If you’ve ever used Tumblr, chances are you’ve encountered the work of Anthony Burrill. The British artist gracefully straddles the line of graphic design and fine art, and his inspirational work befits high-brow galleries and small creative offices alike. I was fortunate enough to exchange a few words with Burrill, and he’s truly as kind and upbeat as his designs reflect.
You’re most recognizable for your text & typography prints. What initially drew you to this type of design?
Using words is a very direct way of communicating. I love the simplicity of a short truthful phrase. You can reach people very quickly with a few carefully chosen words. Less really is more. It’s hard to make work that looks simple, you have to leave out a lot of stuff. When it works it’s very exciting. I make my prints using traditional woodblock techniques, I think that is what give sit it’s unique warm feel. You can see that it’s been produced mechanically, by hand. It gives the work a warmth and humanity that people respond to.
You’ve held many lectures and workshops around the world. Is community important to you? How does it influence your work?
I like people and love meeting new friends. Communication is so easy now, we can keep in contact with a much wider group of friends and acquaintances than ever before. People are generally the same wherever you go. We all want the same basic things, to be happy, to have a nice life. I’m conscious of the messages that I put out in to the world, my aim is to promote a thoughtful and positive approach, there’s enough bad stuff out there and I don’t want to add to it. I’d rather fight it with positive actions!
Do you have a body of work you’re most proud of?
In 2010 we printed a poster using oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. The poster simply read ‘OIL & WATER DO NOT MIX’ – it was a simple statement, because of the way it was produced you could see that it was making a big statement. The poster became very popular, people responded to the idea, the way it was produced and what it said. Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that have most effect.
At what point did you recognize your success?
I had a show in London 2009, lots of people came to the opening, there was a queue to get in! That’s when I felt that people had discovered me. I’m in the position now where I can pick and choose the projects I work on. I’m very lucky to have such freedom, it took a long time to get here, but definitely worth it.
Much of your work is highly optimistic. Is this reflective of your personal attitude?
Yes it is, I’m generally chirpy and upbeat, I’m happy with who I am and feel fortunate to be able to live my life the way I do.
What’s the most important piece of advice you could offer aspiring designers?
Make work that you have a connection to, make work that you care about and don’t just do it for the money, that will never make you happy!