Wednesday, 19 May 2010

INTERVIEW: Ryan Bennett

Hello Ryan Bennett.
Who the hell are you and what do you do?

I the hell am Ryan Bennett and I do what is commonly known as graphic design.

For any dummies out there, could you explain exactly what is this graphic design you speak of?

I can try. Not that anyone's a dummy for not knowing, it's a question that comes up a lot. Essentially, I guess, graphic design is involved in almost any visual communication you'll come across. Posters, books, brands, websites, TV idents, baked bean tins...even drain hole covers have had some design applied to them. The stuff I do is usually printed, usually ideas driven and stylistically quite clean and simple, although I try not to restrict myself. Some people think graphic design is just dicking about on photoshop, but that's not really my bag.

Do you have a prefered way of working?

My preferred way of working is to panic a lot about not having enough good ideas, then once I decide that the whole thing is absolutely hopeless and I can't be bothered anymore, then interesting thoughts will begin to jump out at me. So that'll be how I get hold of some kind of a concept (there's also a lot of research and sketching and sourcing inspiration, but that's quite dull). Then to continue to actually 'make' something, there's a lot of time spent on a computer, and a lot of hot beverages drunk. Usually English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea, but black coffee if a deadline is stalking me.

To be honest, all the time spent in front of a screen can be quite disheartening. I've sometimes walked across the Thames with my laptop and considered what would happen if I lobbed it in to the water. Would my career be in shatters? I got a little taste of this when my Mac malfunctioned recently and it had to be sent off for repair for three weeks. After having a little cry, I felt I had to put things on pause for that time, and I was delighted when it was returned to me with all my fonts and Adobe programmes. There probably is a way I could've got by without using a computer, but my work would've become very stylised and narrow. So although the use of computers can feel like an inactive, 'plugged in' way of working, there's no way around it these days without buying massive equipment and doing things much more slowly. 

The important thing to me is to always consider the tactile quality of the end piece - how the design is going to look on paper, how the paper is going to feel, and how the user navigates the thing they're holding or seeing.

What disciplines do you think you need to be a good graphic designer?

I think you just have to be thoughtful. The rest is up to whatever direction you want the work to go in. You don't need to be good at drawing, or taking photos, or even using a Mac. But you definitely need an appreciation of typography.

What inspires your work? It seems you've done a few projects based around language...

I think the interest in language started with the '3 Minutes' project. So the brief for that was from the International Society of Typographic Designers, and it was simply: 'using nothing but an A2 sheet of paper, create a piece around the theme of 'three minutes'.' And as it had to be a purely typographic piece I guess my thinking was 'what is typography about? Letters. What are letters used for? Making words. What are words used for? Speaking to people' and so something to do with dialogue or conversation seemed obvious. Probably too obvious. 

But a week or two before I'd seen Lee Evans in Newcastle and he'd done some skit where he did a one-person speed dating thing or something, and I thought of that and those two ideas came together. At first I thought of attending some speed-dating sessions in London and secretly recording the conversations, but that seemed a bit sinister and creepy, so I decided to set one up myself at the university, purely for the sake of the project. I got just enough people to make the project viable. I think a lot of people seemed put off by the idea. Speed dating's not that cool. It was a good laugh though, I put some flowers out on the tables, played some music to set the ambience and offered the guys some beer and the girls some wine. 

Around the same time I was reading a book by Kate Fox that mentioned how socially awkward the English can be, so that fed in to the project too and I decided to act the anthropologist and study how people were speaking in those three minute conversations. I also did a diagram, a sort of spiral to indicate the most words used, and this was inspired by a piece I'd glanced at at an art fare before going to the Proms. So essentially, I'm inspired by all the other interests in my life apart from graphics.

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