He’s published 1000s of illustrations for clients such as Wallpaper*, the New York Times, GQ and the Economist and is in the running for a Design of the Year 2012 award for his installation Cut it Out – a giant dog-shaped art-making machine. Here, innovative graphic designer Noma Bar tells IdeasTap how he works...
When did you know you wanted to be a graphic designer?
As a kid I didn’t know that graphic design was a profession. Kids have this idea of professions as being carpenter or fireman or painter. So for me, painter or artist was the thing. I think I did graphic design as a child – I liked symbols and icons – but I didn’t know this was graphic design until the age of 16 or 17. Probably today, with the internet, it’s all very obvious for kids. I see the new generation and they know exactly what is what.
How did you get your first commission?
I studied graphic design in Israel – mainly illustration and Hebrew type design. I paid for my studies by working at Channel News – it’s like the BBC – doing graphics. Because of the army you do everything later in Israel so I started studying when I was 24 or 23 and graduated when I was 27. I moved to the UK when I was 28 and sent some postcards [of my work] to different places: the Guardian, Time Out. Time Out came back after a few weeks, offering me my first paid commission – a portrait of Shakespeare.
What’s your work routine?
For the last five or six years I’ve lived in Highgate in London. I live opposite the woods, which is my escape for ideas. I go there every day from 9am to 2pm. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining; I just sit with my sketchbook, no computer or anything, and have a proper pure brainstorm. I spend more time thinking than executing so when I go to the computer I already know what I’m doing. I would never sit down at a computer and say, “What am I doing now?”
When you’re given a brief, how do you come up with ideas?
Yesterday I had a brief about safety. I looked at my bag and took out my pen and saw I had a safety pin that was attached to the side of my bag. Suddenly I saw if you look on the head of the safety pin, you see the head of a person there. So I did it as a safety pin. Things that surround me inspire me but everything I do is about ideas. If you asked me to do an illustration of a pencil or a mobile phone it wouldn’t be a straightforward object – it starts with ideas.
What advice do you have for young graphic designers just starting out?
Be open to everything – to a degree. I was educated to open my eyes all the time when I started – we’re talking 11 years ago – but I think these days [young graphic designers’] eyes are already so open because of the internet. It’s easy to be exposed to a million styles in one click and I see a lot of students struggling because of [too much] knowledge. The fact that I’m not at a computer most of the time is to avoid it and focus on myself, on where I’m going and what’s good for me.
Cut it Out is on show at the Designs of the Year 2012 exhibition at the Design Museum in London from 8 February to 15 July.
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Main image by Francis Ware.