Saturday, 21 February 2009

Ice Cream Pizza

White Vinyl Design is the creative vessel for Luke Twyman a multi-talented illustrator, photographer, musician and webdesigner based in Margate. He has worked with and been commissioned by the likes of Motive Sound recordings, Icon Magazine, Photographers Simon Upton and Joe Maxwell as well as bands such as MT. I interviewed him earlier in the week about his output with WVD: his background, ambitions, equipment and methods of communication.

-How would you define what you do? In the broadest sense you're a designer but there seems more to it than just that.

LT: In some ways I quite like to keep it broad. If I think I can get away with it without too much eyebrow raising, I quite like to simply say ‘creative’ or yeah ‘designer’. Usually I have to tell people I’m a graphic designer to save much confusion from the start. I think I’m at a stage where there are still a lot of things I want to try out, and so don’t want to limit myself to by saying “right from now on I’m an illustrator / art director / interactive designer” or whatever else I’ve decided I am on a whim that particular day.

-What's your background and education in creative arts? Who or what were the influences that convinced you to pursue a career in design?

Ha! Erm, little to no education really. I actually studied music at university, so most of my creative techniques have been self-taught. Since being a kid I’ve always drawn and made curiosities from paper, which luckily is something I never grew out of. I also used to make small video games just as a hobby, which taught me the basics of creative programming, as well as computer graphics.

While studying music, I did a course on self-promotion, which happened to include crash courses in HTML and Flash. With my prior video game experience I picked this up super quick and realised I could combine my skills of creative programming and illustration etc and put them to good use.

-Without giving too much away, what equipment do you use? What software, cameras, pens, papers, etc...

Nothing out of the ordinary really, 0.3 drawing pens are the staple, plus cheap permanent markers for most illustration work. I use a tablet sometimes, though usually only for finishing touches or tidying up.

Photoshop, Flash and Illustrator cover most digital work, though I have been experimenting with some stop-motion work in Adobe Premier lately. I’ve acquired a few cameras over the last year, but I’ve a basic Canon DSLR which has had the most action so far.

An interactive piano designed for the Website of Neverest Songs, Luke's personal project

-For your websites, how do you come about with each concept, is there a lot of pre-planning: working to the concept and plans of the commissioners or are you given free range to create and adjust as you see fit?

I’ve been lucky that a few clients have been very open to what concepts I can pitch to them. The Joe Maxwell site was probably the most free brief, but there was enough there in terms of basic requirements that I had something to work from.

All conceptualising happens on paper first, doodles and notes. For the benefit of relaying with a client I’ll normally mock-up in Photoshop, although in Joe Maxwell’s case I felt it necessary to go straight into some programming work to physically show him what I had in mind, and just hoped that he’d like it!

-Your websites seems to have a focus on interactivity and exploration, retaining the users attention via their own curiosity i.e. for Neverest Songs the title page is plain and uninformative requiring the user to find and explore by themselves and for Joe Maxwell's site the user gets dragged across the page, as if it were a sprawling map, to each link. Was this done purposefully?

Absolutely, I think in a lot of cases information does need to be displayed quite simply, and I do love work that is just beautifully laid out, or functions in a lovely way. However I think there’s also a lot of room for more immersing experiences, those that make visitors want to play and explore for themselves. I guess that links back to the video games thing – after creating playful interfaces, it’s hard to lose that thinking when it comes to any sort of interaction.

Simon Upton is a photographer who specialises in portraiture and interior

-The accessibility of your websites also seems paramount, existing without the prerequisites of text or a specific language. Instead they use easily recognizably symbols and pictures, providing a simpler, more aesthetic means of communication, is this always something that you were aiming for with your designs?

Yeah, that sort of visual communication has always appealed to me, and again initially it was simply re-applying what I already knew in creative programming, but gradually I learnt to apply it in a more functional way.

I think my aim with creative websites in future would be to best strike the balance between playfulness and direct communication. A lot of design we interact with every day communicates to us in a pictorial way, but we don’t always think about it. With the website for “Mt.”, the main navigation is purely abstract icons, but they’re presented in a way that makes a visitor want to use them, and they present enough of a reward that hopefully visitors will continue to use them and explore.

Website for the Carlisle band Mt.

-You seem to be extremely productive, with your work sought after not just in the UK but internationally as well, is this just down to the nature of the business, being quite global or has the internet brought artists closer together in this way?

The internet has certainly made working on certain projects easier, and in my case it’s been vital in me getting any work at all. Being based in Margate, I’ve found that my immediate area doesn’t present many opportunities for work, and the majority of clients tend to be London based. The web however has of course given everyone else a voice as well, making it hard to be plucked out sometimes.

There are certainly some nice opportunities to network with other creatives online, but for me it hasn’t much spilled over into the real world, and it’s not the same as networking in person.

-You deftly incorporate and work with a wide range of mediums, i.e. your Illustrations are rarely just drawings on a page, they combine area, space and photography also, do you do this to keep things interesting for yourself and/or the viewer or simply because that’s how you want things to look, existing in several realms at once?

I think often it’s something I’ve envisaged from an early stage when sketching out concepts, I start to see it in a certain way and just go with it. Plus I simply like trying my hand at different techniques.

Sometimes it can just be a means of creating the image I have in mind within the limitations of expense, but doing so in a way that I can comfortably feel that I’ve stylised it and given it a personal touch, and know that I’ve not just used that black card because I happened to have a pile of it under my desk.

Commissioned piece for Motive Sounds Record Label

-Do you still find yourself having to actively seek out work, like your submission for Icon Magazine, or do you find that you can rely on getting commissioned for most of your work these days?

Yes! I get spates of commissions but can’t rely on it being there all the time, I also freelance Flash design work in digital agencies to keep myself plodding along. I’d love to do some larger, and even more varied commissions…basically If people could just pay me to be fed while I make all the things I would normally enjoy making anyway, that of course would be perfect.

-Music seems to play a role in parts of your work and you also
promote and put on gigs around Canterbury and Margate, for an area with such a rich musical heritage, what's the community like nowadays? Are there any bands to look out for or any interesting aural happenings?

Yeah music is incredibly important to me, it’s my other main love and “Neverest Songs” is the sound that I make. We’ve only just started promoting again, and for a while musical events in Margate have been few and far between. It’s in a bit of a tricky situation because, there simply aren’t many local bands at the moment (or if there are, they’re hiding!) and it’s simply not an easy thing to put on shows, with few locals ready to fill the line-up.

However we intend to give it something anyway, in the hopes that more local events will once again spur people on to make music, I think there’s still a demand to see interesting live sounds.

Canterbury is a bit different, there is more there, but even so, for a small beautiful city with, as you say a rich musical heritage, and one that is full of young creative types, relatively there doesn’t seem to be as much coming out of that as one would imagine or hope. However I don’t live in Canterbury myself so there is every chance that more is happening under the radar.

The band “Yndi Halda” I think are the most notable band I’ve been aware of, to have come out of Canterbury recently, definitely worth a listen.

Margate beach

-You recently completed the Micro Fantasy series of illustrations (top of page), but do you have any other upcoming projects in the pipeline?

Yes. I do. I have a few more illustration projects to come, some small, some less small. Also in the pipeline is a musical score for a feature film in production this summer. Not at all the kind of commission I usually get, but one I’m very excited about! Also we’re putting on a music & arts show in Margate on April 3, with French duo “Vialka” playing, so that should certainly be interesting, and definitely worth attending for any locals!

I’ve made a promise to myself to do a lot more personal projects this year, so even if I don’t get all the interesting commissions, hopefully I’ll still have some nice things to show for it.

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White Vinyl Design.