Darren Firth, the original founder of WIWP (Wearitwithpride) has managed the brand since its launch in 2003 and now works as an Art Director for the UK based studio Six. Over the years he has worked closely with brands such as Ben Sherman, Puma, Nike, Boxfresh, Land Securities, Portsmouth FC, Loake, Lee Cooper and Clarks Originals. Darren was kind enough to take some time out of his busy day to answer a few questions for AisleOne.
How long have you been designing?
Professionally around 9 / 10 years — Since I was 19 / 20
From school I did 2 years at Batley School of Art & Design (ND in Graphic Design), then 4 Years at Huddersfield University (Creative Imaging). I was lucky enough to jump straight into a Multimedia job straight after that.
Who or what turned you on to graphic design?
To be honest, I wasn’t turned on by any Graphic Design. I started to draw things out of comics and magazines at a very early age; I was “turned on” by drawing and (recreating) attention to detail, a passion I took right through to High School. I wasn’t interested in any of the other subjects at school to be honest, they all felt like a chore, so it was inevitable that I would continue a creative path through further education, whatever that may be. I was encouraged towards an ND in Graphic Design, so that’s what I did, not really knowing what to expect. It’s quite unsettling to think what I would have done instead. I would have been pretty lost, however I feel that I had the necessary support in order to see it through and carve out my own opportunities from it. It was either that or be a fishmonger!
Who or what are your influences?
I don’t really have any die hard graphic icons or heroes. I took a mixed path to where I am now, so I grab influence from different creative circles and other walks of life. As I’ve got older, I have grown to admire people for their personal attributes, rather than a narrowed focus towards the work they produce. I admire people with determination, dedication and a real passion for what they do, what ever that maybe; These people I respect and I feel motivated to do the same in my Career/Work. I know that sounds a bit flouncy, but working in a heavily materialistic industry, often makes me want to cling onto something a bit more substantial.
The majority of my work is for the web, but I try and draw my influence from print work, with the aim to bring similar attributes and finishes to the screen. So I’m as likely to be influenced by a print sample, as I am by an element in the latest micro-site for Sony or Nike.
What is your favorite typeface?
I think it’s unhealthy to have one to be honest. I go through phases of picking the same font as a starting point for every project, but I usually deviate away from it as the creative concepts progress. I’m working increasingly on more corporate work, with personal work taking a bit of a back seat, so I’m picking fonts that I think are right for the brand and not the current flavour of the month in Grafik and the like. But if you insist…
Fonts I have used recently or want to use soon:
– Cooper Light
– Century Gothic
– Hoefler (Family)
and, of course the unavoidable
What is your favorite color palette to work with?
A muted pastel shade with a fluorescent or special.
Can you explain your creative process from brief to completion?
Read brief — Drink tea — Research competitors — Drink tea — Decide on “Look & Feel” — Drink tea — Have office debate — Sing different lyrics to a perfectly good song (Spoil that song for everyone, forever)— Play frisbee — Browse some books on the shelf — Quietly put off all the technical requirements it might involve — Drink tea — Work on concepts — Swear — Work on concepts — Drink tea — Discuss ideas with the team — Upload for client approval — Drink tea — Pray to God the client likes it — Annoy everyone else in the office, in that waiting period.
Finish Job — Go off it — Look at it in 3 months and think actually it wasn’t that bad — Add to Portfolio.
Do you use a grid system when designing and how do you feel about them?
This will probably be my longest answer. I don’t use a grid in the traditional sense. My creative education consisted of traditional methods of Illustration, Photography and Art History (Yes one was a GD course, don’t ask!). My style thrived on chaos, distortion and irregularity, a cut and paste style that was influenced by people like David Carson and in some ways elements of Neville Brody’s early work. I didn’t know what a grid was, I wasn’t on the right course to be taught about print and all the rules and regulations that came with it (Kerning, Leading, Tracking, X-Height, eh, what? ); and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have taken that well to it, it wasn’t what I was passionate about at the time; Naively, I just wanted to create pretty pictures — A 6 year path that wasn’t your traditional route into Multimedia.
Over time I learnt the basics and settled into my own method of working, developing my own definition of working with a grid. It’s not a grid in terms of Ratios and Fixed Column widths — in its simplest form, it’s “lining things up” from a given start point or area, which is then adopted through the whole site; A chosen key element within a site structure that then determines the first column Width or Height. This could be seen as a crude and an unprofessional way of working, but there is a science to it and the most important thing is that “It works for me”. I never start with a fixed grid, personally I find it extremely restrictive (Most would oppose this obviously, grids are there to help). Every site starts differently, some with a font, some with a colour, some with a particular client requirement in mind; From there each site will grow organically, slowly forming its own individual grid system for me to adopt and follow through the rest of the visuals. Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes it takes days. Once it’s in place though, I’m pretty disciplined in sticking to it.
The example shows some of the preliminary steps I took in forming the grid for grooveeffect.com. The Red Lines are the first and most important lines, which form the initial column widths. The Green Lines are the start of the rest of the Grid. The top banner was the primary dictator of the overall 2/3 column width area; The image then dictated the width of column 2, thus also column 3, whilst setting the height for the left menu and right feature box areas.
The web has its own “Championed” ratio and column width standards; As with everyone else in my field, I’ve read the various books and articles preaching about them. To be honest I’ve never been able to relate to most of it. I think like a Designer, not like a traditional Web Developer. Navigation and Usability are key, however it doesn’t mean that every site has to look the same. Brands want differentiation, not uniformity…and to be honest so do I. My job would be very dull otherwise. Over the years I’ve worked around these regulations, bending the rules to create bespoke brand sites that still deliver essential usability but are tailored to a given audience rather than a generic internet user and age catchall.
Obviously there have been mistakes along the way, but things need to be tried out in the pursuit to stand out in an extremely saturated market, the majority I feel have been a success however.
Do I use a Grid…erm Yes and No.
Who do you feel is currently doing innovative work?
That’s a tricky one, as I feel that a majority of the people who’s work I admire aren’t necessarily, hugely innovative (How I class innovative anyway), they just do very good and consistently solid work. ( I won’t mention any names, in fear of mass misinterpretation and getting my bits cut off.
In terms of pushing the boundaries Design / Illustrative wise, I’m constantly amazed by the likes of Harmen Liemburg, Non-Format, MM Paris, Antoine+Manuel, Grandpeople, Fons Schiedon, Mi-zo and Kam Tang.
In terms of Art, I’m a big fan of Kinsey, Paul Insect, Kate Gibb and Hellovon.
What are you currently working on?
“Now Showing”, Barcelona” promo and press — WIWP Updates — 2 Ecommerce sites, one for a traditional mens shoe brand, the other for a new global cosmetics brand — Identity and Packaging for the same cosmetics brand with the rest of team SIX — Planning for 2 Illustrator’s portfolio sites — Continued work for Groove Effect — Various amends — Various bits of Flash — Thinking about my own site — Trying to NOT think about another WIWP exhibition — Assisting in other peoples exhibitions.
What is your favorite album?
TV on the Radio — Return to Cookie Mountain
The Black Keys — Attack & Release
Cold War Kids — Up In Rags
Burial — Untrue
Classics (Mostly, Obvious):
The Prodigy — Music for the Jilted Generation
Massive Attack — Blue Lines
Pink Floyd — The Dark Side of the Moon
The Smiths — Strangeways Here We Come
What is your favorite movie?
That’s the easiest yet. “Predator”. Perhaps nostalgia helped put it there.
Intervista is a series of interviews conducted for AisleOne with some of todays top talents in graphic design.