Sometimes it seems that everyone and their dog has a Web site. Trawling the degree shows last year was a small revelation, especially to someone who spent much of their student life watching snooker on a black and white portable television. Many fledgling designers, illustrators and creative types already had sites up and running before the ink was barely dry on their degrees. Creative tools from the likes of Apple, Adobe and Macromedia have helped fuel the ambitions of the next Peter Saville and Jonathan Ive. Internet-savvy bright young things have never been better prepared for a working life in the creative industries. The gap between student-initiated work and that produced by professionals is narrowing daily. However, going beyond a proficient sheen and maintaining a profile in a sea of potential Next Big Things is when the real work begins.
Making a big splash in this increasingly crowded pool is Burn Everything, a young multi-disciplinary design studio based in Liverpool. Firm Apple Mac users, Burn works in all areas of graphic design, including the creation and implementation of corporate identity; the design and production of print; Web site and multi-media; fashion graphics and print design; exhibition design; environmental graphics and surface decoration. Designers David Hand and Sam Wiehl have built a solid local portfolio of clients that include Liverpool City Council, Bluecoat Arts Centre, FACT and the Paul McCartney backed LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts). However, Burn’s client base stretches further afield to include Arts Council England, the national development agency, Metropolitan Police, Island Records and Arsenal Football Club.
The dynamic duo’s work has twice been recognized by the Roses Design Awards, the largest design and architecture awards outside London. Their work has attracted admiration from their peers thanks to seductive CD designs for the likes of Ladytron, Former Miss America and Ambulance, as well as Robot! Records. Exhibitions have included 'Burneverything01' and 'Fighting Loving Dancing' as well as curating Private View, a graphic arts exhibition on billboard sites around Liverpool city centre. Burn’s work was recently showcased in Business Cards: The Art of Saying Hello from publisher Laurence King.
Burn sells a number of desirable screen-printed, limited edition, individually stamped posters and booklets from its Web site for a modest fee. Slabs of primary colours combine with striking vector-style imagery and subtle use of photography. Looking at their online portfolio it’s difficult to see where creative freedom stops and the constraints of a commercial brief starts. The line between commercial and more personal work is blurred, producing work that is both distinctive and contemporary.
Macworld caught up with Burn’s David and Sam.
First question: why Apple Macs?
I guess you learn on Macs at uni. You get a job – hopefully – they use Macs, and so on. But on the other hand we prefer working on them compared to PCs – they just look and feel better.
Do you think Macs help democratize the creative process?
The creative process is always, or should be, an unexpected journey, but there are certain features in programs and the way Macs work that will help this – but hopefully we’re back to the stage of designers actually designing and not just letting the computer do it for them.
How does a regionally based design company maintain a high profile?
Probably the same as any one else – lots of work, and getting it out there, there is in no way a big design scene in Liverpool. So I suppose there aren’t so many people expecting great work from here – but in some ways, maybe that’s an advantage. We’ve kept our heads down and have carried on trying to produce as much good work as possible, which seems to us the logical way of getting noticed.
And what can a regional design group offer and London based one can’t?
To be honest, nothing. A good design studio from up north could offer exactly the same as a good design studio from down south – we always felt that if you’re doing something interesting in this day and age location should not really matter – people want new and interesting work and they will or at least should go to its source.
Are you tempted to move down south to the Big Smoke?
No, there really seems no need. Give us hills over cities any day – plus we seem to be starting to pick up work from the capital anyway, and it’s always nice to have holidays to London.
As a relatively small company, do you feel pressurized into upgrading to the latest G5 or Photoshop CS2?
Not really. Its nice to have shiny new hard drives and skinny monitors, but if the ones we have work like we need them to, then that’s fine – when they die we buy new ones. As for programs, it’s usually a case of having to purely for practical reasons like printer compatibility.
What inspires you; who are your heroes?
Music, animals and alcohol.
Do any issues ever arise with clients when working exclusively with Macs?
The only ones are receiving bizarre PC files that don't open on anything.
Do you think Macs lead to creativity or do creative types tend to choose Macs?
You’re either creative or you aren't; using a Mac won't make you any better. To us, they’re just tools that aid creativity. Having everything you need to hand and working with technology that works properly helps immensely. As for creative types choosing Macs, maybe that’s partly down to advertising and Apple’s slick campaigns?
What advice would you give students or those wishing to move into the design field?
There’s no right or wrong way. Well there probably is, but no-one’s told us. We’ve always just tried to produce the best work we can, and that involves long hours and a lot of commitment; it certainly isn't a nine-to-five job.
What would you like to see next from Apple?
Large monitors that don't cost the earth and a self-cleaning keyboard.
What next for Burn Everything?
More exhibitions, more music-based clients, a clothing range, a temporary European office, an office pet and our own pub.