Hey, you – sit up straight, tuck your shirt in and comb your hair, you are in the presence of a true graphic design great. Geoffrey Halpin has been designing graphics with aplomb for over 40 years, and the categories on his portfolio site only go a certain distance in explaining his prolificacy. On his site you’ll find 6 well-defined sections including logos, type and image, and (my personal favourite) ‘Sketches. Life Before the Mac’. Each one is as rich as the next, and I was lucky enough to catch up with Geoffrey himself to carve an insight into his humbling portfolio.
Hi Geoffrey, a 40 year career in design is quite something! What’s the one thing/process/attitude you’d bring back from your early career that is lost in the modern world of design?
What I miss most about my early days in design is the sense of spontaneous creativity, chaos and fun. Almost everything was done by hand so design studios were more like artists’ studios. Most design studios today look and feel more like a bank or an insurance company with rows of people sitting silently in front of their computer screens.
When you left art college you established a studio in Zambia – why Africa?
The reason I went to Africa is very simple: I was in my first job after leaving college and wanted to travel, so I applied for all the jobs I could find in other countries. I was offered the job in Africa first, so I took it. Working in Africa at that time was good for me. Because services like typesetting were very basic, I had to be inventive to get things done. It was then that I began creating letterforms.
You must’ve seen some very special designers over the years, is there anyone who really stood out for you?
I have admired and been inspired by a lot of designers, but if I can only nominate one it would be John Gorham. He is almost unknown to today’s designers but in the late 1960s and 70s he upstaged everyone. His ideas were always brilliant, totally relevant, and he could apply them to everything from posters to packaging.
If you could only show one piece of your work ever again, which would it be and why?
This is the most difficult question to answer because I don’t think that any one thing I have done so far is the one. However if I must choose it would have to be something small and timeless, so I choose ‘Bélier Press’ which I did about 15 years ago in collaboration with illustrator John Geary.
You continue to work as an independent designer and the work feels as fresh as ever – do you think you’ll ever stop designing?
I will never stop designing as long as people give me work. Even if the work stopped I would just carry on, probably making fonts. Most older designers seem to end up as Creative Directors or CEOs. I am not good at directing or delegating but I love to design.