Hamish Muir, Graphic Designer

Hamish Muir was co-founder of the London-based graphic design studio 8vo (1985-2001), and co-editor of Octavo, International Journal of Typography (1986-92). Since 2001, Muir has been a Lead Tutor (part-time) on the BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design course at London College of Communication. In 2009,
he co-founded MuirMcNeil, a project-based collaborative with Paul McNeil. Member AGI. MuirMcNeil’s activities, through both self-initiated and commissioned work, are focused on systems-driven explorations of alphabetic and typographic form at the boundaries of readable language.

What was your first memory of creativity?

Depends what is meant by creativity. If it’s sitting around (with perhaps optional mind-mapping and Post-It Note workshops), waiting for a big idea to pop into consciousness, then I’m still waiting.

What was your creative journey to get to where you are?

Hard work over long hours, many years, working with others, not alone. Collaboration has been key; shared journeys with no specific destination, via discovery through making things.

What impact have big name clients had on your career?

If a ‘big name’ client brings their big name to a briefing it’s usually a bad sign and time to walk away. It doesn’t matter who you work for, as long as you try to make the best thing you can each and every time.

How do you establish your own style over a period of time and still stay relevant?

Style is a dirty word – it implies the ‘creative’ has something of themselves to offer which is more to do with them, and their own self-perception of their ‘creativity’, rather than the job in hand, its conditions and contexts. Style also implies something that can be pre-ordered (I’ll have one of those combined with a bit of that please) and pre-determined.

Styles come and go with increasing rapidity. It’s all about approach – to work successfully over a long period of time, one has to constantly reevaluate one’s methodological approach to (in my case) visual communication.

Does your work develop thematically, or is it more distinctive and random?

Both. Best described as trying to push a system to breaking point, hoping it will produce unpredictable results that one has the discernment (and sometimes instinct) to recognize the potential of.

What has been the biggest influence on your work?

Working with others; with Simon Johnston and Mark Holt at 8vo, and more recently with Paul McNeil as MuirMcNeil. The myth of the lone creator is both unhelpful and unrealistic. Working with others is both challenging and liberating – it’s almost impossible to be your own objective critic of work in progress, and it’s all too easy to be lazy or unwilling to change things that need to be changed – there’s no hiding when you work collaboratively.

What inspires you or provokes the motivation towards creativity within?

Doing the next job better than the last one.

Which designers do you admire or inspires you the most?

Armin Hofmann, Muriel Cooper, Wim Crouwel,
April Greiman, Wolfgang Weingart, Karl Gerstner,
Bruno Monguzzi (in no particular oder)

What is it you love most about what you do?

Starting with nothing* and making something. Hopefully new.*Well, not quite nothing, as there is usually something, of content/context/conditions.

Event Details: Conversations in Creativity (6.30pm) 3 May – Blackburn Cathedral