ALEX J. BROWN — Interview
Alex J. Brown, London-based designer currently working at Pentagram.
— Hi Alex, how are you?
Very well thank you!
— Can you introduce yourself?
I am an English designer currently working at Pentagram in London, I have previously worked at SEA.
— Where does your interest in graphic design come from?
I grew up in a coastal town along the English Channel where pursuing a creative interest is not held in particularly high regard, neither was it something that was ever really encouraged at home.
As a teenager I produced a fanzine (‘Halcyon Daze’) about the local punk and hardcore scene, I only ever produced 6 issues but this led to producing posters, flyers and stickers for local shows, designing CD, cassette, 7” and 12” record sleeves for local bands, and my first paid job designing an identity and stationery for a local record studio.
All of this was of course very raw and unrefined in terms of the layout and typography, which often created using a scanner, paper, pen and a cracked copy of Photoshop, however it was the first time I realised that the work I produced was valued and design was something that I could pursue as a career rather than just being a hobby that I enjoyed.
— Would you like to explain to us one of your projects?
Bring the War Home was a project I produced independently outside of Pentagram. The project was produced in collaboration with Noam Chomsky and Simon Critchley, who both contributed essays on the theme of anarchism and the ideals of anarchist movements.
I invited 25 designers to produce posters from a neutral perspective, inspired by the visual language of dissident movements. The posters were exhibited at the KK Outlet in London throughout February 2016 and were also featured in the book of essays. All proceeds were then donated to a UK based charity.
The project features a bespoke typeface ‘Left’ which I designed. It was inspired and based on a typeface that I discovered on a protest placard produced by The Weather Underground in the 1970’s.
— Do you have a favourite typeface to work with?
I have always like the quote by Massimo Vignelli stating that a designer should only ever work with 5 typefaces: Bodoni, Helvetica, Times Roman, Century and Futura, I do not feel I am in a position to argue or disagree with this!
— Is there any designer you appreciate a lot?
People who influence my work and the way to a certain extent, the way I look at things include Peter Saville, Ian MacKaye, Shane Meadows, Karel Martens, Helmut Schmid, Wolfgang Weingart, Tony Brook, Stanley Kubrick, Experimental Jetset, Kenneth Mackenzie, Hunter S. Thompson, Otl Aicher, Massimo Osti, Hamish Muir, George Orwell, Mevis & Van Deursen, Mark Farrow, Morrissey, Kenya Hara, Wim Crouwel, Mike Leigh, Karl Gerstner, Alan Clarke, J.G. Ballard, Lars Müller, Ken Garland, Armin Hofmann, Jurriaan Schrofer, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Tony Wilson, Ken Loach, Andy Weatherall, Massimo Vignelli and many more.
— Is there a book or manifesto which opened your eyes about design?
When I was a teenager at college, Jonathan Barnbrook came to give a talk about his work and influences. Hearing Jonathan talk about his work for Adbusters and the First Things First 2000 manifesto was incredibly interesting and insightful experience and one that has stuck with me ever since.
— The last word…
Eating With the Eyes designed at Pentagram with Harry Pearce, Graphic Design, Gerald Cinamon designed at SEA, John Lewis, consumer electronics designed at Pentagram with Harry Pearce.
Pictures ©Alex J. Brown
Interview: Dennis Moya & Tiffany Bähler, 04.16