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We talk Design with Emer Tumilty & Matt Walkerdine



30 June 2020

We talk Design with Emer Tumilty & Matt Walkerdine

The BFMAF 2020 design is live! We spoke to its creators Matt Walkerdine & Emer Tumilty about how they approached the this year’s brief

Emer & Matt, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We are really liking the new design! Could you tell us a little about the direction it’s taken this year?

Emer The direction is a departure from the last few years – previously the illustrations have felt a lot more traditional, and have been the focal point of the visual identity. Back in January we had conversations with the Festival team about reflecting ideas of instability, exhaustion, and uncertain futures. The old approach (which had been pictorial initially and has become more abstract or the years) didn’t feel appropriate any more. This year I came up with a set of abstract panels that express a mood or atmosphere – a shift, spaciousness, the digital realm. These panels can be used in a multitude of ways, and allow for Matt’s bold, experimental typography to take centre stage.

Matt Considering online space and availability of materials has been something that has been in my mind for a while. Emer coming up with such textural pieces – whilst bold and engaging – also feels like almost a blank to play with subtly. As you know, we go through a range of ideas with you all included and see what sits best. Hence where it’s landed. It’ll be really interesting to see how that morphs on the online space since both Emer and I work in physical space for most of our work outside of Berwick. But handing over concepts to be translated feels like an additional collaboration, it’s how I always try to approach getting a book made – the printer is the collaboration at that point lets say. This year’s approach is very simple with this added translation being in the back of my mind the whole time.

It would be great to hear how you both work together on the design process. Could you talk us through this briefly?

Matt We work separately on the creative process really. We always start with a number of conversations with both yourselves and between us. Emer is pivotal in the early stages really as the illustration really leads the whole of the process. We then divide tasks which are most suitable to our skill sets. I really like working alongside an illustrator to be honest, I think it makes the whole process much more rich.

Emer I agree – working with a graphic designer, and seeing how they respond with typography to illustrations and imagery, is a really interesting and fruitful process. This year in particular I’m excited by the direction in which the collaboration is moving, and the visual identity that is growing from that.
Speaking from an illustration perspective there’s been quite an evolution over the last 4 years since back in 2016 when you took on the BFMAF brief Emer. I’m thinking of the earlier motifs associated with the town of Berwick, bridges and water for example and how this has evolved into something different each year since?

Emer The illustrations have evolved in tandem with the festival- it’s growing international audience, its changing role within the town of Berwick, and increasingly ambitious programming – these are all things that I wanted to reflect in the visual identity, this year especially.

The evolution also reflects a change in my own interests; the festival has always encouraged an open and art-based approach to the work, and I’ve taken that opportunity to experiment and work in more abstract ways each year. This year’s visuals reflect a large shift in my own practice, away from more traditional and representative forms of illustration, and towards a more experimental, digital approach.

Matt, with your graphic design there’s this layering process which seems to run through a lot of the previous designs and this year it feels softer and more diffuse and digital in its feel, Could you talk a little about how your ideas have developed recently?

Matt I guess touching upon an earlier point of feeling that this would be considered or viewed in a much more digital space. I’ve just tried to be subtle but also consider elements of my practice that I weave in and out. The larger type work is a recurring task of its own building and layering into existing letterforms. I like to think about ownership a lot in typographic work and how things shouldn’t be owned in the singular and so building and modifying is an extension of that; taking something, changing it. It would be nice to think someone will take these letterforms themselves and then keep adding and changing.

I think I’ve mentioned it to you all previously but I only use open-source type in my work and have done for a while now. There are lots of reasons as to why, but that helps make decisions but also reinforces my thoughts around ownership and modification. I guess there are a couple of stages of this through this year’s design work, both from Emer and myself.

Finally, it would be great to hear about your wider practises and some of the other upcoming projects you’re involved in and we should look out for?

Matt Good Press forever keeps us busy and upcoming projects wise – very little given what is going on. Keeping the ship stable! It has been more a case of internal collaboration over the past couple of months with all of us feeding into making Good Press more transparent than we felt it was. We’ve been making a larger text to consider and help people understand our open submission policy, we’ve been discussing new books to get in – which is always fun! – and also we resurrected our monthly newsletter The Paper, which will also be fully open-submission from September. Commission wise, I’ve been very quiet and just continue to work on the publishing practice I have with The Grass is Green in the Fields for you. I recently published a book by Craig Pollard called Inside a Gleaming Feeling, and that was great to work on.

Emer In my own practice this year I’ve taken time out to reflect on the type of work that I do, and question the value of producing hyper-visual art work purely to fill instagram feeds. A lot of illustration has become about competing for recognition on social media, about crafting your own self-centred brand, and working for huge brands and corporations. That’s not the meaningful work I want to do. Recently I’ve been working on digital design and installation projects with local architects, and I’m keen to move in this community-focussed direction