John Rooney is a Senior Teaching Fellow in Graphic Design and Visual Communication at the University of Leeds, dedicated to Typography, Type design, Graphic Design for the creative arts, and Image-making.
John previously ran his own design consultancy that spanned a diverse range of clients in the creative arts sector. This included a 12-year creative commission with Tate Gallery Liverpool. He worked with the curators to produce award-winning art books, exhibition newsletters, international gallery and artist advertising campaigns, web design work, and motion graphic projects.
His Ph.D. practiced exploring the relationship between autobiography, place, situated knowledge, and known practice methods in developing a distinctive location informed creative identity.
Creativity Without Frontiers is available at all relevant book retailers
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Hello, I'm Roy Sharples, and welcome to the unknown origins podcast. Why are you listening to this podcast? Are you an industry expert looking for insights? are you growing your career? Or are you a dear friend, helping to spur your old power on? I created the unknown origins podcast, to have the most inspiring conversations with creative industry personalities and experts about entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, film and fashion. John Rooney is a senior teaching fellow in graphic design and Visual Communication at the University of Leeds, dedicated to typography, type design, graphic design for the creative arts and image making. John previously run his own design consultancy that spans a diverse range of clients in the creative arts sector. This included a 12 year creative commission, with Tate Gallery, Liverpool, he worked with the curators to produce award winning art books, exhibition newsletters, international gallery, and artists, advertising campaigns, web design, work, and motion graphic projects. his PhD practice exploring the relationship between autobiography, place situated knowledge and known practice methods and developing a distinctive location and formed creative identity. Hello and welcome John!John Rooney:
Thanks for asking me Roy! It's great to to be involved in a project like this. So yeah, it's happy to happy to get involved, what inspired and attracted you to type orography and graphic art in the first place. I think when you're interested in typography and graphic design, what I think tends to happen is you're interested in something else, then you notice the graphic designer and typography afterwards, that comes later. And for me, this kind of connects back to my PhD study about formative design experience and how important that is on current practice. And that there are several examples of really the things that I remember growing up, which is kind of important. Stay with me. Well, the first thing was we used to have a book club at school and the teachers that range on a set of books that you could go and pick one and buy that book and bring someone in, in primary school. And I always like the Puffin book covers, yeah, really beautifully drawn, and the words look great. Yeah. And I remember flicking through them. And they use a particular typeface of I didn't know at the time, it was called Joanna Eric Gill typeface. And the thing about that the lowercase g in Joanna, the the the bottom part of the G curls back in itself and goes right to the top of the counter. And it's a beautiful letter farm. And I just remember looking at looking at that kind of the stories written in that typeface and thinking, this looks more attractive to read because it's written like this. Yeah, I didn't understand about typography are, you know, the shape of letters are the type design, but it felt more attractive and more engaging to read because it was designed like that. And that's, that's kind of a formative memory of, I suppose the importance of and, and the kernel of the value of type design. Yeah, moving along a little bit. I guess my The reason why I am a graphic designer is that I'm a product of my parents in the my mom, as well as looking after four kids and my dad really, really enjoyed art and painted pink paintings about where she grew up in Manchester and central Manchester. So the paintings are very narrative paintings of stories of her life. And alongside that, alongside her interest in art, where she got me into things like to watch and things like the shock of the new, which I would have never watched when I was a kid, and it was talking about surrealism, and you know, pop art and all these things which you're exposed to a say, another 10 year old, it's not something you would get into schedule a time, it's something that I that I kind of became aware of, because my mom was interested in what she wanted to find out more. So I watched it with her. And the other thing was my dad, a he was a printer, and he printed the Daily Mirror in Manchester. And he's to come home and bring me these really sick markers. And copy is a big piles of of blank newspapers because when they printed the Daily Mirror, or any newspaper, what they used to do these to run, run the test the machines that run the paper through the machine and what they wouldn't print the wouldn't print a newspaper, but they print it blank. If you said to me, it's just the Daily Mirror logo at the top. Yeah, the newspaper was blank. So they'd make these and run it through the machine to make sure everything worked before they actually run the actual with the plates. So he used to bring those home, I used to make my own newspapers, and make my own stories and do their drawings and things. So that kind of that kind of interesting in from a purely graphic design point of view, taking the taking the idea of graphic design is where you make graphic marks, you know, you make marks on a page or on a wall or what have you, that kind of led my interest in, in kind of that form of creativity, although at the time, again, I didn't really know what it was it the cat became aware of graphic design. When I started getting interested in music, yeah, and you buy the band album once a week, and you go into town, to virgin virgin megastore to particular records to buy an album, you buy the album last couple singles. And then you'd have the heat of the journey home to to process it, you could listen to it. But now you'd have to wait and wait another 40 minutes an hour. So you have time to look at the slave. Yeah. And the slave always had was designed by the designer who was was communicating the point of the slave in terms of showing you who the artist was. But there was also a lot more apply really in that the you know, relevantly, the early 80s. designers were kind of obviously coming from art school coming from post punk. Lots of references to to art movements, and expressive typography and more radical things, some of those things were kind of embedded in there in the artwork. And if you're interested, you could explore that and find out more about that, you know, explore the names of the people who, who, who created them. Um, I think a really critical piece was an article in face magazine, against one that which I mentioned in my PhD is written by john Savage. It's called the age of plunder. Yeah. And that that is explicitly explicitly talked about how were graphic designers reference their ideas from an IT WAS connected, say, the work of barley bubbles, who had never heard off to Cubism, to Jean to different kinds of different kinds of paints that are styles. And obviously, Mark and Garrett and Peter Savile their references to modernism and post modernism, you know, looking at, say, young tishell are, you know, are to say pop art like Peter Phillips, some? So you'd say, Well, you know, this is what you're looking at, you're looking at, say, a piece of vinyl, but really, it's connected to a wider world. And then from there, that kind of joined up all the pieces that I was thinking of, actually, it kind of makes sense, what kind of wants to do. I had a kind of, I think, when I was 16, or 17, I thought, you know, I'm going to work with either mark and Gary or Peter Savile, have to do still so it kind of it kind of worked out, but it was kind of one of those things you do when you're young, you think, well, I'm gonna do that. Yeah, you know, I don't know how I'm gonna do it. Because I'm living in North Manchester. I'm not connected to that world at all. So and it kind of it was the starting point for me to start to think, okay, you know, that's kind of what I want to do. I've got these kinds of references. And, you know, that sort of led me to do to become, you know, to start thinking about graphic design at college, which I did. Sort of that's that's the beginning. That's, that's the kind of beginning of my kind of creative journey, if you like that. So it kind of that sort of began the sort of more formative experience. And even though there's another thing as well, but another reference when I was really young with my mom or dad We're looking to buy a house. And before, right me, we get to drive around the streets and we want to live, right? And you'd see a for sale sign and you'd knock on the door, you know, and it was just it came out in that now. I mean, he wasn't just knocking on some random strangers talking to people around, you know, it's bizarre. One of the things that one of the things I remember is, I was getting extremely boring process to do it when you like, say, four or five. But the thing that really caught my eye was was when we were put that there was a row of for sale signs, and they're all rectangles. And there's one for an estate agent, and they were around a red circle. And I remember thinking at the time, again, that's that stands out that's different. Why is that different? And why do I remember that? You know, and that that sort of that way of producing a piece of work where you can make a subtle difference, make a big difference. That's something where I think that is kind of is something that I think about, especially from teaching, say, you know, advertising at a university is that it's about looking at objects, looking at ideas in a slightly different way, or a slightly different approach, which makes things makes everyone look at things differently. It's not, it's not a huge change. But it's not, it's enough to make a big change.Roy Sharples:
You made some points in there, john, that really resonated particularly around manifestation of how you feel inside, and the things that you observe and the everyday life and making connections from past the present. And across multiple disciplines and domains, regardless of how abstract they may appear first, and where you use those connections to crystallize into a new solution to a problem, a recent conversation that I had with our mutual friend, Malcolm Garrett, who made the point around that, over time, that he's realized that he's just as much a connector as he as he is a designer, and that he feels that his role is to primarily connect people to information, people, to people, and designers, to designers, and clients to clients. And by finding connections between things, and people that can be brought together to create a third thing. And his key point was, the better you do your job, the more invisible you as a designer become. Because if you see the design, then that's interrupting the communication process. And the communication just has to work without thought. For example, the New York City subway signage was a hodgepodge of lettering sizes, materials, colors, styles and messages, creating a chaotic experience for commuters. Until Helvetica, typography was introduced in the 1980s as the standard signage, and became ubiquitous, resulting in bringing structure to chaos, and improving how commuters navigate their journeys. What is your creative process? In terms of how do you make the invisible visible by dreaming up ideas, developing them into concepts, and then bringing them to actualization.John Rooney:
You look at how other designers and other creative people create their work and how they create their practice. And I think by exploring the methodologies of other designers, then you can find out how you would that fit in the way you want to work. It's not connected to graphic design, but David Bailey photographer, I remember even was that he, when he talks takes a photograph of someone, he spends a week with them. And he gets to know them gets to get to chat to them, and they feel more relaxed at the end of the week, then he photographs them. Because if you photograph someone at the beginning of a session, then then that's that that's one person because you've got relationship between the lens and the camera and the person and the person knows being photographed. And if you spend some time with that person, if you explore what they are what they want to do, then you get something which is more honest. So from if I'm if I'm doing a piece of design work, it's getting to know the person who are doing the design for now, it's understanding who they are, rather than just having a brief is possible. Sometimes you just get a brief but if you've got a brief with a live client, or you're working on a project, you know, it's Yeah, it's good to get to know that particular person, like what they're interested in how they how they see this project working. Because the person who's asked you to do a piece of creative work is invested in that work. You know, they want you to, to explore that idea to create a piece of work, which is reflects their investment and reflects their, their, you know, their understanding and their passion for it. So it's, it's, you know, it's understanding that I like take a little bit of time. You know, I think that it's, it can be truncated through deadlines and now with with, with with design sometimes get really short deadlines. And, you know, that's that's kind of the nature of of the job I guess. But it's having if it's, you know, having that that sort of relationship or understanding with a client. And that's where the best work comes from. I think that's kind of how I like to work. It's interesting doing this question, because it's made me think about how I do that anyway, how I work, you know, what, what method do I use in practice? You know, from starting the job from from, from, you know, from from scratch, what do I do? How do I explore that, and I think it's, it's, it's, it's trying to understand the client, and speak to them and get and listen to what they want. And think, you know, a lot of what we do, as visual communicators is looking, but also listening, you're listening to the artists listen to the client, and then you can produce a piece of work, which, ultimately, you're happy with, and they're happy with as well. So that's, that's kind of really, really key. Kind of, I also think that that will just make it some looking at me kind of note, say that. Yeah, it's about trust, it's about building up a trust. I also, you know, having, collecting, collecting reference, collecting ideas, collecting lots of visual references, not just from graphic design, because, you know, as a graphic designer, you don't work with graphic designers, you work with other people, you work with other practitioners, if it's a musician, or it's an artist, or a photographer, or, you know, someone who's who, I don't know, is built fences, I don't like it, it's something that isn't graphic design. So you have to adapt to understand that particular client. But also, you know, you have to be aware of design all the time. For example, I got an email on my phone today from university. And it was from it was, it hadn't been formatted properly, I looked at it on my phone, the text was too big. Yeah, the page and went out when it opened up on the page, it overlaid itself and looked great, you know, it looked really interesting. So I just took a screenshot of it. And I thought, well, I can, I can keep that for Sufism, just for reference and prints out, stick it in a book or have it as a kind of reference, it's having those kind of, it's, it's constantly looking constantly looking for, for references, which are connected to graphic design, which are connected to, you know, text, the mistakes and said them, but also things like, you know, as I mentioned, graphic design, people, so graphic designers should look at other things apart from graphic design, you know, I look at say architecture, photography, music, poetry, philosophy, all these different things that you can, that you can use these different sort of expressions of ideas, how can those working methodologies inform what you did? And I think that that kind of, that's kind of why looking at other references, for example, you know, I kind of looked at David Bailey, and that inspired me to work in the way that I do, it's not a graphic designer working in that way, it's a photographer, but I really like the idea of, of, you know, if possible, getting to know as much as you can about the client, as you're working with them. Yeah. And when I do that, invariably produces a piece of work, which, as I said before, is just a piece of work that I'm happy with. Yeah. Because I guess that I always want to do a piece of work, which I'm happy with. It's something that I'm proud to say, this is why I've done and to make sure that the client is happy as well, you know, the client gets that. So you have that ongoing kind of understanding and dialogue through through discussion. You know, isn't isn't always possible. I know that money is kind of that's the way that you know, I'd like to work with on projects that are kind of the kind of stuff that I do, predominantly with, with art galleries, and creative, creative identities, that kind of thing. You can have that kind of conversation. so and so. I'm fortunate that respects that that's kind of what I've always done.Roy Sharples:
The research and exploration and collaboration component. Have your creative process really stood out. And it is really important to collaborate when exploring new ideas, finding innovative solutions, and not being afraid to learn. Collaboration is the cross pollination and sharing of knowledge across multiple domains by combining individuals intellectual capital, and know how, which is a catalyst for creative inspiration and innovation. From unit experience to date, John, what are the critical skills needed to be a typographer and graphic artist?John Rooney:
Graphic design, and typography has been in some way? Well, I mean, technology has been really positive thing in in what we do, and it's made, you know, it's made the artwork process and it's made digital process much more, much freer, much more free. But it also means that, you know, anyone who has a computer can calm so as a graphic designer. Yeah. And you can not you can buy a logo online, or you can get a free logo, you can get a free piece of where you can get free typeface, you know, the craft of production, the craft of creating things, takes takes time, and takes effort and is hard. So I think it's it's, it's having the kind of guess that the kind of thing that I kind of, say is is, you know, you need to have, it's not a job that you can drop in and out of what isn't for me anyway, and all the designers I know. And you know, when you work with people like Mark and Garrett say, again, you can tell that it's something that is central to who he is and what he does, yeah. I've always kind of felt that about myself, it's not something that I can, I didn't have a choice in doing this. Yeah, this, this was it, this is what I wanted to do. And this is what I was supposed to do. Yeah, I didn't know what it wasn't that I didn't know what it was for many years. But it's came to pass that this, you know, the kind of things you want to make the marks you want to make is this, you know, and to be a successful practitioner, I think really requires that, that passion, and kind of, sort of belief in what you do. And I think also, there's also things like stamina, as well, it's about seeing a project through and keeping going with the project. And, you know, it kind of links to the sort of the last question that you asked, but it's also, you know, with part of that, how humans work, things can go wrong, you know, things can and it's about how to adapt in those situations. So it's really about it's really a kind of, in a kind of simple way, it's not being a kind of fake about, about the subjects, if he can kind of, I think one thing you can do is spot, sort of that that kind of more superficial approach to design, because that's what I should be doing. That's what I you know, that's what I'm this this appearance of being a graphic designer, it's not that at all, it's graphic designers, being a graphic designer, is there are responsibilities there in terms of what you're going to produce, why are you going to produce it? And have an understanding of that, and having, you know, being aware that I think also as well, it's a, it's, it's a privilege to do this, it's a privilege to work on the kind of goes to Pfizer, I'm privileged to do that. But I think he can also, you have to understand the importance and the impact that graphic designers and graphic designers should really should realize that, you know, you look at things like how graphic design inform Brexit, you know, how graphic design informs protest, yeah, and how it informs thinking, having that responsibility and having that understanding, you must have that as a, as a designer, you must have that awareness of it, you know, that what you do has, it has merit, it has a function, and even on you know that those are big examples, but it's kind of smaller examples where you're, you know, if you create a piece of design, which is valid, and it works, and it also it adds to it as to society, you know, if it's properly produced, I think one of the things that, again, go back to a kind of formative reference, one of the first monographs about about artists, which which I had was and I still got his David Hockney's autobiography, and in it, he was saying that it's a real shame that students are At school, when they do when they choose their subjects art is something which you can drop. Yeah, it's not it's not a core subject. And he was saying that well, he said, if it was a core subject, people would understand the value of aesthetics, they would understand the value of how things look, and how when things look good, or things work. Yeah, it creates a positive society. for him. He gave an example. He said, Can you imagine that, you go past a bull shelter, and someone's kicked in, there's a lot of pile of glass in the floor. Okay? posters kicked in, didn't really think about it, but the person that comes afterwards, it could be like a pension or something, and they'll stand there and feel scared, because this is a kind of an environment, which you don't want to be in. But if the person, if the candidate didn't actually have to do this, it's kind of hard, it's going to really cause a mess, it's gonna look horrible. It's totally, it's gonna cause a bad environment and the aesthetics one thing, but it's also at least two other things. So it's, it's not to do that, you notice that? To get people not to do that, or maybe just, even to the point of, say, not chucking stuff on the floor, you know, it's just, it's these basic things that, that, that can affect society, again, even things like, you know, the houses we live in, why do people accept these kind of kick farm houses, because they have no understanding of aesthetics, or that kind of, they don't have that kind of continuing understanding of aesthetics that maybe other countries do. So it's that, for me, it's that sort of continuation of, of, of, of aesthetics, and ideas, and the importance of design as a function and things. But as something which is not. It's not exterior to but it's, it's connected. And it's part of you as a creative person.Roy Sharples:
That's very poignant and true about the importance of aesthetics. And, for example, if you take a look corbeau sees streets in the sky, and which was the inspiration for the tenement buildings that were designed to meet our streets or ground level, but to maximize the use of space, and parkhill, Sheffield's and tenement design? And, you know, you look at one of the architects really thinking, in terms of the the aesthetics for that design, did the architects place people at the heart of what they were doing? Was this designed for the people who live there, or the local government council who wanted to solve a housing problem, and put as many people as possible in the space that they had to? Even at the basic level, there were some big issues that anyone could spot? You did not have to be an architect to question this. Where was the community? Or was the social space? How would people feel living on the sixth floor? For example? What happened to gardens? How do people get to their home? How would this encourage people to be more communal, or to get home and stay home tenement housing blocks like this made, many people feel like prisoners and their own homes, and it was just accepted by them? Let's turn that on its head. What happens when you put people at the center of the design and there's a there's a focus on aesthetics, and the importance around how that makes people in society feel? Take Frank Lloyd Wright's falling water design as an example that remains one of the most visited houses in the world to the even to this date, and it was designed in the late 1920s, early 1930s. Anyway, before even setting the pencil to paper, right, got to know his clients deeply. And he internalized their deepest inspirations and motivations, as clients expected the house that would give them a view of a waterfall by bringing his abilities to his client's vision, right design the home from which they could see here and become part of the waterfall, and his functional, beautiful design including radical cantilevered structures is timeless. He synthesised his client's needs, the natural context, the materials potential, and the commercial budget to deliver a vision that continues to compel us nearly a century later. Design is often considered subjective, to personal taste. However, great designers tend to share common values that inspire innovation and creativity and result and engineering people centric solutions, great design, focus as intensely on the human experience, and incorporates creativity, boldness, divergent perspectives, and collaboration, blending the art and science with excellence and craftsmanship, by anticipating future trends inspired by culture, and aesthetics, connected to emotions and imagination,John Rooney:
Craft is important, and it's not something I've thought about to the point where you can design a logo in half an hour. Yeah, you know, and I think it was Ian Anderson, who said, you know, you've got the option button on your computer, and clients look for the easy option button. Press that one button, press that one button and get a, get a piece of design out of it, press that one button and get a piece of music out of it. And it's not, it's not like that, I think you these are the factors as creative people's as designers who are leaving college, have to sort of be aware of, and I think fundamentally, when when you're producing a piece of work, you have to do from a point of view of it's got to be well thought out, it's gonna be well constructed. And it's got to have a reason point behind it, and a really strong research base behind the project. That's really important. I think also in terms of pitfalls, it's I know that, you know, an old graduates kind of a grade is important to graduate. Understand that. And I respect that, because they're putting your time in the financial commitment, the personal commitment to say, I've done this degree, I've got this grade. And that's, that's great. I'll totally respect that. But I think from a graduate point of view, it's it's really about it's not worry so much about the grade, because when you go to industry, no one will ask you at all what that grade is no one cares. All they want to know is not to not to things and want to know about the work. But ultimately, they want to know about you as a person. Yeah, want to know, what do you fit in my studio? Will you create a good vibe, but what do you know, when you're not down with everyone, and, you know, it's it's finding that balance, and that also works with, you know, finding the right balance that also works with students, when they're looking at looking at agencies to the worker, you know, and being happy where your work is, is is fundamental, I think, I think you can't be creative. If you work in studio, where you're not enjoying it, if the vibe isn't very good. It doesn't matter where the work is, it's if you if the work people you're working with, you enjoy working with them, you're on the same wavelength, then that's great. So this is from a from a, you know, a creative person starting out. It's, it's finding the right atmosphere, I guess, that's one thing. It's also, you know, things will be tough, things will be difficult, you've got to accept that you won't get a job straight away. You know, you'll, you might spend some time doing something else. Yeah, you don't have to go and get a job. Unless it's difficult. I mean, it's tough. And I really respect how students work students. You know, my students, I've seen the colleges, they work so hard on their work, and they work so hard out of college, they really have to put the hours in. So the work ethic is amazing. But I think it's, it's, so it's kind of easy sometimes to if you left college to think, well, I'm gonna get a job straight away. And if it doesn't happen straight away, there's that feeling of, you know, why have I done this, and it's just keeping the stamina to keep going, you know, to say, okay, believe in yourself. And it's, it sounds kind of corny, but it's true is Believe in your work. And sometimes that's, that can be the hardest thing to do. Because if you're just doing your portfolio, that's when you start looking at the bits and going well, what, you know, how does this work, you know, and you start unpacking your work a little bit. But really, it's about it's, you know, it's having that stamina, and it's having that belief and keeping going. Because there will be times where it doesn't quite work out the way you want it to go. And I think as well, if it doesn't work out the way you want it to go, it might go a different direction. And sometimes that direction is better than the one that you want it to, to go into. And it's a different approach. But it's it's the kind of work that is in a way more suited to who you are and what you do, or from my point of view. When I was in college, all I wanted to do was music packaging. Yeah. So I go and meet people like Vaughn Oliver and Malcolm Right. And I went to another studio in London who do stitch sleeves for, like rare groove singles and acid jazz singles since I worked in, I worked in it Yeah, works in those essences for over the summer, and into my third year. So I was I was convinced that I was going to be working on music packaging. That's what I wanted to do. I always wanted to do that, because that's the kind of first piece of design that I saw. And I thought, well, you know, that that seems just kind of, it's connected to the kind of music accepted fashions, graphics, all these different things that seem really exciting. And when I worked at assorted images, I did a little bit of artwork for a bit of music packaging, and stuff a little bit for me gray, just artwork. But the main thing I did when I was there was a, there was a magazine called Art scribe. And they redesigned the magazine. And I worked with designer called Joe Europe who designed the anime. And he sat down and said, Look, here's how you design a multiple page document. And we were producing it for for, you know, for this internationally regarded art magazine. And I thought at the time, well, yeah, well, this is okay. But I want to do that sleeve for you know, whoever magazine or someone you know, wants to do that, you know, why can't I do this. But then when I left when I went back to college, the the elliptical, the the open the few years ago, they'd open the Tate Gallery, Liverpool, hmm. And, and the, the people would take, say, well, the designer who was working now was deciding to move on, and that they came to the to the local school and they said, Well, can you recommend any students, and my lecturer, he put a bunch of us forward. And we went for an interview at the gallery. And I had my usual student portfolio of paintings of photographs and bits of graphics, you know, pre pre digital work, a lot of handmade stuff and assembler. And then the last thing I picked out was the copy of that scribe magazine, and somebody else designed this. And they said, Well, this is what we want you to do. So I got the job. And I worked for the Tate Gallery for Liverpool for 15 years supply. So and, and from there. That is something common to pentagram to learn how to design. Yeah, you know, learn how to design a kind of the Yeah, to design the leaflets, and the posters, and to understand how it all worked. So I was working with a designer called David Hellman, who designed the guardian and do still have fantastic newspapers. And really, that was, you know, post leaving college that was a classical education of design of how design works, how to actually pay stop by hand and use and create the little kind of use a little typographic marks, which would you use to edit, edit, copy, and, you know, and line lengths and all these different things. We didn't even use computers at all, but it was it was everything was done by hand, and you pass it on to the taps that produce what you designed. So, you know, that led on to me, working for the Tae, working for the galleries, in, you know, on projects internationally. So I moved away from from thinking about music, to working with, with artists and producing art books. And I work with another gallery now in Manchester Barre Art Museum, and I produce their graphics, and I design catalogs for them. And they do a lot of contemporary sculpture and exhibitions. So carry on with that with that kind of process now, you know, so that the direction which my guess that the kind of the point you're making really is that is that the direction I thought my career was going into was was media packaging, and produce and that kind of stuff. But because I had that piece of work, I found another direction. And I guess I was open enough to say, Well, actually, this isn't what I want to do. This is different, but it proved out to be something that what I should be doing, you know, you know, it, it, it for me, it was more of an honest thing. So it's, it's having an open mind about where your career path may go, you know, and, and, you know, sort of having that sort of flexibility, that things might change and things will change, you know, jobs change with technology, you know, and you can see now that I was talking to a guy who works aka QA in San Francisco, the other week and he was saying that they are now employing people to they're working at the agency but working remotely, maybe living in Boston or maybe living, you know, on in LA or something. So it's kind of, it's that kind of change in working structures, working patterns, which means to be more flexible, and that changes your work. So I think from a student point of view, someone who's graduating sort of gets to recap is to have that sort of inquisitiveness, the passion, they can have the understanding of what of what your work is, but also the flexibility to know that it could change or it could go in a direction where you'd not thought of and to, to sort of go without really, if it feels like the right thing to do, what you think you want to do. And what you should be doing could be kind of two different thingsRoy Sharples:
Based on your lessons learned to date, what are the pitfalls to avoid, and keys to success that you can share with aspiring typographers and graphic artists?John Rooney:
You kind of make your own look? Yeah, yes, yeah. And fortunate enough to do it. And, you know, I only got the place, but by ringing up aside images, I, you know, I dreamed up these agencies, and I'm not thinking about it too much. If I thought about it, I'd probably been really worried about i didn't i just i was i was young. And what can I do? I'll just ask, you know, and I think that this is another thing as well is that I think that that the best designers, I've spoken to that, you know, the best designers, I think, the ones who who share and who will, will help if you're still a student, they'll help you. They'll give you five minutes, I remember chatting to Vaughn Oliver, we had a game pool in London and chat about music and gray he was he was, you know, he's such a wonderful designer and was was such a wonderful person really sorely missed. But as a person, you could, you know, you talk about design for like 20 minutes, and then you move on to football or something else. So, and then you come back to design again, and you know, they would give you your time they would really, really generous with their time. And I guess it's because they were the same when they started out. Right? They wanted to find out more, they want to find out. What why how do you do this? What? What does it all mean? You know, and if you just ask these questions, I think if you were doing it kind of in an honest way and a truthful way, then then you know, then then you'll get you'll get a lot a lot of support. I think I think and designers know where they came from that they were the same people that they understand that. And I think that, you know, everyone I've spoken to when I was a student and everyone I deal with now in the current projects I'm working on everyone, you know, does find time to chat about it. Because it's, it's it's really nice to chat about what you do is you know, and if you're interested in it, if you're interested in something, if someone who genuinely interested in what what you're doing, then then it's it's not really difficult. It's hard. It's not like it's not it's not hard, but I think it kind of, you know, it's that that's what I found that that generosity that the designers designers gave me when I was when I was learning to be a designer thinking well how to do this. What's that mean? You know, and they would, they would sit and talk to you about it. I remember vividly remember when when we went to Vaughn Studio 23 envelope and the album that he did, called colorbox. Great album and the cover is in the cupboards beautiful color, Japanese collage of figures and washing machines and things. Well, he found that he was in Japan, and he was walking home. We've been out the night and the night before and he's walking home back to his back to his hotel. You What Pastor Skip, and it wasn't a skip. Yeah, and it's and he got out of skip and what it is from a when printers print a piece of work in print over print things just to test, test the ink and yes, all these you know, everything's aligned up. And that's what it is. And it looks amazing. It looks it looks beautiful on the cover. Yeah, but I've seen the real thing and it's just it's incredible. It's absolutely beautiful. And yeah, it was an honor to see it and what it was kind of it's it's typical comes back to the point about always looking at things that when what value was walking back to his his hotel, you know, it's like middle the night and but is is always switched on for things and he found that I realized that was such a beautiful piece of work,Roy Sharples:
There is no on and off button for creativity is a constant that happens naturally by design, or by accident and our everyday lives. The creative process may seem magical, he specially where ideas can come from, and how they are brought to form and life. There are proven techniques, tools, methods, frameworks, and approaches to the art and science of applied creativity, that bring it all together and make it happen underpinned with everyday serendipity, and observation and inspiration, of course! John, what's your vision for the future of typography and graphic art?John Rooney:
Graphic design has to to mean something on what we do has to mean something it has to have what Tony Wilson used to call, it has to be valid in the workplace. Yeah. I think what what you mean, what I meant by that was, was, well, what's the reason for doing it? Should what what you're producing exists? Should should? Why is it there? Why is it being printed out? What what, why, you know, what's the value of it, and it kind of comes back to the fact that we, society, we have a finite amount of things, and a finite amount of resources, and a finite amount of stuff that we need. So graphic design has to, there are kind of two aspects to it, it has to produce pieces of work, which are useful and relevant. And I think also you have to have a social responsibility when you do produce pieces of work, and more so than ever, and, you know, with the way the way, society is, in many ways, dividing, separating out, but also in the way that, you know, in terms of creativity, you know, you need to hear, everyone needs to have voice, and everyone has to have the kind of potential are the ability, and also that the the, the kind of had the opportunity to be a graphic designer. I know, when I was when I was growing up. I went to a, what was called a secondary Modern School. And, you know, my future was to go and work in a local factory. Yes, it's fine. It's absolutely fine. It's, it's, you know, if people want to do that, what they want to work in that particular factory, that's, that's absolutely fine. But it just wasn't for me, and I wouldn't have been very good at it. To be honest, I've been hopeless that manufacturing things or whatever it was, I couldn't do it, you know. So I knew I was good, I was good. I was good at art. I like geography. And I liked English like writing. And I love reading. So I went to my career's officer. And I said, because I've seen that I've seen an amazing documentary about Jackson Pollock, my mom, and I said, I want to be a painter. And my career's officer said, well, that's fantastic. He said, Well, in five years time, you'll have your own van. And I said, Well, I don't mean painter and decorator. Again, that's, that's an honor. That is an honorable trait. And really hard. I won't be very good at that, you know, I said that I want to be a painter, I've seen Jackson Pollock, do this, I want to do that would be an artist, a musician I can do for you, I can't help you because I wasn't in that stream. You know. And then and then when you find people like Debbie taught me, you find a working class, you know, artists or someone, someone who is who is like you who connects to you. That's what we want. That's what young people need from from all backgrounds, they need to have someone who represents them who can say, they're doing it, I'm doing it, you know, I the future, isn't it for me to do that particular job, and it works culturally, racially, personality wise, whatever, whatever method it is having that kind of diversity and having that kind of, I guess, the sort of the, it's not exclusive to one group of people. It's, it's, it's achievable and possible for people to to be creative. It's, you know, he can do it. So that's something that's kind of something that kind of that social responsibility of, you know, having a diverse, creative community with different vices, different opinions, mixing together, working together. And you know, that's that's exciting. That's why wants to say I wouldn't want to see this Particular narrow corridor of design are kind of working in that particular way. much prefer the kind of where things, you know, where stuff collides, and, and kind of things where people work together with different backgrounds and different vices, and you create this kind of this kind of more connected unique vices. I guess that's, that's something that I think is important. And I think also, you know, going back to the point of producing a piece of work, you know, I see, I see a lot of design, which is, we looked around Instagram, you think Well, okay, so well, you know, it's kind of it's, it's designed for a particular square, it's designed in a particular way. Yeah, you know, there's lots of graphics for, I'm not against it, but it's not a graphics for things like coffee shops, yeah, which is fine. But I think there's more, there are other things to do. There are other things to do, especially at the moment, especially where, you know, especially how the responsibility design, I'm not saying it's, I'm not saying to do it in kind of, in a kind of polemic way. And in a way, it has to be always political. But it's something you can do, which can, which is kind of more, more personal, more honest, and more responsible as we produce things. And I think responsibility of design, going back again, to to the idea of how, you know, how we communicate, ideas, the importance of language and importance of how language is framed. You see how language is framed, and how words and ideas are framed on social media, and how they are cropped and edited by people to secure the point of view, to a direction which isn't truthful. And I think designers have zones on the responsibility to, to be, to be honest, to be more truthful, and to be to not try and have that kind of more, I guess, more, more responsibility. And to understand that, you know, I think that that's, that's something, it's hard as well, it's really hard, because we live in a society where we do produce things, and we have to produce things for work, it's finding that that kind of balance in what you do, again, you know, I, from a design point of view, I'm very lucky in that can do things that I choose to do, you know, that, you know, when you work in an agency, you do lots of a range of different things. So, I guess, yeah, I guess overall, it's, it's a kind of, I guess, a kind of think, a collective responsibility. And another thing that's important as well is don't work in a silo, share your ideas, share your conversations, work together, you know, it's not having this wall around what you do. Yeah. You know, it's, I was, I was talking to an agency, a really amazing digital agency, in Manchester. And they say, well, when they, when they set their company, they took all the walls down in the office, because we want people to work together. Yeah, to sort of discuss ideas to go, you know, we don't to have this kind of that person's working on that, that person's working on that, you know, and, and having that kind of that kind of connectivity, that, that, that, that thing about sharing. Yeah. And not just keeping things to yourself, not just keeping ideas for yourself, but sort of working together on stuff and talking to each other about what you do. And I think that's, that's also really important for young designers as well, because you can, I think when you start out, you can be kind of, you don't have the experience about about design, and you don't have the kind of confidence, but you understand as you move into being creative, or you got your creative period of time, you know, you know, the cycles of how it goes from logic basis, and some of it isn't. And you do, you're aware of periods where your comfort about what you do, and its parents periods where you're not confident about what you're doing. And you have those periods of say, you know, okay, this is any good is this does this work and happens with every project we do. But I think that by by talking to each other, but by discussing ideas, and by sharing it or not being part of the silo, then that's something that that can, that can, is a healthy thing. And I think that's really important. And again, going back to how I've, how, you know, the designers, I read the lights when I was a student, giving me their time and talking about that work. You know, when not when I'm at university, you know, teaching the students you know, and your chance to a student, and it's about counterpart paying it forward. Really, it's about discussing what I know talking to them. And that kind of process, that kind of that kind of conversation that I'm looking to have is kind of privileged. Because I can say, Oh, yeah, this happened to me that happens when students always come every year with the same because I look very similar kind of approaches in that, you know, the kind of thinking about our work too much on the kind of how to find a way out this. So it's about having that, that that, that, you know, paying it forward and having that sort of process of being like, actually, here's, here's, I'll do it or, you know, I'll introduce you to another designer who say, well actually go talk to this person, you know, and then again, they're more than happy to help shining a light.Roy Sharples:
On one of the key themes that you spoke about there, john was around unlocking people's creative confidence. And that manifests itself in every domain and profession, at any age, you never lose the ability to be creative. In fact, I believe that creativity increases with time because we all gain more knowledge and insight, as we experience more of life. And life events provide us with more reference points, and the knowledge gained through experience in them, combined with our imagination, of course, and to maintain our childlike wonder throughout life. Insight truly knows no bounds. However, creativity, does rely on intelligence to transform dreams are nascent ideas, and to things tangible, and real. I'm particularly intrigued about situated creativity, and how you developed that concept in your PhD work. Could you explain a little bit more about the work that you did in that area and how you develop the conceptJohn Rooney:
You caught me a good time to do this, because finishing up my PhD, I have my PhD viver. Eight weeks 12 weeks ago, smile at now.Roy Sharples:
Congratulations - that's a big deal!John Rooney:
Thanks, cheers! Yeah, I bet it was kind of that was that four hours long. So I was I had to talk about the work for four hours. It was great. Because, yeah, it's great. Because the people who were talking to me said, we really like what you've done. So that was a good start straightaway, but they asked lots of questions about why I'd done it and what the process was. Yeah. Another thing that I kind of, that I've kind of thought about, which I think we want to add this bit as well, is that you kind of have in your book, you mentioned about dream making do, you know, three things you need to be a creative person. And my PhD is about is building on on a kind of a process called situated creativity. Yeah. In the Yeah. Have you heard of that? Have you ever it's Yeah, I kind of decided to explore it a little bit. But it's kind of like the idea of these three things is this place, your place location, the inspiration that inspires a designer, you have known practice. And there's that there's a really wonderful example of that is say imagine creativity is an apple. Yeah. Okay. So what do you need to create to create that? You need the ground give tree and you need the the atmosphere, atmosphere to these, these strings create that object? Okay. So what my PhD was about, it's okay, if you've created that if you've created creativity. But that's, that's what what is, what is creative? is creativity for something else? And what about the creativity of the designer. So what I looked at was situated creative identity, I think, when you're doing a PhD, you have, you know, you have a set of knowledge, you add to that a little bit, so I added identity. So it took me five years, five and a half years to add the word identity to it four years, four and a half years ago, I would save yourself a lot of time, but but it takes, it takes that long to do that. That simple little update both of these processes. And it's really about it's kind of about you know, it's about some bits of knowledge in its in what you know, now as a creative person. So you've used all the knowledge, you've got the knowledge, you've you've know, you've got the experience, you've got the sort of the tools of producing pieces of work. And then you've got formative location. Yeah. Okay. So then, okay, so there's a location where something happened, something that's critical to what you do. And then you've got pharmacy practice, which is, you know, at that time at that location, there's something you've seen or been aware of some kind of design. How important is that? In what you do now? Yeah. You know, and that's the main reason that I put together past present and future. Yeah. Because the first question for me is the most interesting, interesting one. And asked, you know, I asked people, the the answers that I got from creatives, you know, with things like, you know, who was it? Oh, john gray. Yeah, he was saying that he he's a stay at his grandparents had a sweet shop and stay with the baby sitting around, he could upstairs. Get a couple of sweets, but he always went for the bubblegum wrappers. Yeah. And he said, Well, actually, that connects to what I do now. And what he does now is my bold, strong two color pieces of graphic. Yeah, you know, I'm Angus Hyland from pentagram used to walk walk past this a shell gallery, a shell, a shell.Roy Sharples:
Gas Station, a petrol station. Yeah.John Rooney:
Yeah. And he remembered that the shell logo, not because it was 100 petrol. Yeah. But it was to do with holiday. And he remembered the identity and what that meant, and you know, then he created the book about logos. You know, so it's kind of it's the importance of logos, and time. And again, he'd speak to a designer and to go actually know, this was a formative thing. This is a formative thing. And that does connect to your practice that does connect to what you do analysis is a very strong connection between formative experience and design. And it's amazing. In the PhD I produced the typeface of created is based on Creative from the United States to Greg's master transport bus logger, which is, is and yeah, I know we have designed by Ken Holic. I've created a typeface based on that. The practice is a combination of my response to my question about situated creativity is to create a piece of work, which is three conceptual frameworks working together this cycle geography, in terms of the person who's traveling on this journey, is a separate identity based on me, called the wandering star. And the reason why the reason why I travel as a wandering star was my dad had two pieces of music in his record collection. One was a album of Scottish punk punk music. Because he was in it. He was in a it was a Scottish regiment in the army in the Cameroonians, okay, and the second piece of music he had was wandering star by Lee Marvin. And that reminds me of that room that connects to that place. And also, also, funnily enough, when I was a kid, drawing my newspapers, I used to draw a symbol a shape, which had rows across and then two diagonal lines, it made like a sort of like a star shape, and I connected up with this kind of, like it, like, you know, one of these sort of things you get from failure, and you blow it and it's like a, like a RC car, you know, like a little sort of thing that kids have, like a, like a, like a little propeller or something else. Yeah. So that little, that little symbol I created that drew those years ago, I reinterpreted that from identity. So that was my that was who I was on that journey. And then to a mat the journey, I went to this this formative journey, which is a bust Abbas journey into the city center to buy music. So I went back again, to record this journey with no practice. I looked at what was around and I explored the sights of that journey and thought, well, what's relevant along here, and I found really interesting things. I mean, I've got time for me to do this. Faster gas. Great. Right, okay. So Well, okay, so the journey was was, was included 10 stops and trade 10 artists newspapers. And each stop was about the beginnings or development of creative identity. For example, there's, as you go out of Manchester on the a 664 Rochdale road, on the left hand side, about two stops on the left hand side there was a park called Bhagat wholecloth Bog, it is a mischievous spirit. Okay, so I never thought about the name of what it meant or if Mark So I looked at the history of the park. And at the turn of the last century, the park was owned by a private company. And it was used a speaker's corner when people used to go and speak their talk about politics marqeta things that the issues of the day and the power was sold to another to another. I think it was actually solved the council, most of council at the time. And it was just the time when Labour Party was formed. And the council said, Well, okay, you can talk about politics. But if you speak about, if people from Labor Party wants to come and talk about their politics, we will arrest you. We're not going to have you doing that. Right. So this caused this cause kind of this curse of resistance, obviously, and he ended up with people who were going to speak about, you know, talk about this new this new political party that get arrested. More and more people did it and ended up with 20,000 people turning up at the park. And Kate Hardy, and Emily in punkers drove from the centre of Manchester down Rochdale road in an open reopen top. Yeah, characters of the curving the Queen House and the drove down to pizza to pick up old cloth. And they all went in there. They sang a socialist outfit called England their eyes and said, okay, arrest is now Wow. So I've I've added changes change free speech in that part of the city. And you know, the the piece of work I've done has has that that song in it. And then further down. You've got Anthony Burgess was born in heartbreak. So again on the same street. And then further on from there. The postcards were photographed at in a just in two locations, which informed one of the songs on the first Buzzcocks album as well, because he was looking around the the library they were photographed in and it was assigned to fiction rollouts, and one of the tracks is called fiction robots. And then, again, as you go into the city center in a part of town called Kalia West, it was a callback called electric circus. And that was a cinema. And funnily enough, that was sent, my mom painted a picture of the cinema, because that's where she met me, dad. That's why the first one out at that cinema, and then in the 70s 30 years later, it was, you know, a formative punk club, whether the Joy Division first played their first concert, you know that as well. So pistols play the clash, you know, and the jam and all these all these other bands fall and you know, started playing at this, at this clubs about that, that was part of the, the work and for that. I, john Savage, the writer, very kindly gave me a set of photographs of to use in my newspaper, and it was a photograph of the, of the buildings around collies routing in that exact location. So it's that, again, john wrote that article about the age of plunder. So actually, we're getting his involvement. And he's sort of, you know, his presence in the world was kind of really involved. Important, as Malcolm Garrett, when we worked on the project about marketing invited me to do some work on design modes, the project called automatically friend, another piece of work for that. Yeah. And that was included in the work as well, so so that these these examples of creativity, examples of music and and, and politics and politics and art, yeah, we're kind of, which is what I picked up on as this particular traveler. And the presentation of the work or the maps themselves were maps of spaces. And that leads to a process a really interesting process called Deep mapping. And that's where you, you look at maps differently, because a map is something where you have so it shows about churches, it shows you what a river is, it shows you where postboxes what it doesn't do it doesn't give you the kind of personal emotional connection to your place. Because one of the nicest things I read about a map is that someone said, maps are shy, they don't give up their secrets easily. It doesn't tell you much about the place. Yeah, but there's much more about that place much more accurate. It's almost like an emotional topography. So you know. So with, that the maps create the maps of most faces created that and they were informed Finally, by Fluxus movement with the farmers and in a sense, it's about art for everyone an answer and the actual box the container that I made for the work is was influenced by flux. piece called destroy all art, I think it was it was a boxing matches by Ben volti. That said, you know, use this burn on an art gallery is instructions about what to do. So it was kind of an instruction instruction manual, of, of creativity and about a journey really. So that's the kind of culmination of my, of my work and my, my kind of, I guess, understanding about about situated creative identity. And from that, the past, present and future, which you can have contributed to was was that kind of was that was part of the, you know, that was part of the project that was a continuation of what we've done. Wow. And I think I think really now, from from a research point of view, moving forward with the next stage of what I do, the the understanding of the kind of practical application of creative identity, something that I want to explore, because, you know, from a student point of view, I think it's really important to have to try and have developed your own voice rather than thinking this is what it should look like, this is what it should look like. Yeah, but it's something from from them as a as a kind of, it's more honest, to try and find a more personal and more centered and connected approach to creativity, rather than thinking, my work must look like that color design. Because that's what I think they should have been. But it's not that simple.Roy Sharples:
Yes, define yourself by what you are, and what you are not, and appreciate the differences. This means being acutely aware of your taste and emotions, which will free you to accelerate your craft and to do things in your own style and at your own pace, and not letting your environment or anyone within it define you. You need to define your own purpose and mission. You have been listening to the unknown origins podcast. Please follow subscribe, rate and review us. For more information go to www.unknown origins.com Thank you for listening!