• Commission_wishful_thinking

    Commission Studio stationery

Graphic Design

Graphic Design: A chat with new studio Commission about the Annual and design

Posted by Rob Alderson,

A couple of days ago we unveiled the Annual 2013, our end-of-year look back at some of the most interesting work which has appeared on the site in the past 12 months. This year David McFarline and Christopher Moorby’s new studio Commission have taken on the design and so we caught up with them to find out about their new set-up and their plans for the Annual, and beyond.

You can pre-order the Annual NOW with free P&P in the UK. You’ll also have your name included in the book if you order before midnight on Monday October 14.

How did you guys end up coming together to form Commission?

We first met when we both worked at Made Thought in 2005. We’d both recently graduated and were at the start of our design careers. We quickly identified a kindred spirit in that short time of working together. I think there was a good level of competitiveness between us and we both felt slightly threatened by the talent of the other, which was a great driver. 

David went on to cut his teeth at Spin for the next five years becoming one of the studio’s senior designers and later freelanced at places such as GTF. I remained at Made Thought eventually becoming the studio’s design director, but we continued to work together whenever we got the chance. There was a sense of freedom and openness when designing together that we didn’t get working for other studios. It just felt right to translate that working relationship into a studio of our own. 

  • Mickey-_-johnny

    Commission: Mickey & Jonny website (www.mickeyandjohnny.com)

What influences from other places you’ve worked have you applied to the new set-up?

There are loads of influences we carry with us from other studios – both good and bad! We can only try and carry forward the good stuff to channel into Commission and let the bad stuff influence what not to do. The good stuff? Creating beautiful things with reason and meaning. I think this quality is common through all the best places we’ve worked at and it’s certainly shaped our ideology.

When you have it, you don’t need to present options to solutions. You can stand behind one answer with total conviction. And I think that approach comes from a restless work ethic; endless searching, endless editing.

You say on your site “Good design stands at the crossroads of function and beauty” – do you think this balance sometimes gets skewed in modern design?

I think design – certainly graphic design – is in the best place it’s been for a long time. The days of self indulgent designers seem a distant memory now and graphic design is returning back to its roots as a service industry. That doesn’t mean it’s no longer engaging or interesting but there’s much less ‘style without substance’. Style is an important tool for a designer of course but it’s visual clothing. It needs to be dressed on something with an underlying meaning and soul.

“Function and beauty” is simply the balance we strive for. I think if you hit it, your work will hopefully always be relevant.

“Style is an important tool for a designer of course but it’s visual clothing. It needs to be dressed on something with an underlying meaning and soul.”

Christopher Moorby

What were your first inspirations when approaching the Annual? Why did you want to change it up from last year?

Primarily we wanted it to reflect It’s Nice That’s personality; its sense of energy, inquisitiveness, and fun. We wanted to get that throughout, so we engaged Jiro Bevis to work on some characters that would effectively guide you through the publication – the ‘It’s Nice That Crew’ if you like! We’ve been itching to work with Jiro for a while now and the annual seemed like the perfect place to collaborate.

The actual design is very reactive to the content. The work that It’s Nice That champions is so diverse we wanted a free and adaptive approach for designing the book. There is no grid for example; column widths are dictated by the picture sizes on their respective spreads. The layout is created by eye and instinct. Hopefully it creates a publication that puts the content above the design but still has an attitude and personality of its own.

What are you aims for the studio over the next 12 months?

We’re most looking forward to introducing new members to the studio in time; design is a discussion and it’s important for us there are more voices involved down the line. The idea of hiring a graduate and nurturing and training them is an exciting prospect. We personally had great experiences developing alongside the studios we worked at previously and we would love to give someone that opportunity at Commission. It makes the discussion much more interesting!

  • Music-from-memory-1

    Commission: Music From Memory

  • Music-from-memory-2

    Commission: Music From Memory

  • Pica-post-covers-1

    Commission: Pica Post covers

  • Pica-post-spreads-1

    Commission: Pica Post

  • Pica-post-spreads-2

    Commission: Pica Post

  • Oipolloi_swingtag

    Commission: Oi Polloi clothing identity

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. Tumblr_n4iq1a8swj1qdf776o1_1280

    Anyone you know a downright sourpuss? Treat ‘em to a link to work by Hungarian designer Anna Kövecses. Here at It’s Nice That we give high praise to work that is candy-coloured and cute – as long as it never falls under the tasselled umbrella of “twee.” Anna’s work is a perfect example of that as beneath the childish exterior lies a wealth of design knowledge and style.

  2. List

    In the year-and-a-half since we first featured Belgian designer Vincent Vrints on the site his fortunes have risen with the quality of his work. We were always enamoured with his canny ability to create aesthetically astounding imagery and merge it with equally appealing layouts, but he’s refined his process and embraced some new digital techniques resulting in a portfolio that floats between the retro and the ultra futuristic.

  3. Main8

    Google Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums and almost every book cover design that appears either depicts someone hitchhiking or it has the aesthetic of a grotty travel diary of someone who’s been “finding themselves” along a motorway for a month or two too long. Kerouac’s novels don’t even need covers, right? They’re stand-alone pieces of literary genius. Big applause is needed then for Copenhagen designer Torsten Lindsø Andersen who has taken the rulebook of second-rate Kerouac book design and thrown it out the train window on to the track where it belongs. These ambient, sterile designs he’s proposed for the author’s back catalogue are the perfect fit to the words within: weird, unpredictable, drunk and unique.

  4. List

    I am a big believer that every magazine should be able to sum up what it does in a few words. New title The-Art-Form does just that with the pithy statement that it’s “a limited edition publication about art and artists.” Issue one features six artists – Ian Davenport, Peter Liversidge, Rana Begum, Dan Baldwin, Michael Reisch and Paul Insect – and each has been asked 13 questions ranging from why they make art to their favourite place. The answers vary not only in tone and subject matter (as you’d expect) but also in form, so while Ian has provided handwritten answers, Michael, Dan and Rana have created paintings, drawings and sketches in response to the questionnaire.

  5. List

    Over the last few weeks we have been exploring how Shillington College are revolutionising design education through their own model of practically-focused graphic design tuition. We talked to the teachers about how they put together this new kind of course and to those employers who have found the college to be an invaluable resource of young design talent. To round off this series of features, we went along to the London Graduation Show a few weeks ago to chat to some of the students about their experiences, so rather than hear it from us, best hit play and hear it straight from them…

  6. List

    It’s been a couple of years since we headed over to Sweden to celebrate the work of Stockholm studio Research and Development but in that time art directors Daniel Olsson and Jonas Topooco have kept the great work coming. They’re a versatile pair who pride themselves on working closely with their clients to produce design work that plays to their strengths without losing sight of the brief in a blaze of self-indulgence. Anyone who can make a publication for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency look this interesting is always going to get in our good books.

  7. Main9

    Anyone who designs a clock that reminds you to “have a nice day” must be a good person, and it turns out Joe Cole Porter is not just nice, he’s also incredibly good at what he does. His work is the perfect balance of well-informed and actually fun. How many times have you watched through your fingers at corporate brands trying to be fun and ending up just being boring with a healthy dose of wacky? Exactly. They should take a leaf out of Joe’s book and produce design that is cheerful and colourful but intelligent enough to get the job done at the same time – a bit like a friendly builder, or a cheeky plumber. Some of Joe’s most exciting stuff is his record sleeve design, and we hope to see a little more of that in the future.

  8. List

    Five years ago when we first discovered Swiss designer Mathias Schweizer (thanks to Côme de Bouchony) he was an incredibly elusive fellow, with no online presence to speak of and little work to be found anywhere on the internet. Since then he’s been nothing short of prolific, producing exhibition identities, posters, publications, typefaces, solo and group shows as well as out and out experimental pieces. In fact the one thing that seems to define his work is experimentation; with classic design rules broken all over the place in his vast portfolio.

  9. List

    I’m not sure what it is about the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague that means it spews out so much creative talent at such an alarming rate, but it certainly doesn’t show any sign of stopping soon. Here’s an example; Marinus Schepen hasn’t even graduated from his Graphic Design studies there just yet, but the work he’s creating is of such a calibre that we can’t help but share it any how.

  10. Main

    Unless you’ve recently relocated from a teeny tiny little hut atop a snowy, sheep-covered mountain miles from the nearest village, you probably know that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is on. It’s only the world’s biggest arts festival, after all. What you might not know is how it all began. Back in 1947, when corned beef was still a dietary staple and your granny was grateful for her bread and dripping sandwiches, eight rogue theatre troops gatecrashed the Edinburgh International Festival. These unofficial performers staged shows on the outskirts of the festival, and so “the fringe” was born.

  11. List

    This identity that design studio Bleed have created for a new office building called Monier in Oslo, Norway, is heavily founded on the principles of the building itself, as well as the history of the site it has been built on. The idea for the logo is derived from the building’s three different window shapes, the studio explains, which are a key aspect of the building’s cubistic architecture.

  12. List

    With Richard Turley now utilising his skills for the betterment of MTV’s creative offering, Bloomberg Businessweek has been left in the hands of his two former proteges, Rob Vargas and Tracy Ma. Rob’s work is already pretty well known by devotees of the title, but Tracy’s is arguably the most experimental of anyone working for a global publication like Businessweek. Her use of layout and typography is arresting to the point of distraction, but is always used in a manner that serves the story first and foremost. Similarly her aesthetic choices often feel informed by a lifetime spent online, with brash colours, textures and stock imagery proliferating her spreads – which for a title that deals with the politics and economics of the digital age feels impeccably on point.

  13. Main9

    Fantastic work here from Lyon’s boundary-pushing designers Antoine Eckart and Francis Josserand, also know as Alles Gut. How do you say Alles Gut? Here at It’s Nice That we say it as if we’re saying “all’s good” in a funny European accent. Each to their own. Anyway, Alles Gut make the kinds of fliers, posters and small publications that we are totally into – sharp, well-considered colours and well thought-out references come together to make modern printed matter with quick-witted retro aesthetic references. Personal favourites? I’d say the posters for the HASTE parties – they really, really make you want to go to those parties.