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Anthony Burrill’s typographic survival guide for the living


ypographical innovation – the sheer ubiquity of words making true innovation an even greater achievement – comes in the form of designers such as Alan Kitching, Erik Spiekermann and Cornel Windlin; while Anthony Burrill, Tony Brook, Philippe Apeloig, Simon Esterson and Jonathan Barnbrook lead the more abstract, editorial and pictorial vanguard” writes Wallpaper magazine on the pioneering creatives that don’t just revert to type. Graphic artist, print-maker and designer Anthony Burrill couldn’t be more nonchalant.

Known for his persuasive, up-beat style of communication this artist’s work is held in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and has been exhibited in galleries around the world.

Graphic artist, print-maker and designer Anthony Burrill has developed a distinctive voice using words and language as an important part of his output and he is sought after not only by collectors but also by clients including Google, Hermés, the British Council, London Underground and the Design Museum. After all Burrilll’s typographic, text-based composition “Work Hard and Be Nice to People” has become a mantra for the design community and beyond.

While Burrill’s work is grounded in a serious devotion to his art, he has a lightness of touch and humor that, although often copied, is unique in the field of graphic communication. He frequently embarks on innovative collaborations with friends and fellow creatives. This is a selection of wisdom from a man that appreciates the message when it is loud, simple and clear.

“The very first time I used a phrase in my work was when I was a student at the Royal College of Art in the early nineties. I made a small zine called ‘Negativity Stifles Creativity’, it’s funny looking back now, I felt a bit misunderstood by the tutors. The reality was the work I was producing wasn’t very good and their criticism was valid. It was only after I left college that I began to understand what I was trying to say and how to say it successfully.”

“My work is an extension of my character, I like to keep things simple and direct, in both my work and my approach to life. Visually the work has similar threads running through it that haven’t altered much over the past twenty years. I like simple color palettes, a small range of typefaces, and easily accessible materials. The main thing for me is to make work that engages and amuses people.”

“I find working with analogue techniques very satisfying, there’s more soul in ink and paper than there is in a microprocessor… I embrace whatever comes along, whether that’s ancient printing methods or digital technology. I love the connectivity we can all achieve now, it adds to the richness of life. I’m old enough to remember life and work before the digital age, it wasn’t fun. There are aspects of the past that I remember with fondness, but they are far outweighed by the advantages and ease of communication we have now. The important thing is to appreciate the tools we have now, and to exploit the positive aspects of the non-stop stream of information we are exposed to every day.”

“I like British designers such as Abraham Games, Tom Eckersley and Alan Fletcher. I love pop art and the blankness of seventies conceptualism. I’m still an art fan, I try and see as many exhibitions as I can and love the feeling of seeing a show that really connects.”

“I encourage people to be honest, about themselves and their work. The better you understand yourself, the better your work becomes. It’s important to be happy in your work, it is reflected in the work you produce. A lot of creatives who work solely in a commercial context miss the freedom expression you can achieve through personal work. I encourage people to start self authored projects, to get back to basics and remember what it is they find exciting and inspiring.”

Simple, direct, honest and engaging, Burrill works with minimal means to produce work that engages and amuses. “I’ve always been fascinated by vernacular typography, hand-painted signs, scrawled messages – work that is simple and direct, but with a definite personality” he says. “I like to keep material choices simple, and that includes color. I specify pure color to print with, bright red, clear yellow and strong green, color straight out of the tin” he added.

“The work kind of reflects me as a person. It’s the way I live my life. It’s the way I’m happy and comfortable with—making work that’s produced very simply…  It kind of talks about, I suppose, my life philosophy and a different way of living that’s not about amassing huge amounts of consumer goods. It’s just this different way of doing things, being independent and positive in the way you live.”


With info from Anthony Burrill, Juxtapoz, Designboom and WalkerArt