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The new heroes of design

The up and comers of the design world tell us what they’re doing, what makes them tick and where they’re taking their skills next

When we set out to profile the rising stars of graphic design, we didn’t expect to be confronted with quite such a broad range of influences. From the twentieth century neoplasticism of the De Stijl movement to the world of nature, and from people-watching in Paris to pictures of a cat, it seems there’s almost nothing that won’t spark an idea.

Also impressive is that, at a time when many recent graduates are feeling the dread of plunging into the job market for the first time, these young designers are all out there working, often freelance, and often for large companies such as Nike, New Zealand’s ASB Bank or The New York Times. Coming from all over the world, read on for our profiles of the new heroes who are here to take design to exciting new places.

MATT EDWARDS

Matt Edwards

“I’m a very methodical person,” says graphic designer Matt Edwards, who lists the keywords and concepts that best describe his work as: “collage, minimal, typographic, clean, simple, hand-processed.” Edwards says this isn’t so much a style as a process and method of working. “While there’s always going to be a way in which you prefer to work, university taught me that the project should dictate the approach you take.”

Screenprinted poster from the Travelogue series by Matt Edwards, a set of six posters describing the journey undertaken by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin

Edwards counts Josef Mller-Brockmann, Jan Tschichold, Deiter Rams and Russian painter Ilya Repin among his visual influences. Since graduating from the University of Brighton in 2011, he has combined freelance design with work as a learning support assistant in a school for pupils with special educational needs. “Helping these kids with things we take for granted, like having a conversation on the phone or expressing their ideas to people around them, has made me more appreciative of the bigger picture,” he says. Indeed, he is now working on a self-initiated project based on his teaching work.

Currently freelancing as much as possible, Edwards will soon be applying for full-time jobs. Having moved back to Leicester from Brighton, he is also considering a possible move to Edinburgh and says his immediate goal is to combine design with further work in education.
 

CURTIS BAIGENT

Curtis Baigent

When the Art Directors Club named art director, motion and design artist Curtis Baigent as one of its young Guns, the jury said his work was flawless. “It almost makes me angry to see the talent of Curtis Baigent,” wrote Manhattan-based designer Nina Boesch. “Is there anything this guy can’t do?”

Baigent hails from Wellington in New Zealand, and counts ASB Bank and Subway among his clients. With a first-class degree in design under his belt, he spent two years cutting his teeth at visual effects and animation studio Oktober, then helped establish boutique studio Assembly. Now he’s living in Paris, France. “There’s so much to take in because everything is new to me, including the language,” he says. “I’m basically a full-time tourist. People-watching is excellent here and I love the way the cafes all know and embrace this. The concept of visual communication feels amplified because, right now, that’s all I’ve got. It’s a pretty surreal experience – I totally recommend it,” he continues.

Current projects include the design and art direction for a new French band, direction of a live-action title sequence for a TV show, and a series of mid-century-style animated titles. Of his creative style, he says: “I never know how to describe it, because it’s in a constant state of flux. I work across different media and disciplines, and am always looking to try new things.” Style is something that feels project-based, rather than career-based, he adds. “I think this flexibility and liberation from any one style is what I’m really enjoying right now. It keeps me feeling inspired and fresh.”

Baigent’s visa expires at the end of August, and he has yet to decide whether to apply for a new one or move to another country. “I currently have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in the coming year. The uncertainty is exciting and I’m really happy right now just taking things as they come,” he says. He hopes to start a studio at some point, but his current ambition is simply to continue exploring and trying new things. “I hope that’s something I’ll never tire of.”
 

WENDY TAN-LUI CHAN

Wendy Tan-Lui Chan

Wendy Tan-Lui Chan focuses on using bold elements and a sense of playfulness while paying close attention to type details. “As a young designer, I think it’s important for me to try everything to get a sense of what’s out there,” she says. “I have a giant list of things I want to learn and do, such as coding, screenprinting and creating my own line of prints.”

Chan is currently working as a graphic designer at cult New York brand Kate Spade, concentrating on its stationery line, window graphics and print materials. She also undertakes ad-hoc freelance design and illustration projects, as well as creating visual content for her blog.

Print materials for a University of Florida design show and reunion party by Wendy Tan-lui Chan, now designing for Kate Spade in New York

She counts mid-century modern designers like Alvin Lustig and Alexander Girard among her inspirations. “Their uses of bold colours and shapes never cease to amaze me. My trip to Japan in 2010 was another huge influence – I’ve long been aware of the strong design sensibility there, and I find their ability to balance playfulness and sophistication really charming.”

For now, Chan hopes to continue working at places “where I can grow and learn from talented designers,” and would love to work abroad some day. “Right now, my biggest goals are to absorb as much knowledge as I can and find my voice as a designer.”

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