I was saddened to hear of the passing local creative luminary Barrie Tucker last Friday. Barrie was truly a trailblazer for anyone coming up through the creative industries in South Australia – I remember in my University years looking through a brochure of Tucker Design and being completely in awe of the work they produced. It really cemented in my mind that this is what I wanted to do with my life. While I never got to meet him in person, his work through the years was certainly a great inspiration, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that way. I spent the weekend looking back upon some of his great work, I urge you to do the same if you already haven’t – and finally, my condolences to his family, friends and all those who were lucky enough to have worked with him.
I was going to write a continuation of my last post on my current situation – it’s been just over two weeks since I wrote that post and if things don’t feel as if they have got any easier, I’m at least on a little bit more of a solid standing in regards to my emotional well-being. It’s not a battle that I’m particularly enjoying engaging with but it’s not like I’ve got a lot of choice in the matter. That said, firstly I want to thank all of you that have reached out to me with words of support and kindness. Honestly, it has meant the world to me that you would take the time out to do so, and in the absence of some of the pillars that I’ve traditionally relied upon to deal with and get through periods of anxiety and stress, any offers of additional support are greatly appreciated. Perhaps the worst of what I have been feeling is the isolation and loneliness and knowing that there are good people out there that are thinking of you helps immensely. The last couple of weeks have been spent with much rumination, much reading and countless thoughts on how I might be able to drag myself through this. I don’t have any particular revelations to share, other than the fact that listening to the latest Father John Misty album on constant repeat may not be a great way of moving forward at the moment (It’s a great album, but as a friend of mine so pointedly reacted when I told him what music I had been listening to and he checked it out for himself “bloody hell!”, yeah, Father John Misty knows what I’m going through). The only conclusions I’ve come to is that it will take time and support – the reading has at least been somewhat enlightening – I have to say I’m surprised how often graphic designers are mentioned in the literature when it comes to mental health issues – so, I’m not really alone I guess? I may also suffer from something called HSP (Highly Sensitive Person! – most likely) and early onset male menopause? (I personally think that one maybe bullshit. In the short-term, like Austin Powers – I’m just hoping to get some of my ‘mojo’ back – in the emotional sense – maybe not so much the physical. Writing some of these things out has certainly helped, at least a little bit. Writing has always been an outlet that I know I’m not very good at, or in fact feel I need to be good at – so it holds no real preconceived notions in my mind that it needs to be perfect, or at least competent, as opposed to the hold my anxiety has over me in my efforts to be a designer or even on the most basic level of being able to maintain significant relationships. I wish I could be stronger through all this. Anyway, my thanks to everyone who has ever taken the time to read any of my posts on here, not just my pity party of this and the last. Comments, advice or just a note to introduce yourself are always welcomed and encouraged. While I’m working through my issues I’m also trying to work through what the future may hold for Facing Sideways and myself as a designer, it may be the case I’m not cut out for any of this. I the meantime, I share below The Hues Corporation performing their 1970s hit ‘Rock The Boat’, because I defy anyone not to smile (even myself at the moment!) over this overtly enthusiastic performance.
You may have noticed that it has been more than a little quiet on here over the last few months – I’ve had significant gaps in content on here before of course, the site is an excellent gauge it seems for my various ups and downs in life. At the moment I’m in one of those ‘down’ moments, actually that’s somewhat of an understatement in regards to how I have been feeling of late.
I’ve had generalised anxiety for quite a few years now. It’s not something you want to advertise about yourself particularly, though I’ve been fortunate enough that I haven’t generally let it affect me during my work day. It builds from me constructing elaborate negative outcomes quickly, often to benign triggers. For example, if my boss writes me an email and says he needs to talk to me about something on Monday, I am apt to spend the entire weekend obsessing over the meaning, unable to enjoy anything, and convinced that I’m getting fired, I will lose everything and will be out on the street. Sometimes it’s a slow burn over a week over little things that are even connected, until those little things grow and grow as my mind and emotions construct some horrible scenario out of totally ridiculous tendrils that have no basis in reality.
The black dog of mental health is not an uncommon companion to those of a creative disposition it seems, and if you read the news of late, there have been a few celebrity victims that have made the headlines. Working in a creative industry frequently means long hours, stressful projects and frantic working environments – this all exacerbates latent mental health conditions, and in creative environments these conditions are purported to be more common than anywhere else.
On average, people working in creative industries are 25% more likely to carry the gene variants [for depression] than professions that are judged to be’ less’ creative.
In some respects, anxiety at some levels can prove beneficial to the working creative. The self-criticism inherent with it can, for example, encourage rigorous thinking. Unfortunately that sort of detailed self-reflection can often tip over into a state of perfectionism in which actually doing something can prove impossible. Like its frequent partner in crime depression, anxiety can strangle both a creative impulse and the person themselves on a very fundamental level.
And that’s where I’m am at this moment in time. I feel ridiculous and embarrassed about it in equal measure. It feels like the ultimate ‘first world’ ailment, something I can indulge in because I have the luxury of living in a part of the world where I don’t have to worry about going hungry, being killed in a war or living in squalor. Guilt plays a large part in perpetuating the cycle of damage. I’m naturally pretty introverted as it – an anxious introverted persona doesn’t make for a lot of laughs when going through an episode. I think the guilt is the hardest thing for me to deal with, the guilt of how it affects the people around me. My friends don’t deserve having to deal with me like this, my workmates, My parents now in their 70s certainly don’t and most significant other definitely shouldn’t have to put up with it. It’s embarrassing that as a 48 year old man I can’t deal properly and rationally with the same sort of things in life that everyone else can and have to daily. I ruminate on this often, I close in on myself, hoping my withdrawal will mitigate the hurt and frustration I feel I am causing, this just seems to perpetuate the cycle of my own worry unfortunately.
So how does this relate to Facing Sideways? I started the site (over 10 years ago now!) for a number of reasons. To begin with, I wanted to promote the enormous pool of talented graphic designers living in South Australia. I didn’t think they were being sufficiently recognised, not just on a national level, but internationally as well. Whenever I do travel overseas and speak to international designers, they are always amazed at the amount of inspirational work that I show them, being produced on the other side of the world in a place that they have (invariably) never heard of before. The site is also a means by which I can tackle my naturally introverted nature, to get me out in the world a little bit more and to practice my writing which I enjoy. It’s been a great way for me to introduce myself to some of my design idols both local and internationally. I never cease to be amazed by the kindness of the creatives I have been in contact with – whether it be the time they have given to meet with me, to answer interview questions, or just some kind words about the site or an article I have posted. It has been very good therapy for me.
It also comes with it’s stresses, like much of anything you pour your heart into. I feel guilty over perhaps not posting as much as I should, that perhaps the site is not as flashy or ‘designed’ as it should be, that I’ve offended anyone maybe with a flippant comment or by not including them in my “Designers Who Are Better Than Me’ section. I never intended for the site to be a millstone around my neck. I’ve always taken the attitude that ‘it is what it is’ and that I have enough stress triggers in my life to not add the blog into the equation. It’s not as if the site is popular enough that there are legions of disappointed designers waiting months for me to post again.
It is all brought upon me by myself alone. I have too many ideas, too many things I want to accomplish, unfortunately I’ve never quite had the ability or the patience to match all those ambitions and that’s usually when things come crashing down. That’s when the frustrations begins, the sullenness, the irritability, the withdrawal and then eventually the dam bursts and I take I take it out on those closest to me, to my abiding shame.
What’s scaring me somewhat at the moment, what feels different this time in particular is the feeling of having no desire to do those things that I love the most. Even in my darkest moods previously I’ve been able to draw some enthusiasm for my love love of any practice of design, no matter what I’ve thought of my ability. Of late I have just been feeling that it is pointless, destructive even – have I let my interests turn into unhealthy obsessions for perfection to the detriment of the things that really matter in my personal life? Is this really, finally the road to ruin I’ve stressed over most of my adult life, where I lose everything and everybody that matters to me?
And that unfortunately is how an anxious mind works – I know it’s pathetic and ridiculous and frustrating, but that’s what I’ve been battling the past few weeks and been dealing with at various points in my life. The worst part of all, maybe even worse than the guilt, is the loneliness, the feeling that no one else is like me, the feeling that I’m broken and that I may never be right. Believing that I am not capable of coping with life, because things always seem to go wrong. I always screw it up.
Of course, the reality is that there are a lot of people like me, dealing with anxiety disorders or depression or other kinds of mental health problems. As measured by years lost to disease, mental health issues are the most important cause of disability
worldwide, accounting for a third of years lost to disease in adults.
I’ve always been resistant to talk about it too much – as I’ve mentioned above there’s a good deal of embarrassment associated with it and I’ve sure as hell never wanted to advertise the fact and have people think I’m unreliable. It’s still an uncomfortable topic to broach, only 41 per cent of people with mental health problems get professional help, that’s a frightening statistics. Things are changing though, it’s unfortunate that the deaths of a couple of high profile individuals has been the impetus to see more stories about the issues in the news. Hopefully it may have been the wake up the some people needed to get the help they need.
And that’s what I’m doing – I don’t want to go on about the various techniques, books and professional help I’ve sought – there’s plenty information on the inter-webs to help you out in that regard. Often help will come from places and people you don’t expect it which has been my experience. There’s no magic panacea that will universally fix things in the same way for everyone, and cliche as it sounds, you can only fix you, you are no one is responsibility other than your own.
Also, please let me say, that this isn’t the end of Facing Sideways. I have some interesting interviews and articles to go up when I am more able to do so. The site may change physically or even thematically – or maybe not at all over the coming months, but it will still be around.
And thank you for this indulgence on my part – I’ve broken my cardinal rule of this site by posting very, very much about me in the most indulgent manner possible, but maybe that’s just another thing that needs to change. Thanks for reading, and be good to yourself.
I just wanted to give a heads up for the latest issue of Fête Magazine that has just come out in the last few days. Fête is consistently one of the best design/lifestyle magazines released not just in Australia, but in the world, and the design and photography is beautifully considered with each issue. No. 25 is a particular standout, even amongst it’s usual level of quality with some great articles on minimalism, simplifying your lifestyle, and how to achieve that important work/life balance. There’s also lots of cool stuff to look it if that’s your thing as well! Fete have also been advertising for a mid-weight freelance designer, I don’t know if they’ve found that perfect candidate yet, but it would be an awesome opportunity to be part of such a great product. If you think you have the design chops (and you’re not too late to apply of course), drop them your details. Also, go and pick up a copy of the magazine of course, available around Australia where all such good magazines are sold – or you can check out all their list of stockists here.
I am crazy obsessed with the African wild cat, the caracal. maybe it’s because just like them, I am an agile and fierce predator – of design links that is! I slap down a few of my own below.
Why are some people just more creative than others? I was kicked in the head by a pony when I was young, but I’m sure that can’t be the case for all of us.
Every design project I have worked on is tinged with a little regret over what I may have done differently, so it’s nice to know that in some respects this is a universal trait!
Wrestling from the 1970s seems like a really weird platform for modern day design inspiration, but you have to admit these old posters are a hipsters dream.
Does true originality stem from just a hint of madness? Or maybe it’s even more than just a hint.
Living the dream, and travelling the world. Is the life of a digital nomad just too good to be true, is it wrong of me to hate them regardless?
So it’s okay to copy now – have at it then!
As the year is ramping up (it’s March this week) it’s handy to have some tips on how to handle having too much to do.
Brisbane has always had a pretty awesome music scene, and along with it an interesting history of gig poster design.
It’s too late for me, but maybe this can be of benefit to any of you younger folk.
Whoops, too late for me again.
Is brutalism the next big thing in graphic design – or have we missed that boat already?
One of my singular pleasures of the year is when I receive my Type Directors Club annual in the mail. I’ve been a member since 2010 – one of the benefits of memberships of course is that you receive the beautiful Type Directors Annual each year, which, in my humble opinion, is the best curated collection of design examples from around the world year after year. Membership in the Type Directors club offers a lot more than just the annual though. It’s a way to connect and interact with the world’s very best designers, creative directors and typographers – and of course, if you work is up to standard, a way to present your very best work in front a very distinguished audience (Adelaide firms Voice and Studio Band were both awarded in the latest Type Directors awards for example (well done guys!) I thought I would share some of my favourite pieces from the latest annual, I’ll think you’ll agree it’s some cracking work.
How to Ruin Everything: Essays By George Watsky
Design Ben Denzer Art Direction Jason Booher
I thought I would start off with what is probably my very favourite pieces in the whole annual. I wish I could spend my life designing book covers that look as care-free as this.
Just when you admire how beautiful the cover is, you then turn it over to see that the back cover may be even better. I remember being so knocked out by this when I saw it on the bookstore shelf that I immediately had to have it, just so I could admire that cover at leisure. Luckily for me that it is also an awesome collection of essays written by the very clever and very funny George Watsky – perfectly encapsulated in that cover.
Make sure you check out Ben’s site for some more of his awesome work.
Jazz St. Louis Gala Invitation
Design Direction Sarah Newitt
Design Kiku Obata & Company
I really like how this invitation uses the vernacular of mid-century jazz album typography but modernises it with a contemporary typestyle update and the use of a modern neon colour palette. It’s sophistication is totally appropriate for its intended audience. I would want to go to this if I received it in the mail.
The New York Times Magazine produces the goods week after week, displaying the very best publication design you can imagine. Gail Bichler and Matt Willey are two of my design heroes with what they are able to achieve with the NYT Magazine and a constant inspiration upon my own work. This issue turned it up a notch by turning the whole magazine 90 degrees as a play upon the issues subject matter: Life above 800 feet. Every detail is considered, down to a custom typeface to fit the heights of the new dimension. Keep in mind these guys are doing this sort of work on a weekly basis, check out the Winter Olympics issue they produced recently as another beautiful example of publication design going the extra mile.
Just Another Unicorn Hoodies
Creative Direction and Calligraphy Mariana Castellanos
Most streetwear you see around the place these days is about as cool as something your grandmother would give you for Christmas – and most graffiti inspired designs are about as wearable these days has a hyper-colour t-shirt. These are something else though, tangible subtle lettering on muted colour backgrounds, they are a typography buffs dream attire. While ultimately they are ‘too rad’ for someone like me to wear, I could imagine someone cool like Chris Cooper or Nic Eldridge could pull it off.
I’d seen this online a few months back and admired it, so I was as happy as could be to see that it was featured in the latest typography annual. It does this old heart good to see such considered typography used so well on an LP cover! Unfortunately by the looks of it, with a run of only 300, I’m imagining it’s not the easier of records to actually get a physical copy of.
Design Fons Hickmann, Lizzy Onck
Studio Fons Hickmann m23
Ok, squint your eyes a little bit. See it? Pretty clever play on the traditional Op Art technique. It’s the sort of music that is ripe for such interesting interpretation, but seldom is, which lets this particular design sit well apart from the pack.
Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine
Design Simon Abranowicz
Creative Direction Robert Vagas
I’m not particularly concerned by the machinations of the business world on a weekly basis, but luckily I am enamoured by great design and typography, which must be the reason I’m quite often picking up copies of Bloomberg Businessweek. This cover is a real standout for a magazine that prides itself on producing stand-out covers. Bold, weird and king of icky at the same time – you wouldn’t think the subject matter would particularly lend it self to such an original presentation. But here we are, with Bloomberg Businessweek securing it’s regular berth in an edition of the Typography Annual. And the design inside is just as good.
So that’s just a brief overview of some of the gems waiting to be discovered in the latest Type Directors Annual (these ones I featured weren’t even selected as judges choices, so there is still a bounty of typographic excellence to be discovered. I will also urge you, if you have the means, to become a member of the Type Directors Club yourself if you are not already – personally I think it’s a small price to pay to be in the company of such extraordinary work – not to mention the designers and typographers behind it.
Pine no longer, deliverance is at hand – it’s your late-in-the-day-lazy-old-list of the past weeks most interesting design links. Conveniently posted here so you don’t have to search so much.
Doing the most work doesn’t necessarily translate into doing your best work, how to keep your creativity when the pressure’s on.
It’s easy to get into the doldrums at this time of the year after the spark of getting back into working starts to dwindle – so check on what these designers are most looking forward to in the coming months to perk up your enthusiasm.
Can’t find that elusive font that you’ve spotted out in the wilderness? Maybe those letters don’t come from a font at all.