An Interview With Anthony Burrill

If you’ve not seen them yet, we recently collaborated with graphic artist, print-maker and designer Anthony Burrill to create a limited-edition print inspired by Peter Werth’s heritage and drawing inspiration from the Perry Boys book written by Ian Hough, who charted one of the great untold stories of modern youth culture.

IMG_956611Anthony Burrill is known for his persuasive, up-beat style of communication. His work is held in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York and has been exhibited in galleries around the world including The Barbican, The Walker Art Centre and The Graphic Design Museum, Breda. In 2012, he made his first foray into curating with the exhibition Made in L.A. – Work by Colby Poster Printing, at KK Outlet in London.

Words and language are an important part of Burrill’s output and he has developed a distinctive voice that is sought after not only by collectors of his posters and prints but also by clients including Wallpaper* magazine, The Economist, The British Council, London Underground and The Design Museum. Burrill is perhaps best known for his typographic, text-based compositions, including the now-famous “Work Hard and Be Nice to People”, which has become a mantra for the design community and beyond.


Here’s a recent interview we did with him. Enjoy

1. Who are your graphic design heroes? And why?
I find a lot of inspiration from the world outside graphic design. I like to seek out work made by untrained designers, whether that’s hand made street signs, lost cat posters or awkward signage in corner shops. I like the quirks and character of lettering that has been made to serve a quick purpose, with no pretensions of ‘good design’ or refined visual taste. When design becomes too well thought out or rationalised it loses its character and humour. I like to make my work very directly and simply with the minimum of visual decoration. The message is the most important thing and that’s what I aim to concentrate on communicating.

2. How do you know which are the best words to use on a poster?
I like short words, they look good when set in large type. Short words are punchy, direct and don’t take too long to read. It’s much more effective to use a few short words to say something, its more memorable if there is less to remember.

3. What is it about Adams that you like so much?
The sense of craft and a stubborn dedication to not change things. Ian and Derek are wonderful craftsmen, its a real joy to work with them producing unique pieces of print that are impossible to replicate using any other means. I love the age of the place, its relaxed atmosphere, there’s never a rush, everything takes time and is the better for it. I like the spirit of Adams, its refusal to change its ways.

4. What makes a good poster?
A poster needs to communicate its message, to get its point across quickly. Almost every poster you see has too much information on it, details that don’t matter, we need to strip everything back to the minimum, whilst still remaining visually rich. I look back at the work of designers from the past such as  Abraham Games and Tom Eckersley, and I find the work incredibly satisfying visually. maybe its something to do with the nostalgia, or the way their posters evoke a certain atmosphere.

5. Give us a nerdy graphic design tip!
Don’t use too many words, keep thing simple, there’s less to go wrong.

6. Does size matter?
Scale is important, I like to use large type and contrast it with small type. Each gives the other a visual anchor. Large posters are good too, the bigger the better. I like to work on a large scale, nothing beats seeing your work produced at a large scale.

7. What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from the every day, the regular normal stuff that we do without thinking about it. I try and pick up on small things that can be magnified and speak about wider truths that everyone can relate to.

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