ian cartlidge (cartlidge levene) interview ian cartlidge (cartlidge levene) interview
jul 25, 2013

ian cartlidge (cartlidge levene) interview

ian cartlidge (cartlidge levene) interview
all photos by marcus ginns

 

cartlidge levene is a london based design studio that specializes in the creation of identity wayfinding and signage. co-founder ian cartlidge told us more about their work.

 

DB: please could you tell us how you came to work on the type of projects you do now?
IC: I originally worked in a large multi-disciplinary design studio environment and after a while, I developed an ambition to form a small, specialist studio. cartlidge levene became that studio, formed with Adam Levene in the late 1980s. we focussed on design for print with a passion for information design, typography, and a curiosity for interesting formats, materials and printing techniques. we looked to europe for inspiration, particular switzerland and holland – we were a small team of four at that time and we all naturally gravitated towards the likes of crouwel, müller-brockmann, weingart for inspiration but we were also equally inspired by artists such as weiner, ruscha and baldessari.

 

we gradually started to work on exhibition design and environmental graphics projects. we started to enjoy the process of thinking spatially and began to form interesting collaborations with architects. after a foray into the corporate sector during the late 90’s and early 00s, our work today is largely centred on the architectural and cultural sectors working on major public wayfinding projects. we still relish designing for print and our passion for information design and typography remains at the very heart of everything we do.

 

 


design museum designs of the year exhibition

 

 


barbican arts centre wayfinding and signage (in collaboration with studio myerscough)

 

 


michael faraday primary school identity and wayfinding

 

 

DB: how do you share / divide your workload between studio members?
IC: we are a team of five designers, (or occasionally six) depending on workload, with a core of three of us who have been together for ten years. we work very closely together and everyone participates in the design process, it’s very democratic in that sense. I like working as part of a team and I also enjoy being a sort of team mentor, getting the best out of everyone and forming relationships with our clients.

 

 


guardian news & media wayfinding and signage

 

 


guardian news & media wayfinding and signage

 

 


guardian news & media wayfinding and signage

 

 

DB: what is the attraction of designing identities for you?
IC: we consider identities as ‘visual language’ – we will generally use the term ‘identity’ rather than ‘brand’. we design logos, when required, but the spirit of an identity is communicated through its application. we design pure identity projects with printed and digital collateral but our environmental graphics and wayfinding projects are also largely about identity. our work in this area will often embody the spirit of an organization through information design and 3D materiality. visual language is about communicating the soul of an organization – it’s about encapsulating the intangible, an emotion, an atmosphere – this is the powerful offer that we all have as identity designers.

 

DB: given your experience, are you able to finalize a logo or identity design quicker than you used to, or does it remain a matter of trial and error?
IC: yes, experience enables you to instinctively edit ideas and allows you to cut out a lot of exploratory work – it can still involve trial and error but you develop a sense for knowing when something is right.

 

 


tate modern wayfinding and signage (in collaboration with studio myerscough)

 

 


tate modern wayfinding and signage (in collaboration with studio myerscough)

 

 


tate modern wayfinding and signage (in collaboration with studio myerscough)

 

 


tate modern wayfinding and signage (in collaboration with studio myerscough)

 

 


tate modern wayfinding and signage (in collaboration with studio myerscough)

 

 

DB: what mistakes or ‘traps’ should a young designer avoid when working on an identity system?
IC: review your designs at 1:1 – you can never fully understand if a design concept works on screen. print out, review at life size, put it on the wall, hold it in your hand, refine it, return to your computer, do this on a regular basis.

 

think holistically – identity is rarely about an individual piece. understand how all the components work together, develop the art of designing typologies and master hierarchy and order.

 

communicate design successfully – some of the best ideas can stand or fall on how they are communicated to the client. design is not just about the end result, understand the journey.

 

 

DB: the work you produce is quite diverse, what are your thoughts on specialisation vs generalisation?
IC: we are all specialists and generalists. it is only in the eyes of the client or the onlooker that we become one or the other. diversity is important to us and we ensure that we continue to work in a cross section of areas, such as print, identity, exhibition design and wayfinding.

 

 


stanton williams identity

 

 


stanton williams identity

 

 


stanton williams identity

 

 

DB: do you think it’s important for a graphic designer to be able to draw?
yes. I think it is about the basic understanding of form and proportion. the greatest architects can capture the essence of a building with a simple line sketch – all the fundamentals will be in place: form, proportion, volume – I think they are taught the importance of this at college. ultimately it’s about using your hands – a craft, I suppose. technology is central to everything we do but one thing it has taken away is the basic necessity to commit to the hand sketch at the beginning of the design process. we get locked-in to our computer environments too easily when sometimes a simple sketch is all that is needed.

 

 


ellis miller identity

 

 


ellis miller identity

 

 

DB: what do you think the most significant developments in identity design have been in the last five years?
IC: apple’s retina display provides opportunity for visual refinement in digital media that was not thought possible only a few short years ago.

 

DB: how do you think online design resources has influenced the work being made today?
IC: we used to travel far and wide in search of inspiration. we would go to amsterdam to visit nijhof & lee and occasionally new york to visit printed matter. this was long before any such bookshops existed in london – this is how we found amazing inspiration. it’s all on line now, which is a fantastic, instant resource that we could have only dreamt about back then, but it somehow makes it too easy – inspiration used to be hard won – the process of finding it made you really appreciate it and it was very personal – now everyone has access to the same inspiration bank – that homogenises design.

 

 


moreysmith identity

 

 


moreysmith identity

 

 


moreysmith identity

 

 

DB: besides design, what are you passionate about and why?
IC: that’s difficult – because design is everywhere – is it not? besides graphic design I would say architecture – I have a fascination for the spatial environment around us, from the intimate scale to the public realm. I have also been lucky enough to form close working relationships with some great architects – this has inspired me and created a thirst to further our work in this area.

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