Stuart Tolley is a Brighton based graphic designer and author of MIN: The New Simplicity in Graphic Design. Stuart’s stimulating new book has recently been published by Thames & Hudson, and is available to purchase now.
As creatives take contemporary design in fresh and exciting directions, they are also waving goodbye to the ornate patterns that have saturated our visual culture for the past decade. MIN: The New Simplicity in Graphic Design showcases around 150 outstanding minimalist designers working across a wide range of formats and media – from independent magazines and album covers to corporate identity and branding. Each item was photographed purposefully for the book, with exclusive interviews and essays about key historical moments in the development in Minimalism interspersed throughout. MIN is the first thorough look at this rebirth of simplicity in graphic design. Only the finest international examples from the last three years are included, ensuring that MIN is at the vanguard of this exciting new movement.
With more than 400 original photographs exclusive to the book, each accompanied by a commentary on the design and production processes involved, MIN shows the creative possibilities that design for print continues to offer in the digital age. It is both an invaluable source of inspiration and a visual reference for all professional and student graphic designers.
Stuart Tolley is an art director, graphic designer and author of Collector’s Edition, also published by Thames & Hudson. He is the founder of Transmission, a creative agency that specialises in the art direction and implementation of visual-culture books, magazines and digital media.
We caught up with Stuart to ask him a few questions about his work.
Hi Stuart, could introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi, my name is Stuart. I’m an art director, graphic design lecturer and author of two visual culture books, MIN: The New Simplicity in Graphic Design and Collector’s Edition: Innovative Packaging and Graphics, which are both published by Thames & Hudson. I live in Brighton and drive a bright orange camper van.
Transmission is your graphic design studio, can you tell us a bit about it?
Sure. Transmission is a graphic design studio and editorial consultancy. We work on a variety of graphic design projects, including campaign design, art direction, web design and branding, but specialise in the creation of magazines, books and publications for cultural brands and publishers. I started the studio about six years ago and now work with two journalists and a wider network of illustrators, photographers and developers.
MIN, The New Simplicity in Graphic Design looks at the rebirth of simplicity in graphic design, what do you enjoy about simple graphic design?
My earlier work was quite erratic (check out the Transmission website archive) but I’ve always had an interest in simplicity. What I love is there’s no hiding behind faux textures, layers and ornamentation. I’m also interested in the public perception that minimalism in design is the lazy option and easy to create. It’s like a dirty word, often ridiculed. I think the total opposite, that simplicity in design takes time to perfect. Just because something looks effortless, doesn’t mean it was created with little effort.
You feature Erased Tapes Records. How did you select those that featured in MIN?
MIN features a number of Erased Tapes vinyl releases, but I also commissioned a six page interview with the label owner and the contributing designers Supermundane and Feld. The interview opens a section about geometric design, so naturally I selected their most geometric and minimal record sleeves. What I love about Erased Tapes is that the cover artwork is very important to them and is a perfect compliment to the minimalist music. You can really see how the music output and artwork have developed together.
What is the process of designing a book?
It all starts with an idea, which is developed over a number of months, before being pitched to a publisher. Once the proposal is approved it’s about two years of sleepless nights and very long hours in the studio! For both my books I decided to photograph each featured example, which is a massive undertaking and took a year to complete. It’s very rare for a book of this nature to include exclusive still life photography, as it’s more common to rely on existing imagery. Another important design consideration is the structure and navigation system. This is part of the book making process I love, as a clear navigation system is the backbone that determines the user experience. For MIN I created a navigation that utilises the gutter, an area in the middle of the spine that’s normally considered dead space. This monochrome design directs the reader to the three sections and essays from the outside of the book. Once the book has been designed, there’s a long process of working with the publisher to edit copy and ensure the print production is unified. It really is a beast of a project.
I love the Collector’s Edition ‘Artist Cover Bomb’ Series – tell us more about how that idea was conceived?
Thanks, I’m really proud of that project. The Collector’s Edition book is about the new wave of limited, deluxe and special edition graphic design created for the music, book and magazine industry. I felt that a book celebrating collector’s edition design, deserved to be released in a collector’s edition format. For me it was the perfect way to finalise the project. Sadly, the publisher didn’t have the budget, so I took it upon myself to invite some of the world’s most famous musicians, artists and designers to draw directly onto the cover of standard edition book. These artworks formed the Collector’s Edition ‘Artist Cover Bomb’ Series which were sold at auction to raise funds for The Alzheimer’s Society. The contributor list is staggering and features original artwork by Sir Paul McCartney, Nick Cave, Wayne Coyne, Stanley Donwood, Oliver Jeffers, Peter Gabriel and more….
Can we take a ganders at your workspace?
Ah, go on then, here’s my space in the studio.
You can find out more about Stuart’s work here.