Joseph Melhuish has no interest in seeing his work on a big billboard selling a product – even though this might be where the big money is. Instead, what brings him the most joy is seeing his work on the streets of numerous cities across the world. This is why he immerses himself in the world of music; taking part in its thriving subculture, having creative freedom when it comes to briefs, and making work that resonates with him personally. “I think that designing with musicians is often a lot more about a feeling, a relationship and trusting your instincts,” says Joseph.
An avid music collector, DJ and drummer, alongside his creative career Joseph has been involved in the world of music for a long time – “I guess I’m just a big music nerd,” he says. Being immersed in the music industry both personally and professionally, Joseph has come to learn that it’s much more receptive and willing to connect with “art” and unique visions, as opposed to commercial commissions. This fact has allowed Joseph to shift and switch up his style, introducing virtual reality into his practice. “I was feeling a little like the traditional workflow of 3D was becoming a slog,” he says, so he relished “finding a process that allowed me to work more expressively; with feeling.”
Joseph sees the added physicality and organic nature of VR as having made his work a lot more “energetic”, with a little more “awkwardness and charm” than classic 3D, which he sees as sometimes lacking “the touch of a human being”. But, despite this more unique approach Joseph is still intent on creating work that isn’t purely stylistic, and that people can connect with. This is why he’s adopted a figurative approach throughout his posters, and while they may be abstract, otherworldly and alien-like, they bring a certain warmth, humour and personality to Joseph’s work. “I think part of clubbing and enjoying music is about people and how they relate to each other,” says Joseph. “I want to make work that evokes the feeling of liberation, freedom, power, transcendence, or maybe just going completely feral, that you can feel when you’re part of a musical experience.”
While there might be a lot intricate details and hard work going on in Joe’s VR pieces, the medium has far from limited him. Last year Joe was in Mexico planning a DJ set for a festival and while travelling he whipped up some visuals to accompany the set. “I was on the road so didn’t have time to create a full animation so thought that just animating the lights and doing a rapid-fire edit would be a fun way to create a sense of movement with minimal effort,” he says. In the end the visuals didn’t end up getting used at the festival (it didn’t have the right screen) but it was later adopted by the DJ Gafacci for his track with Dengue Dengue Dengue. While the whole thing only took a few days, Joe sees the more simplistic monochromic amorphous creatures moving to the beat against a bold red background as some of his best to date, proving that his recent work isn’t only striking but adaptable too.
Recently, some of Joseph’s work was shared on a big design Instagram account. A few of the comments he received said his work was “gross” or “too much”. But rather than being disheartened Joseph says it was “a great experience”. Three years ago – when there was a big backlash against commercial illustration and corporate memphis – he came across one of his pieces on Twitter that someone had shared and called ‘corn-fed shit’. “I honestly had a mild existential panic that I’d started making work just to get work, had my stuff become so un-personal?” Joseph says. Since then, he’s done something of a 180, and found himself and his style. “Now I have the good kind of hater, the one that thinks you’ve gone too far, rather than the kind that thinks you haven’t gone far enough,” Joseph concludes. “To me, that means I’m doing the right thing.”
Joseph Melhuish: SKSKSKSK (Copyright © Joseph Melhuish, 2023)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.