In 2006 I sat in the university library, open mouthed and staring at the wall. After questioning why I, a visual communicator should have to write words, I had eventually accepted there was no escape from the daunting task of writing a dissertation. It was very average, coming in at 52%, a 2.2 grade, but unbeknownst to me then, the paper was a real cornerstone in my career.
Thanks to Banksy, who I had discovered on the album cover of Blur's Think Tank album, I had stumbled upon Blek Le Rat, Jonathan Barnbrook, Adbusters and most importantly, Ken Garland. What brought each of these visual communicators together was commitment to a certain cause, dealing with social, political and other issues each of them cared about. I wrote the piece on graphic activism and whilst my academic writing inexperienced limited its success, my passion and reasonable grammar shone through.
But this was not about grades. I had finally found a channel for the disruptive part of my personality that many would seek to shut down and punish. Now with a valid outlet, a desire to turn my talents to causes I deemed important beyond my own financial gain, I had found a real sense of purpose.
Ken Garland's First Things First Manifesto had inspired me greatly and continues to do so. In the subsequent two years I would struggle, but eventually succeed in finding a natural style of illustrating, underpinned by the energy of the style and subject matter that raised eyebrows. It was socially/politically charged personal work that attracted The Guardian and Channel 4, two crucial early clients.
Persistence and hard-work broke down doors and we eventually gained access to interviews with Danny Dyer, Stephen Merchant, Mick Foley and Caitlin Rose. Then after stumbling across a timely interview with Ken Garland in Eye magazine, I contacted Ken and to my delight, was invited round to his studio to chat. They say do not meet your heroes, but Ken was a gentleman and so full of passion, which I cannot begin to tell you how inspiring that was to see, from a man in his mid-eighties.
The campaign was small, but raised a decent level of awareness, providing a vehicle for both friends and strangers to open up about the way they felt. It remains the most satisfying piece of work I have carried out on a very human level.
Without the work of Ken Garland, I doubt it would have come to pass. Sadly, Ken's words carry more weight than ever before as the world edges into uncertain times, with Britain leaving the European Union and Donald Trump now elected as U.S. president.
So I hope you find Ken's words as inspiring as I do. With the blessing of one of the most important graphic Designers this country has ever produced, here is episode 46 of Arrest All Mimics, with Ken Garland.