There was an electrifying moment in the office when we heard Ian Anderson was coming to town.
There were words to the effect of: “He was my ultimate design hero when I was at uni…Everyone wanted to produce the kind of work The Designers Republic™ did.” Indeed, Ian’s name is synonymous with Sheffield-based TDR™ that changed the way designers approached visual communication and branding during the heady anti-establishment days of Britain in the 80s and 90s.
The firm is credited with defining the visual language of dance music, electronica and the Playstation gaming generation post-flagship title WipEout. There was a multi-disciplinary approach to TDR™ design work collaborating with an enviable list of architects, fashion designers and global corporations. Their impact on post-modern design defined an era and Ian continues to run The Designers Republic™ today.
We asked Ian a number of questions to give you a taste of what to expect on his national speaking tour with Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA).
Britain and the United States are in a state of flux in a ‘post-truth’/ ‘fake news’ world. How do you see ‘design creatives’ operating in this new paradigm and more importantly what flow on effect, if any, will it have for designers in the Asia Pacific?
Creatives need to constantly adapt and to recognise, react and respond to challenges. As people we have the responsibility to be honest in what we do and in what and how we communicate for and with whom.
What effect it will have in the Asia Pacific politically and creatively is down to you, my hope is that it will create a disconnect with the past creating opportunities for new thinking and more individual, original design – learning from the past but looking forward to the future.
How does the philosophy of ’Thinking and Doing™’ play out in how your studio approaches work and or projects?
There’s a thinking process which primarily identifies, analyses and solves the client’s problem, identifies the key communication, the calls to action, the desired outcomes and the target audience.
This is primarily scientific — if A, then B etc. It’s about understanding where and how everything fits together, and where it fits in context and sometimes outside, if appropriate. There’s a stage 2 thinking process which builds a core creative, a set of parts, to best communicate the solution.
As we move from stage 1 to stage 2 the level of doing increases – testing and experimentation, and the project moves further into the studio. The third stage is the design expression of the problem solving and core creative — font tweaks, colour palettes etc.
Of course, any creative process is ultimately a matter of action AND reaction, thinking AND doing.
We hear there is a definitive TDR™ book on the cards…can you tell us more about it and what we can expect.
So there’s been a definitive book on the card for the last 23 years. We have several half-finished books, some abandoned through lack of time, some through lack of patience, some through lack of will power and some just seemed to be out of date before we’d completed them.
We’ve had several different publishers — some we’ve lost patience with and some who lost patience with us. Currently we’re in the early stages of working with Unit Editions. The key difference now is that whereas previously I didn’t trust anyone else to do the book I wanted, now I want someone else to do their book about TDR™ with my input. I trust Unit to do that.
What are your top five design books?
I don’t really have top fives, or tens, or twenties, or hundreds. And no matter what I say in the context of my world today, it will be different in the context of wherever my head’s at tomorrow…which is probably why I never finished TDR™’s book.
And… I’m not really interested in design books per se, I prefer to draw inspiration from anything other than design, and reading a design book seems to be something of a busman’s holiday.
I like books of logos disconnected with the worlds for which they were created, abstracted to forms over their function.
I was given a series of three books compiling the pre-digital logos and poster design of communist Romania, they’re interesting.
I like books that are objects before they are an analogue archiving of data and I like books with TDR™’s work in them.
Tell us about your first car…
I bought a VW Derby on the Monday; I passed my test on the Wednesday. I wrote the car off on the Friday. It was blue.