Friday, 27 January 2012

He’s published 1000s of illustrations for clients such as Wallpaper*, the New York Times, GQ and the Economist and is in the running for a Design of the Year 2012 award for his installation Cut it Out – a giant dog-shaped art-making machine. Here, innovative graphic designer Noma Bar tells us how he works...

When did you know you wanted to be a graphic designer?
As a kid I didn’t know that graphic design was a profession. Kids have this idea of professions as being carpenter or fireman or painter. So for me, painter or artist was the thing. I think I did graphic design as a child – I liked symbols and icons – but I didn’t know this was graphic design until the age of 16 or 17. Probably today, with the internet, it’s all very obvious for kids. I see the new generation and they know exactly what is what.

How did you get your first commission?
I studied graphic design in Israel – mainly illustration and Hebrew type design. I paid for my studies by working at Channel News – it’s like the BBC – doing graphics. Because of the army you do everything later in Israel so I started studying when I was 24 or 23 and graduated when I was 27. I moved to the UK when I was 28 and sent some postcards [of my work] to different places: the Guardian, Time Out. Time Out came back after a few weeks, offering me my first paid commission – a portrait of Shakespeare.

What’s your work routine?
For the last five or six years I’ve lived in Highgate in London. I live opposite the woods, which is my escape for ideas. I go there every day from 9am to 2pm. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining; I just sit with my sketchbook, no computer or anything, and have a proper pure brainstorm. I spend more time thinking than executing so when I go to the computer I already know what I’m doing. I would never sit down at a computer and say, “What am I doing now?”

When you’re given a brief, how do you come up with ideas? 
Yesterday I had a brief about safety. I looked at my bag and took out my pen and saw I had a safety pin that was attached to the side of my bag. Suddenly I saw if you look on the head of the safety pin, you see the head of a person there. So I did it as a safety pin. Things that surround me inspire me but everything I do is about ideas. If you asked me to do an illustration of a pencil or a mobile phone it wouldn’t be a straightforward object – it starts with ideas.

What advice do you have for young graphic designers just starting out?
Be open to everything – to a degree. I was educated to open my eyes all the time when I started – we’re talking 11 years ago – but I think these days [young graphic designers’] eyes are already so open because of the internet. It’s easy to be exposed to a million styles in one click and I see a lot of students struggling because of [too much] knowledge. The fact that I’m not at a computer most of the time is to avoid it and focus on myself, on where I’m going and what’s good for me.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.

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