Q&A: Rob Cordiner

The city of Hobart in the Australian state of Tasmania seems an unlikely place for a fertile creative design scene, but it's the spiritual home to designer and typographer Rob Cordiner and the Hellavate collective. So why have they moved to London?

Computer Arts: What's the design scene like in Hobart?

Rob Cordiner: Hobart's quite a small place but it has an amazing network of artists and designers. There's a handful of great creative studios, as well as retail gems such as Small Rhino, Pocketspace and Arp, that are giving local designers a real push. The design scene has gone from strength to strength in the last few years.

CA: Tell us about Hellavate. Who's in the collective and what have you done?

RC: Hellavate was founded in 2004 by myself and a few close friends with an aim to create a platform for local creatives to showcase their work. We held a series of exhibitions at Hobart's now defunct retail/ gallery space, Sabotage. The most successful, Artmart, featured a diverse range of affordable artworks by both established and up-and-coming artists. The attendance of the shows grew massively in a short period, as did the quality of work exhibited. Hellavate's founding members are now all in London after some time apart in separate continents, so we've got some fresh new projects on the go.

CA: What's brought you to the UK?

RC: There seems to be some kind of magnet buried under London with no real purpose other than to attract Australians. Even if said magnet didn't exist I'd still be here due to the incredible range of things on offer here. It's a truly amazing place.

CA: Where does your love of type come from? Are you making your own faces or mainly using other peoples' fonts?

RC: Through the wonder that is skateboarding I soon discovered graffiti when I was young chap. I would never say I was particularly prolific, but there were a handful of older writers in Tasmania back then who took original letterforms to the next level. I was hugely influenced, and am still inspired by their pieces, so I suppose being exposed to that really sparked my passion for type. I find the semantics of graffiti really interesting in that what is clearly decipherable to one person can be completely illegible to the next. I enjoy taking a similar approach with much of my personal work. With regard to making type or using existing typefaces, it depends on the project at hand, but generally I try to incorporate bespoke typography into design projects because it brings a unique quality to the solution.

CA: What did you specialise in at art college and how has your arts education influenced your current work?

RC: I studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in Graphic Design. In addition to graphics I studied photography and printmaking served over a dash of art theory on the rocks. I probably wasn't the model student, but those years did give me a great chance to nail my approach as a designer. Looking back I wish I'd engaged more in the art school environment. I'm really missing the letterpress section of the print-making studio.

CA: You're involved in a lot of collaborative projects - work with Jeremyville, OneOneNine, etc. What do you get from working with these people? RC: It's a real honour and incredibly inspiring to have work exhibited alongside such talented people as Jeremyville and OneOneNine, and it is also a great opportunity to get your work out to new audiences. One of the most enjoyable projects so far has been being a part of The Guild project (curated by Seven Nine), where all artists involved are linked either through friendship, geography, school or a common approach to their practice.

CA: What's the plan for Peer Pressure?

RC: Peer Pressure was originally intended to be a seasonal clothing label, but when it stayed in the planning stages for some time, I came to the realisation it would be more enjoyable to keep it as more of a free-form creative project and allow it to go in any direction. There are loads of great projects in the pipeline, including a collaborative music project with a super-talented producer, Crytearia, as well as a new T-shirt featuring the fine work of long-time cohort Seb Godfrey (Drunk Park).

CA: What was the idea behind the Words Play On project?

RC: It's more or less a collection of art, graphics and process work from the end of 2006. I published it to coincide with the closing show we had at Sabotage. I have a bit of a thing for word play, and seeing as the majority of the work in the zine involved me playing with letters and words, I thought it would be fitting to name it with a pun about puns.

CA: Where does your Task-Focused design name come from?

RC: Task-Focused was a corporate buzzword that got thrown around by my employers back in my retail days. If we had a task to complete during our shift they used to tell us to not get too 'task-focused' to ensure we didn't forget about the customers. I thought it was a perfect description of the creative process that I much preferred to be engaged in and found it pretty amusing to label my work in such a strait-laced manner.

INFO: Rob Cordiner's design work can be seen at www.task-focused.com and www.thepeerpressure.com. Check out the Hellavate collective at www.hellavate.net.