ABOUT

how a road accident in streatham, london,
led to a career in graphic design

Occasionally someone will ask me how it all started and the answer will often cause surprise – it all began with a road accident … quite literally.

On a side road in mid-90s Streatham, south-west London, my best friend was pinned against a wall by a car that had lost control. Thankfully he suffered only minor injuries but was justly awarded compensation. With that compensation he bought his first Apple Macintosh and the rest is history.

We were a small collective at the time, a group of university friends, producing analogue-based mixed-media, films and images for the club and dance scene. But that first Apple computer gave us our portal into the digital world and, surprisingly, I discovered I had a natural affinity with both Apple and Adobe products.

I taught myself Photoshop first and later enrolled on a graphic design course, a course that included a good grounding in the traditional pre-computer craft of design, layout and typesetting. However my self-taught skills and fine art background persuaded the course leader to create a new accelerated multimedia class. In this class we taught ourselves everything from QuarkXpress to Macromedia Director.

Meanwhile I continued to work as the main graphic designer for our small collective until we finally decided to go our separate ways. That, ironically enough, was the year in which we were the most successful, a year that culminated in a performance of ‘Destination Post-Human: Transcendence Through Technology’ at Media Waves European Festival, Brighton Pavilion. Nevertheless I wanted to work in a studio and got my first break in a very humble print and design shop in Earls Court.

Humble it was, but easy it was not. Here I cut my teeth, taking what seemed like the entirety of West London’s print material from the cut-and-paste era to the digital era. And here I learned about the offset print process in the downstairs print room, sometimes designing, printing and finishing – from beginning to end. Here too I learned about how to communicate with clients and how to achieve their vision by using the skills I had acquired.

Then I got my big break at a design studio in south-east London working primarily for the publishing world. Soon I was seeing my posters all over the London tube, bus and rail network. Here too I worked closely with the print and finishing side of things, something that was especially important as the process was becoming almost entirely digital. I must have enjoyed it because I stayed for over 9 years before deciding to follow my heart and move to France.

I have been in France since 2010 and began my first few months in Paris teaching photography by taking clients on tours around the ‘city of lights’. The business of design grew organically with a single client in Paris and one or two small requests from the UK. Since then it has grown to include schools, publishers, charities and marketing companies, among others.

I balance my design business with other creative passions like photography, drawing and painting; I believe this multi-disciplinary approach is invaluable when it comes to working on studio-based graphic design projects.

© designrabrooks