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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

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Posted by Rob Alderson

Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including itsnicethat.com, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.

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