To Si Scott, the ancient question “what’s in a word?” has more answers than we can list. And here is why: Si, one of the most celebrated typographers of our time, gives us his response in the shape of ink. This UK-based illustrator guides black swirls over sheets of paper, fusing them with sounds, shapes, and color, building layer upon layer of non-computerized intricacies until something wonderful emerges.
His work has spawned a thousand copycats, yet his personal mantra remains the same: do your own thing and never emulate. Join us as we chat with Si about his past, his process, and the importance of taking the plunge.
“I really like looking at design and thinking: that attention to detail must have taken absolutely ages.”
Format: Can you tell us about your background, please?
Si Scott: I am originally from Leeds, and first studied Graphic Design at Leeds College of Art and Design before going on to study at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College. I have always drawn, for as long as I can remember, in one form or another!
I didn’t really know what design was when I was at school as there was no such thing as design. It was just “art & design,” and that was pretty much it as far as studying anything creative went. There certainly weren’t any computers either!
Leaving school and attending Art College (and discovering design) was like some kind of revelation to me–-it really opened my eyes to all the different possibilities and ways to apply creativity.
Format: Is your work primarily done by hand or is it a mix of hand drawing and computer art?
Si Scott: I’d say my work is ninety percent hand and ten percent other methods – such as the computer for coloring, etc. I also use paint quite a lot, or am starting to again anyway!
Format: You do a variety of graphic art, but it’s safe to assume that your passion is typography. What is it about typography that you love so much?
Si Scott: I really don’t know what it is about typography that I like so much – the obvious reasons are just typography’s forms: the endless possibilities regarding what you can do with it. I never wanted to emulate somebody else’s style; that doesn’t interest me at all. I was always striving to do my own thing! Whilst most people were using computers at college, I was in the print room playing around with letterpress, screen-printing etc.
Format: Over the last few years there has certainly been a movement involving the sort of ornate typography you lean towards. Your work has even been credited with playing a part in why this movement initially happened, and I’m wondering–is it more flattering or frustrating to know that your style of work was adopted by hundreds of graphic designers?
Si Scott: It’s a bit of both I guess-–I can understand why some people choose to adopt other people’s style of work, but on the other hand, it also baffles me a little bit. I think design has become quite lazy of late.Especially with the computer playing such a dominant role, it can be quite easy to just bash something together. I really like looking at design and thinking: that attention to detail must have taken absolutely ages.
Format: The difference between your work and the work that has resulted from it within the design community is that yours is incredibly complex and ornate. How long do you generally work on each piece?
Si Scott: It’s like…how long is a piece of string? It totally depends on what it is: size, format, etc. I do find it really hard sometimes to estimate how long something will take. I’m getting better though.
Format: Any thoughts on the current state of design?
Si Scott: There’s some really nice stuff going on, and some really bad stuff also! If everybody liked everything and had the same opinions it would be really boring.
Format: You’ve done work for huge clients like Nike, Orange and the BBC-–do you have a dream client or a dream project?
Si Scott: Having worked with Pentagram was bit of a dream come true for me-–but I don’t really have a dream job as such. I always try and get the best out of each piece, striving to make each piece stronger than the last.
Format: You’ve mentioned how you are very inspired by music; what are some of your current favorite sounds?
Si Scott: Interpol, Bjork, Tycho, The Charlatans, Tom Waits, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I could go on all day. I should just say that there are too many to mention, I guess!
Format: Aside from music, where do you find inspiration for your art? Is it an internal reaction to your love of words, or a combination of that mixed with outside influences?
Si Scott: I think it is just a reaction to words-–most of my ideas come from words in one form or another! And due to the fact that I am constantly listening to music, I mostly just seem to be influenced by lyrics.
Format: You recently opened up a studio with Kerry Roper called We Are Bitch. What are you hoping to achieve with this new company, and how’s it going so far?
Si Scott: It was just an idea we had in the pub one night (beer idea)! I’ve known Kerry for quite a long time now, but We Are Bitch isn’t really a studio, it’s just a drunken idea between friends. Neither of us have the time to really pursue it properly. Hopefully, we will be able to work together on something.
Format: You give design presentations all over the world. Is there any way you could condense one of your lectures into a short but helpful paragraph for our readers?
Si Scott: Nerves. More Nerves. A few drinks. Nerves. Talk a bit about the work I did at college and how this has influenced what I am doing at present. Show slides of old work, etc.
After finishing college: Placements / employment / redundancy (x2) / Getting an agent (x2) / taking the plunge and setting up on my own.
Try and show more new work rather than things I think people will probably have seen on the site, etc.
Talk about plans for the future and things like that.