Rockin’ the role
I started designing by accident, making band posters when I was a teenager, because I was in a band, and someone had to make the posters. I got a cracked copy of photoshop and taught myself how to use it.
It was always sort of a side thing until I got a job at an e-commerce, home-shopping company as a junior copywriter. They realised I could do poster designs because I got caught doing band posters at work, so they made me a junior designer.
I taught myself on the job. I did a lot of stuff, maybe the incorrect way to begin with, but I think you find out as you grow, with design or anything else, there’s not always one correct way. It’s more of an “all roads lead to Rome” sort of thing.
I came to love design because it was creative work that made sense in a technical and structured way. I was very focused on music at the time, and I found I could still focus that part of my brain in a way that didn’t require all of my emotional energy for every second. It was the first time I could see a career path that made sense to me.
I think a lot of designers have other creative outlets in their lives. A lot of people study fine arts, then find themselves transitioning into design. Andy Warhol, for example, was a graphic designer and illustrator who used to do stuff for shoe catalogues and other quite (on the face of it) mundane things.
A good designer isn’t necessarily an incredibly gifted artist. It’s more about having an eye for beautiful function.
Like copywriting or any other core agency skill, it’s all creativity with a purpose. All creativity has a purpose, but I suppose this discipline feels more measurable.
We can be heroes
I have my design heroes. I always tend to lean into people who are illustrator designers, but the guy who I’ll mention as an influence — an illustrator, did a lot of band posters as well — is Andrew Fairclough.
He’s an Australian who works out of LA under the name Kindred Studios. The first time I noticed his work was on an album cover for the band Art vs. Science, Off The Edge of The Earth and Into Forever, Forever. It had this this great sci-fi surrealist vibe.
He has a technique where he blends digital and analogue — this classic comic book style. He makes these analogue textures and scans them in, so they look like wear and tear, and all these psychedelic patterns he’s made from paint swirls. I love his eye for composition and the interesting things he does stylistically. The way he gets there is a fun, creative process, as opposed to making it happen in the quickest way possible.
Creativity within limits
I don’t feel constrained by working within a client’s brand parameters. It’s the Brian Eno principle of creativity within limits, even if those limits don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense sometimes. It’s like a client is laying out all these puzzle pieces for you and your job is to find the way it all fits together.
I couldn’t single out any specific work I’ve done with The Being Group as something I’m most proud of, because I try to take pride in everything I do. But if I had to, it’s the concept work we did for Privacy Awareness Week 2022. It won us the job and watching it evolve through the design team, where other people were able to take it to new places, was really rewarding for me.
Process is everything
I’ve changed a lot as a designer over the years. Because I was self-taught originally, I used to do a lot of things on the fly. As well as learning from other designers, I went for formal training about five years ago, at the Billy Blue College of Design, even though I’d been designing for about six years at that point.
For me the most difficult thing about working in design is blank canvas syndrome, where you’re laying out a long document and you get to yet another page that needs to look unique. There’s always a time when I hit that wall and realise my brain’s in that space, so I go and look at inspiring things for five minutes.
Experience is about being self-aware enough to understand your own habits and work your process around that.
If he wasn’t a designer, Tim Meaco would be a luthier — an artisan maker of stringed instruments. He has absolutely no plans to get a haircut.