art Center College of Design treasure’. Finally, I believe that God deserves credit and more recognition in this field.  You might think that he is not a person but I believe that He is in all of us.Work for Pentel

Work for Pentel

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

My advice is to be honest. Be happy. Be Yourself. Be courageous. Be imaginative. Be passionate about your work. Be the best that you can be.  Follow your intuition. Don’t settle for mediocrity.  Work hard. Read. Question the establishment. Don’t worry about being politically correct. Respect your teachers.  Enter your work in student design competitions, to find out what professional judges think.  Remember, throughout your career to always strive to do excellent socially responsible work.  And finally, don’t take yourself too seriously.Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

What’s next for you?

Since I turned 70 years old last month, my perspective has changed about design.  I want to add spirituality to every aspect of my life, including my design.  I have created some controversial work that was not politically correct and in some cases blasphemous. However, I still stand by that work. Now, I see life differently.  I would like for future design generations to consider trusting in a higher power.  I believe that God has led me down my path and there were bumps in the road, but I never would have made it without Him.

Archie. The Apostle of Design

You can visit Archie’s website at www.archbosgd.com.

Network

THE U.S:

2013 Aiga Design Conference: Head, Heart & Hand will celebrate the best in design and explore three interrelated aspects of the profession: design strategy, social impact and craft. This event will provide a platform to the participants to discuss about some focal points such as design for social impact and design as craft. The conference will take place October 10-12 at Minneapolis Convention Center. For more information visitdesignconference.aiga.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival: First held in August 2007, the popularity of theCaribbean Sea Jazz Festival has soared since its inception. This two-day event will this year be held on the 4th and 5th of October 2013 on the small island of Aruba. Initially inspired by a number of other such festivals like the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands and Saint Lucia Jazz, Caribbean Sea Jazz’s goal is to create a stage for local and regional music talent, showcasing them alongside big names in the Jazz world. Running on a small budget, this wonderful event is not just about music, but also exhibits the best of the Aruban community. For more information visitwww.caribbeanseajazz.com

EUROPE:

Afro Supa Hero is a snapshot of a childhood and journey to adulthood, shown through a personal collection of pop cultural heroes and heroines of the African diaspora. Jon Daniel’s action figures, comic books and games offer an insight into the experience of a boy of African Caribbean heritage growing up in 1960s and 1970s Britain, in search of his identity. Runs from 14 September – 9 February 2014. For more information visitwww.museumofchildhood.org.uk

AFRICA:

Ghana Fashion & Design Week: An impressive range of local and international designers and exhibitors will be participating in the upcoming second annual Ghana Fashion & Design Week. The event will bring together Ghanaian and International fashion, media and industry professionals and fans. Selected designers from around the globe will deliver an exciting selection of creative designer’s collection during the catwalk shows, with a diverse range of Exhibitors hosted at the contemporarily styled PopUp Exhibition Salon during the event. The event will welcome international press, media, and buyers. The catwalk show is scheduled to take place over two days from the 11-12th October 2013. For more informationemail:info@ghanafashiondesignweek.com

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Sindiso Nyoni aka R!OT

‘Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny…’ This opening line to Bob Marley and The Wailers classic track, ‘Zimbabwe’ (from the album ‘Survival, 1979) aptly sets the scene for this month’s destination and profiled graphic artist.

Born in 1984, he is a product of his country’s Independence, which was realized in 1980. In his own words he was ‘born free from the segregation and colonial repression’ that blighted Zimbabwe’s past, but still ‘grew up in turbulent times characterized by the internal conflicts of the Shona and Ndebele factions’.

Experiences like this must surely go some way to explain how his tender age belies the depth and range of his work. And the impact he has made not just continentally, beyond the land-locked borders of his homeland, but also internationally in North & South America, Europe and the Far East is equally impressive.

Sindiso Nyoni aka R!OT, over to you.Sindoso Nyoni

Source: Kamo Mogashoa

Sindoso Nyoni, AKA R!OT, graphic artist/designer

What’s your background?

I am an independent graphic artist, born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I am the seventh child in a family of nine. Zimbabwe is widely known for its unique craftsmanship in the arts, from sculptures, masks, traditional ornaments to music and drama. As well as Zimbabwe being a ‘once’ booming African economy, this allowed for me to be exposed to abundant forms of art and popular culture as a four-year-old in the late 80s. I was so inspired from all these surroundings, and it was then that I developed a love for drawing. I haven’t stopped since. This developed into creating my own limited series of handcrafted comics in primary school, right through to high school, where I took art classes at a Catholic institution in Bulawayo. It was here that I was first introduced to the art of communication design by a retired New York Graphic designer, who had relocated to the continent, to teach art. She gave me invaluable insights into the profession and I left Bulawayo for Johannesburg in 2005, enrolling in a four-year communication design course while working as a barman and freelance artist/designer in order to pay my way through college. In 2008, I graduated from the University of Johannesburg with a BTech degree in Graphic Design.Freezim artwork, part of the Voices in Freedom exhibiton in Mexico (2010)

Freezim artwork, part of the Voices in Freedom exhibiton in Mexico (2010)

How did you get started in design?

After graduating, I moved to Cape Town where I joined an illustration studio as an intern and collaborated on projects for brands such as Fifa, Nike, Adidas, Smirnoff, HP, Shell and Audi. During my time with the collective I was part of the illustration teams on some Cannes Lion-winning campaigns. Prior to this, during my time as a student, I got into activist art and poster making. I became involved in exhibition showcases, and In 2010 I was part of the global Voices in Freedom poster exhibition alongside several international activist artists. After spending two years working as an illustrator, I relocated back to Johannesburg, where I spent almost two more years working as an art director/designer for an advertising agency. I continued to showcase art via invitational involvements and in 2011 I took part in the Piñatarama 2.0, (Art piñata) exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City. I also got to exhibit frequently in group shows locally, and in 2012 I was selected as a participating artist at the Art Takes Times Square exhibition on New York Times square. In 2013 I took part in the Dizajn Afrike (Contemporary design in Africa): Dyalli Association exhibition in Croatia. This exhibition formed part of the ‘Week of Africa’ celebrations in Croatia from the 22nd of May. In the same year, Outdoor ad company JCDecaux, in association with Icograda showcased 50 posters by 50 designers on digital billboards in London’s Cromwell Road for World Communication Design Day. The world’s most promising design talent was chosen to exhibit their work created to the theme of ‘1Love1Word’. My piece, entitled Amandla – All power to the Dreamers, represented South Africa. In late 2010 I developed R!OT, an alias that explores a subversive African ‘street’ style under which I have been operating as an independent graphic artist and illustrator since.Adidas shoe-box work

Adidas shoe-box work

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

During the short space of time in which I have been operating as a creative, I have treated failures, challenges and obstacles as stepping stones to getting to where I would eventually like to be. The first obstacles encountered came early in my college years, when I moved to Johannesburg. I had to freelance and double up as a barman/waiter to raise tuition fees to pay for my degree. Once this was achieved the second goal was to step into the industry and make a mark or name for myself. This proved difficult, in an industry which already has so many gate-keepers. At that time not too many creatives of colour were prominently visible. So, getting some sort of recognition has been a challenging long process, but a challenge that I’ve learnt a great deal from. Growing up in the turbulent times of Zimbabwe inspired my artwork as well, which reflects the social wounds left by a bitter struggle against colonial repression and of course the internal conflicts of the Shona and Ndebele factions. The link to social activism is what denotes my ‘African’ design aesthetic. By combining images and text to inspire people out of placidity my work attempts to tackle some of Africa’s most pressing issues in the form of visual art. Sadly most of the time our industry spends its time promoting commercial products rather than issues that really matter. This is compounded by the fact that as an emerging creative on your career path, in order to get noticed you have to have some big-name brands in your portfolio. In the professional creative industry, there is seldom any room for social communication. Briefs and concepts are often commercially driven, creating a dilemma faced by creatives today, ‘work for charities is cool but doesn’t pay the bills.’ I personally feel that it is a great value for creatives to know that they have tools and the ability to effect massive change, and not always within a for-profit organization. This is why I do not use my skills to support brands or companies that I feel have a negative impact on the world we live in. I feel that as creatives we have a duty to contribute to our communities using art that addresses social issues, advocates awareness and change, which can ultimately open minds to act towards making a difference.Poster design for documentary My Africa Is

Poster design for documentary My Africa Is

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My mother is my ultimate role model. Her outlook on life raised me in the direction and career path I took from an early age. The arts and the various branches of creative activity have also always been a love of mine, with early memories of comic book art and vintage animation as influences. I respect and admire many international and local contemporary artists such as Jorge Alderete, Chaz Maviyane-Davies, Thami Mnyele, Dumile Feni, Emory Douglas, Jean Michel Basquiat, ROA, Pierre Bernard, Jonathan Barnbrook, and Tomer Hanuka (to name a few.) I am particularly intrigued by artists that blend the digital and traditional processes successfully. I also draw inspiration from disciplines outside my profession. These include music, cinema and literary influences from African authors such as Dambudzo Marechera, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. The work of film visionaries such as Melvin Van Pebbles, Spike Lee, Emir Kusturica, Guillermo Del Toro, Lars Von Trier, Martin Scorsese and even the surreal work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, has also often left a profound impression on me. I studied Graphic design to attain a solid foundation in traditional communication design. I believed that understanding the art or skill of graphic design might inform more unique visuals to go along with what I would later specialise in.Book cover design for When a State Turns on its Citizens: 60 Years of Institutionalised Violence in Zimbabwe, by Lloyd Sachikonye

Book cover design for When a State Turns on its Citizens: 60 Years of Institutionalised Violence in Zimbabwe, by Lloyd Sachikonye

What is the project you are most proud of?

I recently created a poster which was selected as part of the Mandela Poster Project 95 exhibition collection. The project aims to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and the pieces will form part of the facility’s interior design as well. The poster is part of a collection by designers from around the world who paid tribute to and celebrated Nelson Mandela’s contribution to humanity. My submission for the series is entitled The Boxer and is a depiction of a young Nelson Mandela inspired by the critically acclaimed Spike Lee film Do the right thing. The piece particularly pays homage to one of the iconic characters in the film, Radio Raheem whose story about life, and how Love defeated hate echoes Mandela’s philosophy on human rights, forgiveness and reconciliation which contributed to the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa.The Boxer, poster print for the Mandela Poster Project 95

The Boxer, poster print for the Mandela Poster Project 95

What would be your dream project?

I’m quite an avid film and cinema buff so it would be pretty cool to get to work on an important cinematic project. I’ve always been interested in independent cinema, so to be involved in a project of that nature is definitely on my ‘to do list’ for the not so distant future. I would particularly like to collaborate with filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, who I feel is an all round interestingly amazing individual with an intriguing insight and outlook on life. In my opinion, he’s a very important creative.Ghost (Xenophobia), self-portrait based on experiences as an immigrant in South Africa

Ghost (Xenophobia), self-portrait based on experiences as an immigrant in South Africa

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

Fellow Zimbabwean (and Johannesburg-based) fine artist, Kudzanai Chiurai has been producing some really great provocative work in the past couple of years. I also admire the intricate and heavily detailed, artwork of illlustrator/conceptual artist and graphic designer Linsey Levendall. Soweto-born and Johannesburg-based Mzwandile Buthelezi, AKA Hac-One, is a street/graphic artist who is committed to growing authentic African design styles, and travels around the continent to build networks of creative people committed to using design to make a positive change. Loyiso Mkize is a young visual artist from the Eastern Cape in South Africa who uses art to enrich the world with visions that dare to break the world’s facade and inspire a greater tomorrow.Protect & Serve - a piece commenting on controversy surrounding the South African Police Service

Protect & Serve – a piece commenting on controversy surrounding the South African Police Service

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Contrary to popular belief there are no short cuts in this game and hard work always pays off, so pay your dues. I also feel that as long as you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to ‘work’ another day. Its all about creating the ideal job and not waiting for it to come. So in a nutshell, ’Go create!’Zulu Diva, test illustration for South African musician Toya Delazy

Zulu Diva, test illustration for South African musician Toya Delazy

What’s next for you?

I’d like to continue creating, and be able to inspire generations after me to create.Logo for the Natural Hair Appreciation Society

Logo for the Natural Hair Appreciation Society

You can see more of Sindiso Nyoni’s work at www.studioriot.com.

Network

THE U.S:

KKK – Kin Killin’ Kin is a powerful and thought-provoking series of images that reflect artists James Pate’s deep love and even greater concern for the epidemic of youth violence in the African American community. The exhibition runs until 20 November 2013 at The DuSable Museum of African-American history. 740 East 56th Place, Chicago, Illinois 60637. See more at:www.dusablemuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

New Roots: This exhibition features 10 emerging artists: Deborah AnzingerVarun BakerCamille CheddaGisele GardnerMatthew McCarthyOlivia McGilchristAstro SaulterNile SaulterIkem Smith and The Girl and the Magpie. These artists were selected by the National Gallery of Jamaica curatorial team, which was headed by Nicole Smythe-Johnson, O’Neil Lawrence and Veerle Poupeye, from an initial shortlist of over 30 artists under 40 years old who were either born in Jamaica or of Jamaican parentage or who are active there. Opened on 28 July at National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston. For more information visitnationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com

EUROPE:

Ellen Gallagher: AxME at Tate Modern, London. One of the most acclaimed contemporary artists to have emerged from North America since the mid-1990s, Ellen Gallagher’s gorgeously intricate and highly imaginative works are realised with a wealth of virtuoso detail and wit. This is her first major solo exhibition in the UK, providing the first ever opportunity to explore an overview of her twenty-year career. Tickets Adult: £11.00 (without donation £10.00 )
Concession: £9.50 (without donation £8.60). Exhibition runs until 1 September 2013. For more information visit www.tate.org.uk

The AACDD 2013 Bargehouse Festival. From September 18 – 23, 2013 the Exhibition of the AACDD (African and African-Caribbean Design Diaspora) Awards is the final accolade celebrating the best of the outstanding creative talent of black artists and designers of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 AACDD exhibitions. Visit The Bargehouse
Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, 
London SE1 9PH. For more information visit www.aacdd.org

AFRICA:

Meaning Motion. How does movement make meaning? This question is asked by two highly innovative interactive digital artists, Tegan Bristow and Nathaniel Stern in the exciting exhibition. Until 18 August 2013 at Wits Art Museum, Corner Jorissen St & Jan Smuts Ave, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, SA. Admission free. For more information visit www.wits.ac.za/ons.html

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email .

4 Corners: An Interview with Marlon Darbeau

This month we head to the birthplace of steelpan and calypso music, Trinidad and Tobago. This vibrant melting pot of the Caribbean is home to a rich and diverse community of cultures primarily influenced through colonization and immigration.

It is also a culture steeped in the Arts. With many celebrated sons and daughters such as Nobel Prize-winning authors V.S. Naipaul and Derek Walcott; theatrical talents such as Tony Award winners Geoffrey Holder and Heather Headley; and the fantastic, globally-renowned, carnival costume designer Peter Minshall.

And in design terms, it’s no surprise that the practical crafts that are self-evident in the culture that surrounds the art of  ‘The Mas’ tradition of carnival should influence the work of Trinidad & Tobago’s professional designers.

One such creative is multi-disciplinary designer Marlon Darbeau, whose own family background of ‘making things’ informs both his professional and personal work. A man of action, let’s hear it in his own words…

Marlon Darbeau, creative director and designerMarlon Darbeau

Source: Kibwe Brathwaite

What’s your background?

I was born and have lived and worked in Trinidad & Tobago all my life. I attended John Donaldson Technical Institute and I am a graduate of the College of Science Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago. I worked for about five years as a graphic designer at MDC Signs followed by three years freelancing. I then spent six years at CMB Advertising, before becoming creative director of Abovegroup, now AbovegroupOgilvy. I come from a family tradition of making things in a workshop at home. In the last six to seven years I have become very interested in how those traditions intersect with my practice as a graphic designer, and in using this convergence to formulate ways of making my work. This convergence has lead to the creation of self-initiated projects, most notably ‘Peera’ a reinterpretation of a traditional small bench, which has been exhibited at the Museum of Art & Design NY The Global Africa Project.The Peera bench

The Peera bench

How did you get started in design?

I actually started off soon after school, taking a course in fabric design which led to a few years of hand-painting T-shirts; really fun times. When I was around 19 and enrolled part time at John Donaldson Technical Institute, a friend stopped by my home where I had a small studio space in my father’s metal workshop. He happened to mention that the sign company where he had been working as a salesman needed a graphic designer. With no computer experience and my portfolio filled with drawings and paintings I interviewed for the job and got it. My training at school at the time did not involve any software tools so I enrolled in a short course to get my Adobe Illustrator skills so it was really on the job training. This is before plotters were introduced locally, so you outputted your artwork via a desktop printer then projected the image on to large paper on the studio wall, and then you would produce actual-size drawings for the production team. The great thing about being a designer in a signage workshop is that you are very much part of the manufacturing process. This has been a major influence on my practice as it taught me about the process of making ideas tangible.Alice Yard identity

Alice Yard identity

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

I will say the most difficult thing in Trinidad & Tobago as a graphic designer is developing your own visual language. Unlike other places where you can see clear articulations of design styles, we have a sort of sameness. Operating in an industry with no professional design association can be hard. Where there is no collective agenda to improve design as a professional craft, designers, clients and the public don’t fully benefit, it’s a sort of hit and miss. I was not interested in doing things the way others were doing it, I believe design is a professional craft and I really wanted to develop a way of thinking and expressing ideas through client and personal work. That is very challenging when you are operating in an industry where the role of design has not been formally considered; it takes a lot to avoid being sucked into advertising despondency and economic necessity.

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I feel very fortunate to have met some really great people over the last 18 years, all of whom have been so influential. From Val Ramcharan, my design lecturer at John Donaldson who pushed me to explore and develop my design sensibilities. Graphic designer Richard Rawlins who basically said to me one day ‘ start making all those ideas you have in your sketch book don’t keep them locked away’ which lead to my first one man show ’EnRoute…of bridges and barriers’ an expression of design being used for more than just selling things, it was attempt to address social concerns. Back in 2008 while working with the likes of Richard Rawlins, Dave Williams, Daryn Boodan, Rodell Warner and Damian Libert, we became an informal but very active collective, each person having their individual creative ambitions yet were able to come together to develop our own practices while affecting our visual landscape, that was a significant moment in my life. The architect Sean Leonard, who has been a mentor and friend. The work of Stefan Sagmeister, Steve Ouditt and Christopher Cozier.Work for 12 The Band

Work for 12 The Band

What is the project you are most proud of?

‘Verb’, a multifunctional object I created and showed in New Orleans in 2009, is very close to my heart as I created that project while trying to design a symbol for myself. The object is a physical manifestation of the graphic I created, symbolising a dance between intent and intuition. Another project is Peera as it really solidified my way of working through process, resulting in my conviction to design BY MAKING.Verb multifunctional sculpture/furniture

Verb multifunctional sculpture/furniture

What would be your dream job or project?

I will love to design the identity for a football team as well as design and produce a project directly inspired by the mailboxes my dad manufactures.

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

I think Gareth Jenkins and Alex Smailes deserve a lot of credit for what their company Abovegroup (studio with a focus on design and branding) did here at home. Most designers go to work for advertising agencies, which is fine, but there are so many who would love the opportunity to practice design in a particular way which the agency model does not facilitate, and these guys created a model that gave designers the opportunity to focus on design outside of campaigns. Their process opened a conversation about the improvement of design as a professional practice and lead to the transformation of some of Trinidad & Tobago’s small, medium and large organizations.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

’’Design is work.’ Don’t be afraid to explore it’s possibilities, care about what you do, work at your craft and be honest.

What’s next for you?

I am working on two new projects, a commission and a self-initiated project, really exciting.

You can see more of Marlon Darbeau’s work at www.marlondarbeau.com.Dishout salad servers

Dishout salad servers

Network

THE U.S:

Harlem Postcards commissions artists to photograph Harlem, and turns their unique depictions of the neighborhood into free, limited-edition postcards. Launched in 2002, this project was created to provide alternative, multifaceted views of Harlem, representing its complex and diverse history, and capturing the community in a critical moment of growth and change. Exhibition runs until 27 October 2013 at Studio Museum of Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, New York, New York. See more at:http://www.studiomuseum.org/exhibition/harlem-postcards-tenth-anniversary

Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion on view at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) from June 27 through September 8, 2013, will feature more than 100 costumes by celebrated and original designers including Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, and Yohji Yamamoto as well as younger designers influenced by popular culture and the dynamic street life of Tokyo. For more information, go to www.seattleartmuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival 2013 Founded in 2006, the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) is an annual celebration of films from and about Trinidad & Tobago, the Caribbean and its diaspora. The Festival also screens films curated from contemporary world cinema. In addition, the ttff seeks to facilitate the growth of the Caribbean film industry by hosting workshops, panel discussions, seminars, conferences and networking opportunities. Date: 17 September – 1 October 2013. For more information visithttp://www.ttfilmfestival.com

Carifesta XI A Caribbean festival of arts and culture showcasing the excellence of the region’s peoples. This year has the distinction of premiering a new logo for the festival. Runs from 16 – 25 August in Suriname. For more information visit Carifesta XI website

EUROPE:

Origins of the Afro Comb:
6,000 years of culture, politics and identity
The 6,000-year history of the Afro Comb, its extraordinary impact on cultures worldwide, and community stories relating to hair today are being explored in this new exhibition Fitzwilliam Museum: Gallery 13 (Mellon) & 8 (Octagon) Trumpington Street,
Cambridge CB2 1RB. Free Entry. Exhibition runs from 2 July – 3 November 2013. 
For more information visit http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/whatson/exhibitions/article.html?3840

AFRICA:

Cape Town Fashion Week. From 8 – 10 August 2013.Hosted at Cape Town International Convention Centre. Convention Square 1 Lower Long Street Cape Town. South Africa. For more information on South Africa’s premiere film event visit African Fashion international website

4 Corners: An Interview with Lulu Kitololo

This month we focus on my hometown, London. As the first generation offspring of African-Caribbean parents born in the mid Sixties, I did not always find it easy to embrace my ‘Britishness’.

However, I’ve certainly never had any problems identifying myself as a “Londoner” – for London truly is the world within a single city.

Home to every conceivable nationality, this cosmopolitan metropolis pulses with its vibrant mix of cultures. And it is from this dynamism that the opportunity for new voices can emerge. New voices like those of Lulu Kitololo and her design company Asilia, whose work is not just resonating on these shores, but also beyond.

I have watched their work progress over the past few years with eagerness; appreciating its distinctly African roots whilst bringing a fresh modern approach and aesthetic.

It’s a design voice I really like, so let’s hear all about it from Lulu in her own words.Lulu Kitololo

Source: Jonathan Perugia

Lulu Kitololo

What’s your background?

I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. I was always creating things as a child – constructing shelters indoors when the weather was miserable; making trains for my dolls out of fruit cartons; experimenting with food in the kitchen; ‘refashioning’ my dresses (much to my mother’s dismay) and; of course, making images on paper. My parents were generally very encouraging of these pursuits but, being that I excelled at all subjects in school, I don’t think they – and many others – were fully prepared for the decision I made to pursue a creative profession.

I went to art school, Pratt Institute in New York, not quite sure what to specialise in and I ended up pursuing a Communications Design degree with a major in Advertising Art Direction. Thereafter, I worked for a couple of advertising agencies but something about it just wasn’t for me.

I ended up going back to school, this time to pursue a Masters in African Studies at SOAS, University of London. It was a fantastic year – learning about African politics, culture, film and literature. There were several interesting responses I experienced from people at that time including, “but you’re African, why do you need to study Africa?” and, “what are you going to do afterward?”

At the time, I had no idea what I was going to do afterward but I was very content with what I was doing and had faith that a path would reveal itself. I stumbled across a design job with a sustainability communications agency, Futerra, and it seemed a perfect opportunity to combine my creative expertise with my interest in development. I worked there for over 3 years and then left because I yearned for the freedom of self-employment. I’ve since gone into business with a friend and our creative agency, Asilia will be celebrating 3 years later this summer. It’s been an amazing journey, creating a niche for ourselves on the back of our distinctive style; our presence in both London and Nairobi and; our journey into creating products as well providing creative services. I’m very excited about what the future holds for us.Film Africa print materials

Film Africa print materials

How did you get started in design?

The skills and knowledge I gained as part of my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree have been invaluable. However, the most significant thing I learned during those 4 years was not explicitly taught and that was – how to be resourceful.

I think resourcefulness and experience are great tools for any designer. Experience is something that comes with, well, experience. From my 2nd year of university, I was taking every opportunity to gain work experience in my field. This involved seeking out internships and volunteering my design services to people I came across who were doing things I was interested in.Identity for Afri-Love - African inspired creative production

Identity for Afri-Love – African inspired creative production

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

It’s really important for me to do work whose subject I’m passionate about and, starting out, I didn’t always have this opportunity. In fact, there was a point where I was about to give up on design altogether, primarily for this reason. Making the decision to be self-employed was scary, for obvious reasons, however, the prospect of having more control over the projects I would work on, was very exciting… and has been very satisfying. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.

In my personal experience, my background has never really felt like a barrier to getting into the industry and achieving my ambitions. However, as a company operating in the UK, I sometimes wonder if people’s perceptions of Asilia preclude us from winning certain projects. A lot of our work has had an African focus and my business partner and I are of Kenyan origin so, I think that some people assume that we only work on Africa-related projects. So this is the current challenge that I’m/we’re facing and the approach at the moment is to continue to focus on doing great work. I believe that we will continue to attract the kind of people that we enjoy working with.Afri-love - illustration for post on why Ghana will be the next African app powerhouse

Afri-love – illustration for post on why Ghana will be the next African app powerhouse

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I’m greatly inspired by craft traditions from around the world. I always find joy in the diversity of textiles, patterns, adornments and vibrant colour combinations and I aim to capture that same excitement in my work.

Discovering Chaz Maviyane-Davies was very inspiring and in particular, his insistence that design should express the context within which it’s created, in terms of speaking to its culture and not just emulating a Western ideal.

Marian Bantjes is another big inspiration. I love the playfulness, intricacy and amazing level of craftmanship in her work, as well as her sass and confidence!Spora Stories identity

Spora Stories identity

What is the project you are most proud of?

This is such a difficult question and the answer constantly evolves. One of the projects I’m most proud of is the work we did for the Film Africa festival. It was great to have such a visual project, in terms of our work being seen all over town and, the response we’re still receiving now, from different people, is really positive.

I’m also really proud of the work we did for the African Union Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality in Africa (CARMMA). Particularly, the iconography we developed and the infographics we designed which, help to make a serious subject much more accessible to a wider audience.

What would be your dream job or project?

I think I’m living my dream job right now. Dream project? I would love to work with museums and cultural institutions like the Southbank Centre.Web design for Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa

Web design for Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

I’ve lately come across quite a few small, independent agencies in Africa that are doing some exciting work. In Kenya (and I believe this may be true for other countries on the continent), international advertising agencies (e.g. TBWA, Ogilvy etc.) have a kind of monopoly when it comes to the communications/design industry. It’s refreshing to see these smaller, and often much more creative, shops emerging and doing well.Legal Defence Initiative prints

Legal Defence Initiative prints

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Get as much experience as you can, start as early as you can and be creative about how you find it. There is a lot of competition in our field so don’t expect a long list of design internships and work placements for you to choose from. Think outside the box. I got one of my first opportunities by attending a networking event that had nothing to do with design, meeting a publisher and volunteering my services for his up and coming magazine.

Another important thing – never underestimate the value of experimentation and play. Some of the best ideas come from that.

What’s next for you?

Asilia is working on developing some design and digital products. Look out for our online shop and a couple of app launches in the next few months.

Network:
THE U.S:
AFRICOBRA: Art & Impact honours the Chicago artist group, AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists). Exhibition is presented by 3 South Side institutions and runs from 26 July until 29 September 2013. For more information, go to http://www.dusablemuseum.org/events/details/africobra-the-dusable-museum-programming
THE CARIBBEAN:
Belize International Film Festival. This is the eighth edition of the festival focusing on films from the Caribbean and Central America. Date: July 11-15, 2013. For more information visit www.belizefilmfestival.com
EUROPE:
Design On Stage exhibition presents the best product innovations of the year. Red Dot Design Museum, Gelsenkirchener Straße 181
45309 Essen, Germany. Exhibition runs from 2 – 28 July 2013. For more information visit http://en.red-dot.org/5005.html
AFRICA:
Durban International Film Festival 2013. Hosted by the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, the Durban International Film Festival will be celebrating its 34th edition from 18 to 28 July 2013. For more information on South Africa’s premiere film event visit www.durbanfilmfest.co.za  

4 Corners: An interview with Michael Thompson AKA Freestylee

This month we head to the Caribbean, or more specifically one of its biggest islands, Jamaica. Last year was a momentous year in Jamaica’s history; celebrating 50 years of independence from Britain with global events, coupled with the most outstanding display of sprint athletics the world has ever seen at London’s 2012 Olympics.

In sport and music, there is no doubting the enormous impact Jamaica has made on the world, but what about in design?

Were he still alive today, I would have loved to have interviewed Wilfred Limonious; a designer and graphic artist who made a real name for himself in the 80s and early 90s with colourful, charming and characterful artwork for many Jamaican LP record covers – a sample of his work is shown at the end of this article.

Instead, we are extremely fortunate to feature the talents of Michael Thompson, AKA Freestylee. Someone who I believe carries on in Wilfred’s tradition in championing reggae music, but with a strong, sophisticated illustrative style all of his own.Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson, AKA Freestylee. Jamaican graphic designer and founder of the International Reggae Poster Contest.

What’s your background?

I am Jamaican by birth. I left for the United States in 1990, and worked as a freelance graphic designer with companies such as Citigroup, Sanofi Aventis, Bank of America and Estée Lauder. I am also a Creative Activist, using social design as a tool for awareness on a number of international concerns and solidarity. I am the founder of the International Reggae Poster Contest; a visual arts celebration of the positive impact of reggae music globally, and a platform to present a vision to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame in Kingston, Jamaica. I have had a number of international exhibitions of my Freestylee work; one-man show and group exhibitions.Dancehallstylee, by Michael Thompson

Dancehallstylee, by Michael Thompson

How did you get started in design?

I studied graphic design at the Jamaica School of Art. After finishing my studies my first work was in a small screen-printing operation operated by a Rastafarian by the name of Jah Ned. There I learned to experiment with simple silhouetted graphic design concepts suitable for screen-printing and poster art. It was after winning a poster contest to Cuba that I had a break and was hired as an apprentice with the Daily News newspaper in Jamaica. This was a big step closer to what I wanted to do: layout and design. In the mid ‘80s, I was offered a job at Paisley Kelly Kenyon & Eckhart Advertising in Kingston, Jamaica. Many years later, I joined a public relations firm Mike Jarrett Communications, also in Kingston, as an Art Director. My activist poster designs started in the late 1970s. My first activist poster was created after an incident in Jamaica called the “Green Bay Massacre”. This took place 5 January, 1978, where a number of alleged young gang members from a poor inner-city ghetto in Kingston were lured to a military firing range outside the capital where they were ambushed and executed by the Jamaica Defense Force soldiers. Back then, I had no computer so it was strictly hand-painted acrylic on poster paper. My recent episodes of creative activism started about 2008. I began the journey of Freestylee, Artist Without Borders, a new phase in my awareness activism.Emperor Haile Selassie, by Michael Thompson

Emperor Haile Selassie, by Michael Thompson

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

As a young designer just completing art school and without job experience, it was not easy to find positions in Jamaica as a graphic designer or as an illustrator. I had to make connections and work my way through the hurdles by constantly improving my portfolio and finding other opportunities, and use this process to learn new things that later on I could apply to my creativity process. In 1978, I entered a local poster competition and won a place on the Jamaican delegation to the 11th World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana, Cuba. You can imagine the jubilation at the time. This was a massive event with youths from many countries participating in political and cultural activates. I entered again in 1982, and won another place, this time to Moscow, the 12th Festival of youth and students. These competitions and trips further sparked my interest in poster art. The colourful silkscreen and lithograph posters I saw in Cuba, created by ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematic Art and Industry) and its sister offshoot OSPAAAL (Organization in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia, and Latin America) made a tremendous impact on my work. If you are familiar with Cuban poster design you can see the influence in my Freestylee posters. It was an exciting and important time for me. The poster competitions and visits to Havana and Moscow created opportunities and opened doors for me in Jamaica, due to the exposure and publicity my works received. Moving to America I had to make new connections and start the process all over again. I had no computer skills to be a designer so I ended up designing T-shirts the old fashioned way for a small company called Wet Paint, in NYC. I later bought a computer and taught myself how to use this new technology. Dancehall, by Michael Thompson

Dancehall, by Michael Thompson

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My source of inspiration can come from anything or anywhere. Everything around me comes into play by keeping an open mind. My work has been influenced by a number of artists, designers and events. The influences do not materialize from any one source. My visit to Havana exposed me to the works of designers in that country and the fine art of poster design. This was an amazing cultural experience that had influenced greatly my design aesthetics. Some of the Cuban designers who greatly influenced my own art are names like René Azcuy, Fabian Muñoz, Nelson Ponce and Eladio Ravidulia. Other contemporary socially conscious artist on my list are JR, Ai Weiwei, Banksy, these are the people I admire for the activism as well as their artworks as well. I also admire the creativity of Greek illustrator and designer, Charis Tsevis, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, love his fun colorful works. I am also influenced by Roots Reggae Artistes such as, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear. Their messages of truth, equal rights and Justice are ever inspiring and comforting.

What is the project you are most proud of?

I have no one piece to single out. Yes, some are more memorable of course, because of the impact the work has had. My Haiti Posters, designed in solidarity with the people of Haiti, devastated by the 2010 earthquake, are the ones I am happy to have contributed to the Haiti Poster Project. I am also proud of my Arab Spring posters supporting the grass roots uprising across the Middle East region to remove oppressive governments from their backs.Haiti poster, by Michael Thompson

Haiti poster, by Michael Thompson

What would be your dream job or project?

I have already started on a dream project. The Reggae Hall of Fame. In 2012, I started a “why not?” campaign to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame Museum in Kingston, Jamaica. Interest in this led to my founding the International Reggae Poster Contest. Today, my partner Maria Papaefstathiou, and I have successfully launched the second annual contest in 2013. For the inaugural contest in 2012, we received 1,142 Posters from 80 countries. We also held two exhibitions of the top 100 posters. The first exhibition was held at the National Gallery of Jamaica, and the second at AKTO Design College in Athens, Greece. We also auctioned a selection of posters from the contest in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised over US$6,000 for an important Institution in the history of reggae music, the Alpha Boys’ School. Alpha Boys’ School is a Sister of Mercy run school for wayward boys in Kingston, Jamaica. This school is credited with shaping the musical journey of many of the founding fathers of Reggae Music. Raising money for this school is one of the contest objectives. I also had the opportunity to rebrand the school’s corporate image. The director of the school Sister Susan Frasier, decided to use one of my iconic Poster images to celebrate the school’s new logo.

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

There are many in the field who deserve to be recognized in the field of graphics and poster design. For example, some of the new young Cuban artists who have taken the baton from the earlier masters. Today, access to the wider world is still limited to Cuban designers due to the limited access to high speed Internet and the embargo. Slanted magazine, from Germany, an independent publication on graphic design, typography, photography, and illustration— has launched a crowd-funding initiative for a project to expose the works of the amazing young Cuban poster designers through their magazine. I am delighted that they are reaching out to the young Cuban designers and giving them an opportunity to share their art on such an international scale. There are also other young artist and designers who are creating powerful designs and illustrations; Taj Francis, a young Jamaica illustrator is one to be applauded for powerful and dynamic illustrations. Dane Thompson, who is my son, for his urban design aesthetics that are outside the box. I find his creative visual expression captivating and fresh.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I am not always one to give advice, However, the best advice I can give is to be passionate in what you do. Open your hearts and eyes to the issues of the wider world. Educate yourself about the problems confronting a large segment of the world’s population; poverty, oppression and lack of resources we take for granted in the western world. We are designers and we have powerful tools at our disposal so lets use them to help bring about positive change and support those who are making a difference for the marginalized and impoverished people of the world.Egypt Revolution, by Michael Thompson

Egypt Revolution, by Michael Thompson

What’s next for you?

I am looking forward to new opportunities for Freestylee exhibitions in 2013. At the moment, I am in discussion with a gallery in New York, for an upcoming Freestylee poster exhibition in Spring. On 14 April 2013, I will be conducting a talk about my work at the Allentown Arts Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I am also looking ahead for more creative activism initiatives that will make a difference, and to expand the International Reggae Poster contest campaign toward our objective the Reggae Hall of Fame Museum.

Nah Leave Di Area, by Wilfred Limonious

Nah Leave Di Area, by Wilfred Limonious

Wild Apache album cover, by Wilfred Limonious

Wild Apache album cover, by Wilfred Limonious

Christmas Time, by Wilfred Limonious

Christmas Time, by Wilfred Limonious

Special thanks and credits to Maria Papaefstathiou, graphic designer and blogger based in Greece and to the record label, Power House and Christopher Bateman for use of the Wilfred Limonious artworks via the websites;wilfredlimonious.com and infinestyle.wordpress.com.

For more information Michael’s work visit www.freestylee.net

This month’s network of events

THE US

TYPO | San Francisco 2013: Part of an annual series of international design talks, TYPO San Francisco takes the theme of ‘Contrast and Compare’; inviting speakers and audience members to reflect on this idea in the design world. 11-12 April at Yerba Buena Center for Arts, 701 Mission Street (at 3rd Street)
San Francisco, CA 94103-3138.  For more information, go to typotalks.com/sanfrancisco/

THE CARIBBEAN

Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. Revamped and redesigned with a new broader vision, this premier Caribbean cultural event will showcase acclaimed global artistes and artisans over 13 days on a beautiful island in the sun. From 30 April to 12 May 2013. Visit www.stluciajazz.org for details.

AFRICA

Candice Breitz / The Woods. The first solo show of Johannesburg-born artist, Candice Breitz. Featuring a trilogy of video installations which look into the world of child performers and the performance of childhood in order to probe the dreams and promises embedded in mainstream cinema. Runs until 30 March at Goodman Gallery, 163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg, 2193. For more information visit www.goodman-gallery.com

EUROPE

Afrofuture: As part of Milan Design Week, La Rinascente’s flagship store will be celebrating the world’s original design festival Salone del Mobilein dynamic style for 2013 as it presents ‘Afrofuture’. Through media, events and performance, La Rinascente will demonstrate the exciting mind-shift in African technology and how it’s radically shaping new notions of design. Milan Design Week runs from 9-12 April. For more information visit www.afrofuture.it or contact Cristina@karlaotto.com at the press office.

v-i Selection of All-Time Favourite Commercials

The Guardian ‘Points of View’
Date: 1986
Directed by Paul Weiland
Creative by John Webster
Agency: BMP
Levi’s ‘Drugstore’
Date: 1995
Directed by Michel Gondry
Creative by Nick Worthington & John Gorse
Agency: BBH
Levi’s ‘The Swimmer’
Date: 1995
Directed by Tarsem
Creative by Rooney Carruthers & Larry Barker
Agency: BBH
Wrangler – ‘Be more than a number’
Date: 1990s
Directed by Vaughan & Anthea
Creative by Chris Palmer & Mark Denton
Agency: TBWA
VW Passat ‘God Bless the Child’
Date: 1990
Directed by Tony Kaye
Agency: BMP DDB Needham
Greenpeace ‘Dumb Animals’
Date: 1980s
Directed by David Bailey
Agency: Yellowhammer
Citroen CX2 ‘La Beaute Sauvage’
Date: 1985
Directed by Jean Paul Goude
Agency: Euro RSCG
Apple ‘1984’
Date: 1983
Directed by Ridley Scott
Creative by Steve Hayden & Brent Thomas
Agency: Chiat / Day
Nike ‘Kick It’
Date: 1992
Directed by Tony Kaye
Creative by Chris Palmer & Mark Denton
Agency: Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson
Ford Puma ‘Bullitt’
Date: 1990s
Directed by Paul Street
Creative by Leighton Ballet & Lee Goulding
Agency: Y&R
Polaroid ‘Resignation’
Date: 1996
Directed by Michel Gondry
Creative by Nick Worthington & John Gorse
Agency: BBH
NHS Careers ‘Smile’
Date: 2003
Directed by Malcolm Venville
Creative by Jon Daniel & Simon Impey
Agency: D’Arcy
Pot Noodle ‘Ace of Spades’
Date: 1990s
Creative by Trevor Robinson & Al Young
Agency: HHCL
Radio Rentals ‘Max Headroom’
Date: 1980s
Agency: CDP
Maxell Tapes ‘Me Ears Are Alight’
Date: 1990
Creative by Naresh Ramchandani & Dave Buonaguidi
Agency: HHCL

Post-Colonial : Stamps from the African Diaspora Animated Promo

A graphic animated promo celebrating stamps from the African diaspora.

Concept & Creative Direction: Jon Daniel.
Animation: Dave Daniels.
Original Music Composition: Nicholas Brown.
Generously supported by Stanley Gibbons.

For more information or to view the online exhibition visit: facebook.com/​AfricanDiasporaStamps

Stamps from the African Diaspora

Creative Review | Monograph | October 2011

In this digital age, where email has now usurped postal mail as the global communication of choice, stamps remain a small yet powerful canvas on which to stimulate cultural interest and provoke debate.

The following collection was borne out of a campaign I initiated in the early 1990’s.

Inspired by the lyrics of Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ (‘cause I’m Black and I’m proud, I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped, Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps’) I realised that no Black historical and cultural figures had been represented on British stamps.

To address this, I created a unique series of stamp designs highlighting ‘Black Contribution to Britain’.

Unfortunately, although I campaigned for many years, garnering support from several MP’s, The Prince of Wales, English Heritage, and The Commission for Racial Equality amongst many others, my stamp designs were never to see the light of day.

However, as part of the campaign to persuade Royal Mail to embrace my initiative, and armed with expert historical guidance from Dr. Patrick Ismond and The Black Cultural Archives, I researched and collected stamps from around the world. These featured leading figures from the African Diaspora who had been celebrated by other countries.

Thanks to Creative Review, I am able to share a small selection of this international stamp collection with Creative Review subscribers via the publication, Monograph.

This collection will also form part of a wider exhibition, ‘Post-Colonial: Stamps from the African Diaspora’ on Facebook and at the flagship London store of the world’s greatest stamp emporium Stanley Gibbons.

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