Whether he’s doing graphic design, typography, or lettering, Scottish-born artist Craig Black is always keeping busy with various projects. Black is known for his innovative installations, typographic illustrations, and unique packaging all while running his own design studio in Glasgow, United Kingdom. You can find his work published internationally by several publications, featured across online media, and exhibited around the world. We got a chance to catch up with Black and learn a bit about how he got started in the industry and the way his creative process works.
TH: Can you give us some background on how you got started. What drew you to typography and graphic design?
CB: I absolutely loved football (soccer) growing up, I was so fascinated with the design around the beautiful game such as colourful football shirts, team badges, football boots and TV commercials and programmes. This all contributed to my curiosity in design and made me wonder how things like that were made, I remember customising my first pair of football boots in a ‘dodgy’ gold pen thinking it would make me a better football player….unfortunately it didn’t!
TH: How would you describe your creative process from start to finish?
CB: My process for lettering begins with writing the ideas down and creating some rough thumbnail sketches. Once I find the best direction, I begin the lettering stage by drawing each letterform. This is an iterative process that includes several stages of refinement by illustrating, erasing, tracing, rinse and repeat. Once I’ve taken the concept as far as I can by hand, I scan the image and begin the digitization process.
TH: What has been your favorite project you have worked on and why?
CB: My collaboration with Slick’s Barber Shop in Glasgow—one of my first clients as an independent designer. In the early days, Slick’s was a two-man band with the ambition to become one of the best barbershops in the industry. This mentality rubbed off on me and sparked a continuous collaboration on projects such as branding, interior design and installation work, which helped the company expand from two people to twelve in a short period of time. Slick’s has now become an established, leading force in the United Kingdom and European beauty industry.
TH: How has the shift from working for an agency to starting your own studio changed the way you work?
CB: I think the biggest shift would be responsibility. When you’re part of an agency, there’s team members with different roles and responsibilities to keep the ship running but when you’re out on your own, you need to take full responsibility for all of those positions from client management, accounts to design. I’m quite a disciplined person and plan my days ahead the best I can, having a structure in place helps me keep on top of things.
TH: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
CB: I listen to quite a few design podcasts, read a lot of books and dabble on the design blogs but I do feel my best inspiration comes to me when I least expect it. When I am out in the fresh air, the gym, socialising or even when I’m driving the car which can be a bit problematic especially if you want to note down the idea!
TH: What is one piece of advice you would give to young aspiring graphic designers who want to start their own company?
CB: Find people who’ve done it before you, ask about their successes and – more importantly – their failures.
TH: How did you develop your style as a lettering artist and what tips would you have for others?
CB: I think one of my greatest assets is that I don’t have a specific style. I have a versatile skill-set within typography and lettering which benefits me as well as my personality as I constantly like to challenge myself rather than doing the same thing over and over again. I pour my heart and soul into my work and aim for the highest of standards and by doing so, I feel that that leaves my imprint in the design...in a weird way!
It’s important to develop your own unique voice. This is why consistency is key when making your work recognisable. I’m a firm believer in doing self initiating projects. This is the approach that I have taken and as a result, my skill-set has become more natural to me over time as I continue to experiment and practise.