Apr 21, 2011
Zelda Harrison

XCD interviews… Christopher Scott

Christopher talks about being Irish, celebrating cross-culture and poster design

XCD: Please introduce yourself, ie., Where were you born and what neighbourhood did you grow up in? Could you tell us more about your family and how you became a designer? Who are your favourite clients/collaborators?

My name is Christopher Scott a graphic designer from Northern Ireland. I have had my posters exhibited all over the world including the Louvre France, Italy, Peru, Spain, USA, Bolivia, Korea and many more. I was brought up in a village called Donaghmore of which I do not remember much about. The three things which are clear in my mind: the house number was 18, all the kids played football after dinner until we could not see the ball because of the darkness and finally I drew pictures of my favourite characters ‘Super Mario’ and ‘Teenage mutant hero turtles’. I would then sign them, go around the houses in my neighbourhood and sell them for 50p so I could buy sweets in the local shop.

As long as I can remember I was always drawing and painting. Which continued until the year 2003; I was 17 years old. I became very bored with the drawing and painting process because I felt that I was not creating anything unique. I started to search for other methods to use my creativity and I randomly turned on the computer one day in school and opened up the program Microsoft Paint. I just started experimenting and within 3 hours everyone had surrounded me and saying the work is amazing.

I have collaborated with many graphic designers all over the world including Yossi Lemel, Reza Abedini, Woody Pirtle, Hervé Matine, Utpal Pande and many more. I also really enjoy working with Ryan O’Neill and Mark Douglas who are local photographers in Northern Ireland.

XCD: In your Facebook album (labelled “my posters”), your work demonstrates an exquisite simplicity and compelling concepts that focus on social issues and current events. How did the theme of social responsibility acquire such importance and what inspires you as you design these posters? Could you elaborate on the design process of a couple of your favourite posters?

While I was studying my Bdes Design and Communication and I really struggling mentally as I was never happy with any of the boring ‘Brand me’ projects I was given. It was not until I was able to do my own brief in the last semester in final year when I got to explore myself and to express my personal feelings/opinions into a project. The outcome was my first social awareness poster ‘Dead Leaf'; which is probably my most famous poster. Since it was created in 2008 it has won the following international awards: Good50x70 2009, Designboom Green Earth finalist, Green+You 2010, 4th World Student Poster Biennal, Instituto de Diseño Darias – Poster Invitation and Good Poster Hong Kong – selected best poster.

The process in creating ‘Dead Leaf’ was strange because not only did it give me a lot of recoginition but it also gave me the knowledge of what it takes to create a good poster. Everything just clicked into place in my brain. It was for sure the most defining moment in my career/life so far.

I always like to speak about the future and the new. In relation to this my new posters consisted of a new design process of which was quite new to me as it involves no computer to create the work. So I ask photographers to capture a scene of which I set up and this creates the poster. This involves alot of sketching, thinking, planning and directing so that I feel each poster I am happy with. I selected this method so I would become closer to my creation. Another aspect in this process which is has helped me is to make it personal so that the subject matter relates to a certain aspect in my life; I learnt this from Padraic Lynch (Lecturer in Visual Communication at the University of Ulster, Magee)

XCD: Which description (one of the 3 below) of today’s changing world makes most sense to you, ie., which one best describes your personal experience and why?

a. multiculturalism (that means you experience different cultures as distinct and separate)
b. crossculturalism (this means that you experience different cultures, some changing the other, you tend to pick a little bit of this and a little bit of that)

I love to experience different cultures. They each have their own special characteristics and personalities but at the core we are all the same. In terms of design each culture has their own style, colours, shapes, layouts and fonts which they like to use; for me this is fascinating to observe.

c. globalism (this means you feel that all the cultures are melting into one style, and everyone’s pretty much looking the same, inspired by the same things)

XCD: Which cultures do you think about most when you are designing or creating art? Why do you reference these cultures? Do you feel they represent or inspire you more than other cultures?

When I am creating my posters I try to think of the culture that is most affected by the social issue. So every culture inspires me and I think this is important for any graphic designer to understand. They need to beware of as many cultures, graphic designers, artists as possible so your work can have an universal impact which is what I try to achieve.

XCD: What music are you listening to these days? Any movies or TV show that has impressed you the most in the last 12 months? Any specific Irish movies or shows? What’s Irish Pop Culture like?

I love listening to Radiohead when I am sketching my ideas; their new album ‘The King of Limbs is stunning. AC/DC and Airbourne make me really happy and excited. I also really enjoy blues music (Elvis and Seasick Steve to name a few). I am not impressed by modern cinema/tv as I feel it focuses too much on special effects. However I have a small but nice dvd collection of films by Martin Scorsese amongst others; ‘Taxi Driver’ or ‘Apocalypse Now’ would be my favourite films.

XCD: Do you believe an Irish visual language exists? What does it feel like? Do you use it a lot in your work? If not, why? Do you feel like your cultural values are well-reflected in your visual landscape?

Personally I am not impressed by the standard of Irish visual language. There is a few exceptions of course. My main inspiration in Ireland would be Robin Hodge (Masters Lecturer in Visual Communication at the University of Ulster, Magee) as his thought process is fantastic. In general though I think we fear to be different in our approach. We stay in a safe ground which for me is boring as I like to break the rules so that I can learn more.

XCD: You’ve been spearheading some poster projects in support of the victims of the Fukushima Tsunami (2011/3/11). Could you share some of the lessons learned and experiences from your efforts?

We basically have only started the ‘Posters for Japan: Green+you’ project. It is really great to organise this project with Byoung Won Choi, Utpal Pande and Michael Iva. The main lesson I have learnt is how much empathy modern designers have towards their fellow human. Within a very short period of time we received over 200 posters from 50 countries around the world. You can upload your posters at http://on.fb.me/greenplusyou

I am also involved with another great poster project called ‘Posterfortomorrow’ which is run by Hervé Matine and Tommaso Minnetti. The brief this year is ‘Right to education’ everybody should take a look at www.posterfortomorrow.org

Currently I am preparing for my first solo social poster exhibition called ‘Put yourself in their shoes’ which will open in September in Derry, Northern Ireland. You can follow my progress of all my posters plus view behind the scenes photos of how I create the posters, which I feel gives my work extra depth and also helps the viewing understand more. www.facebook.com/putyourselfintheirshoes

Finally I would like to say a big thank you to XCD for this interview.


Christopher Scott

2 Comments

  • What Chris doesn’t say – and it is something that many truly good designers leave out when you talk to them – is how determined he is, how enthusiastic he is for his ‘art’. He doesn’t tell us for instance how hard he works and how he searches for answers.

    Believe me – he works hard, he’s just like a little dog with a big bone. He’ll work and work and work at it, drag it through the mud, up hills and down into the valley until he gets it home and put to bed.

    robin

  • Christopher is very talented. I don’t think people realize how difficult and complicated it is to create something simple. True talent is when the artist can pull this off, at the same time not being contemplated by the viewer. Christopher’s work is magnificent and I feel honored to be on this earth the same time that he is.

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