There are few design studios whose work I recall fawning over when I was studying design that still hold my attention now. But seven years after first seeing the work of UK-based studio ilovedust (iLD), I remain envious of their attention to detail, badass-yet-beautiful ornament, killer murals and illustrative approach to type. I caught up with co-founder and creative director Mark Graham to chat about some of his recent work, what it's like being a boss and who he’d most like to get stuck in an elevator with.
This interview took place via iMessage from Gemma O’Brien's studio in Sydney, Australia, and iLD HQ in Southsea, Hampshire. All emojis have been omitted.
GO: Mark, your studio is pretty cool. Do you get a lot of fan mail?
MG: Not really. We do get the odd bottle of whiskey or screen print, but nothing too gushing. We're still waiting on our first pair of knickers in the post.
GO: You’re one of the two bosses at iLD. Are you a cool boss or a mean boss?
MG: I think I'm a good boss, but I would say that, wouldn't I? I make mistakes, but I make some good choices, too. I much prefer to think of us as a football team, and I'm the manager; we're not much good without each other.
GO: If you’re the manager, who’s the coach?
MG: We have a great back room staff with specialists in all different areas. I can just shout louder at people or whisper instructions depending on how we are doing !
GO: What percentage of your work have a hand-drawn component, and how much is digital?
MG: I'd say we work digitally a lot. Even if we hand draw we tend to have the need to make it a vector or a big fat chunky .psd, so maybe 75% digital 25% hand drawn. The line gets blurry the more you mix them, truth be told.
GO: And how much hands-on designing/illustrating do you get to do? Or are you too busy answering emails?
MG: I have a lot of emails! I don't get to design so much in reality, but it's my job to make sure what we design is the best it can be. If I need to grab the file and work to make an idea better or clearer then that's what I will do. I can still hold a pencil or a paintbrush, but I know we have talented people who can do that much better than I can, and having distance from a job means we stay pretty objective. I'm a big believer in hiring people who are better than you are, or why would you hire them in the first place, you know? Also, it's fair to say we're our own worst critics, and that's a healthy thing.
GO: Who is responsible for all the badass, billowing smoke type and fire lettering in iLD’s work?
MG: That would be 3-4 of the guys, Ben and Ollie, Pedro and Slayer we try to keep things sexy and looking lush.
GO: 10/10. Type and illustration always seem to be nicely integrated too.
MG: Yeah we really work hard to make sure we're making things that aren't after-thoughts. There's so much good work out there and a fuck ton of terrible stuff too. We try to stay on our toes.
MG: We worked on the game for XBOX and Insomniac Games creating a whole ton of in-game and content design and not too mention the cover too, but for this particular part we really wanted to get a little rock-n-roll and typographic. In all honesty we worked it up as something fun and XBOX and Insomniac Games vibed off it. It's a really nice piece, it's not reinventing the wheel but sometimes it's good to just work on some established aesthetics and then give them a little tweak and mess with it a touch.
GO: A lot of the illustrated work (Like the recent cover for Vegas Rated) has ultra-detailed ornament, symmetrical borders, almost like a contemporary take on historical ornamentation ... do you guys have a killer reference library of this kind of stuff?
MG: Hmmm not really I gotta say that stuff just flows you know? It's like an illuminati-skater-bike-gang versus a rock-n-roll tattooed, porn star astronaut.
GO: And the Vegas Rated magazine features a scantily clad girl holding a silver platter - what’s under the platter?
MG: Her husband’s head.
GO: OK. What’s more annoying, having no Wifi or losing your Wacom pen?
MG: Wifi 100%. I can go track pad it's not an issue but no wifi ....
GO: What hours of the day are you most productive?
MG: 9-11 5-10
GO: Favourite form of procrastination?
MG: Do I need another pair of football boots.
GO: Most hated current design trend doing the rounds?
MG: Stripped back coffee company brands that get more minimal by the second.
GO: What’s your opinion on inspirational quotes placed over an outdoor adventure-style photograph?
MG: I like a Land Rover. I like a nice view. I like an aspirational lifestyle but don't tell me how to feel about it by slapping over a quote like ' everything you wanted to do is the other side of fear’. I have an imagination I don't need to have everything turned into a tote bag graphic you know?
GO: When was the last time you shut down your computer?
MG: Shit I have no idea I barely restart it let alone shut it down !
GO: Name a piece of work you saw recently that made you be like “Oh shit that’s really good!”
MG: Design wise I’m really loving the work of my pal Jurne. His type work is a great mix of graffiti styles and classic typography. It feels different and I vibe of that.
GO: If you had to get stuck in an elevator with two artist/ creatives, dead or alive (not dead in the elevator …you know what I mean) who would they be?
MG: If I'm stuck in a lift with two creatives in praying there's a few beers ! That's a tough question I met Peter Saville, he seemed super down-to-earth and a top bloke, then it would have to be Saul Bass I think or the guys from Faile.
GO: If you were forced to type in only CAPS LOCK or italics for the rest of your life which would you choose?
MG: CAPS IN COMIC SANS.
GO: And last question, seeing as we’re on Design Envy…. if envy was a colour what would it’s RGB values be?
MG: RGB 255 198 0
GO: So you go like orange-yellow with envy?
MG: Yeah !