Butt Studio: Harry Butt’s multidisciplinary graphic design practice that doesn’t sit still
- Lucy Bourton
- 27 February 2018
Butt Studio, a title which describes the multidisciplinary work of graphic designer Harry Butt, is so much more than its comedic name. “The name started as a joke at the end of university because it sounded ridiculous,” the designer tells It’s Nice That. “When I went fully freelance I had to spend a long time thinking about whether to keep it. When paying rent meant getting more clients the joke seemed less funny, but it survived and somehow so did I, despite the burden/blessing of an unconventional surname.”
Harry is a bit of jack of all trades (and a master of them too) when it comes to graphic design. The designer’s multifaceted portfolio has stemmed from a creative education which saw him hop between not only disciplines but countries too. Studying graphic design at Brighton, Harry spent a term in Japan at the University of Arts in Nagoya, an experience he describes as “crucial to forming a multidisciplinary practice, venturing into the world of moving image among other things like ceramics, printmaking and calligraphy,” he explains. “While my practice has since narrowed down slightly to graphic design, illustration and animation, the ways of thinking I learned in Japan have stuck with me. It was a truly special experience.”
Since graduating Harry went to New York to work at Sagmeister & Walsh, before heading back to London and working stints at Boiler Room and DSDHA Architects. In a freelance capacity he’s also created work for Sony, Vice, the BBC, various media companies and smaller record labels too. The designer’s ability to apply himself to so many realms of design is a testament to his hardworking and optimistic outlook. “My time at university was wholly beneficial, though since going freelance I have had to work hard to reassemble my practice to fit into a commercial environment,” he says. “This transition has helped sculpt the mixture of thoroughly free-wheeling, blindfolded image-making with more serious and considered design that forms my practice.”
As a result of his versatile design attributes, Harry has amalgamated a giant portfolio of varied work, but it’s one of his personal projects which struck us the most. “A lot of my recent work has been experimenting with old fractal software which generates imagery using mathematical formulas,” the designer explains. “Through a combination of trial and error and a growing knowledge of formulas, I’m able to use the software to generate images and animations that have been key to my personal and commercial work.” The result of these technical experiments is surprisingly organic, fluid and colourful, acting almost as a description of Butt Studio’s output as a whole by “defining a practice that bridges the gap between the recognisable and the wholly surreal: I like to make work that dances between the two so the viewer can project their own emotions and perspectives into the image.”
On top of all this, Harry also has “a huge interest in anthropological investigations,” finding a place in his graphic practice through publication design. He’s made books on marriage in Japan, the UK’s lorry drivers, the docks in his hometown of Grimsby, Trump voters in America and next will embark on “an investigation into bell-ringing in Suffolk and how it ties into rural British identity,” he explains.
Although it could appear that Butt Studio can’t sit still within a particular realm of graphic design, it seems more that the designer takes inspiration from climbing into pockets of different disciplines and weaving them together to form his very own.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.