The Block

Insights — 1 year ago

Never Not Working: Josh Saunders on the Importance of Process

Josh Saunders may well be one of the hardest working men in graphic design at the moment.

 

A quick glance at his online presence invokes a sense of fanatic dedication to process, hard-work and consistent creative output. Indeed, his portfolio has built over the past few years to boast an intimidating amount of world-class brands and projects. Fitting then, that we would approach Josh to ask if he would apply his expertise to designing a t-shirt for our 50/50 anti-censorship t-shirt campaign. He offered his input without a second thought.

 

After getting to know Josh, we weren’t content to leave it there. We had to understand the thinking behind his process more clearly, and look to tease out the lessons from his work ethic; lessons we hope will inspire and motivate others on their own creative journeys.

 

Shop Josh’s 50/50 tee design now. Each purchase raises crucial funds for Amnesty International as they fight for freedom of expression for artists and all people around the world.

Words
Michael Wilkin
Photography
Tim Gautrey & Josh Saunders
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Photo courtesy of Tim Gautrey

Can you tell our community a little about yourself to get started?

I’m a graphic designer, based in the South West of England. Focused mainly on brand identity & typography since I graduated back in 2011. Moving between Bristol, London & Berlin. Living the freelance life, balancing out studio time & being glued to my desk at home.

You use the phrase “Never not working” quite often, can you explain the meaning behind this?

That’s an interesting one. I used to say it a lot back in the day, more as a joke between friends. Always ducking out of drinks. Hard to get hold of. People would say I was ‘Never not working’. Now a days, it refers more to the everyday process. Even if I’ve not got a pencil in hand, I’m always
thinking about projects, refining ideas, making notes.

What does it mean to you to be working to the same brief alongside 50 other artists for a cause like 50/50?

I couldn’t be happier to be involved in this project. Especially with the list of other artists. A solid collection of creatives, for a meaningful cause. Something a little different from the day to day. If you could pin it down, what does censorship mean to you? I think it can mean many things to different people. I’ve worked with the subject before in one or two past projects. Always found it an interesting thing to visualise. The idea of pixelating, blocking out, covering, lining through typography or information for it to feel censored. Tried to be more specific with the subject matter for this design. Using the language barrier between East & West to express the statement ‘I don’t agree’. Something anybody should be able to say, no matter where in the world you’re from.

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Josh Saunders’ 50/50 t-shirt design. Photography by Alec McLeish

Why do you think it’s important to show your process, not just your finished product?

I’ve always found the process more interesting. More of an insight into how things are made, rather than the polished, finished product. Think it goes back to school, showing your working out on rough paper. Almost like breaking down an equation, over the finished answer. Can see the steps it takes to get there.

How important is your workspace to you and why?

I guess I can work anywhere. The wonder of my macbook. Always easy to open & crack on where I left it. However, I do work better stuck to my
desk. Being in & around my home studio. A creative space. Surrounded by my books, sketches, plants, pictures, records… A self proclaimed hoarder of nice things.

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Work in progress. Finished product.

What tips do you have for fellow illustrators, designers or artists who struggle to promote themselves and their work?

This has always been the number one question. How to shamelessly promote yourself, without selling your soul. The only advice I’ve got is to practice your process & don’t be afraid to show it. Whether you’re using instagram or more traditional methods like flyers & word of mouth, always be honest. Don’t worry too much about what others are doing. Focus on your own craft & what you like. And I’m sure others will like it too.

I’m always thinking about projects, refining ideas, making notes

Can you pin down the steps or factors that led to you developing your own style?

I have no idea. I guess I just know what I’m into. Ever since I was little, I’d collect & copy candy bar wrappers. Try to imitate styles & learn how they were made. This turned into a interest in everyday type, from shop signage, film titles, record sleeves, postage stamps… I guess there’s a strong understanding of lettering in my work, even if I don’t know how to do everything. Keep things authentic. A little rough round the edges. Even leaving in a few mistakes here & there.

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Josh Saunders. Photo courtesy of Tim Gautrey

Had you done merch before? What interested you about the idea of doing tees?

The only merch I’ve ever done in the past was for musicians. Throughout my teens I worked for various bands in the UK & US. Mainly hardcore/punk. Banging out some lettering, then seeing it printed for a tour. Especially if you saw a shot in Kerrang of someone wearing it. Blew my little mind. I think this was the first time my design work actually had a platfrom & was seen.

Finally, what do you see as being the biggest challenge facing young entrepreneurial creators in 2018 and beyond?

There are a fair few obstacles for the younger up & coming generation of creatives. I know in terms of living, I’ll be renting for the rest of my life. For work, the only advice I’ve got is to stay true to your process. As long as you still enjoy what you do everyday, whether working in a large design studio or just on your own two feet. There’s no yellow brick road to success or an A-Z on how to become the worlds best designer. Just work hard. Be yourself. And if all else fails… Like Saul Bass said, I’ll just make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.

50 artists, 50 t-shirt designs, 50% profit to artists, 50% profit to Amnesty International.

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