At a Pecha Kucha event for the American Institute of Graphic Artists last year, graphic designer Andrew Byrom presented a series of takes on what a business card should – and shoudn’t – be. His son passed out a wooden card made literally from “The Desk of Andrew Byrom.” Andrew’s witty presentation softened his rigorous rethinking of the function of graphic design, and the involvement of his 9-year-old son made it a family event. Currently, the Eames exhibition that Andrew curated and designed with Deborah Sussman for Pacific Standard Time is at the A+D Museum. Here Byrom speaks about his work, how he works, and Ray and Charles Eames.
You established your firm in 1997. What led to that point? After graduating from The University of East London in 1996, I worked briefly in the design department of Routledge, a leading academic book publisher. In 1997, I opened my own design studio in London and worked for various clients including Penguin Books, The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, The Industrial Design Centre, Time-Out Online, and The Guardian newspaper. Around this time I also began teaching graphic design at The University of Luton and Central St. Martins.
I moved to the States in 2000 to teach at Northern Illinois University. In 2006, I moved to Long Beach, where I am a Professor at California State University. I divide my time between teaching, designing for various clients, and playing with my sons Auden, Louis, and Julian.
I have recently been commissioned to design typefaces and type treatments for The New York Times Magazine, UCLA Extension, and Sagmeister Inc.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I split my time between home and my faculty office. When I moved to Long Beach from Chicago six years ago, I wanted to find a house where I could walk to work. I have been lucky enough to find a place that is a 30-minute walk from my house to my office on campus, which is perfect.
How would you define your aesthetic? I create physical/structural graphic design. The move to a three-dimensional approach in typeface designs was born from a desire to move out of my ‘comfort zone’ and force myself to create/build letters from a new standpoint. I began using the conventions of typographic design in three dimensions, using unfamiliar applications, materials, and processes as a way of forcing myself to find new forms. Not only must these three-dimensional designs adhere to typographic principles (uniformed x-height, structure, etc.), but they must also address architectural considerations including physical strength and structural integrity. I am interested in finding new constraints for which to effect my designs – and force my hand.
When you set up your home office what did you have to keep in mind? Were there any particular obstacles to overcome? I want to be able to have my kids come and go in my workspace, so I have to keep it pretty basic and with nothing too important lying around. Therefore I do all my drawings (and store all my designs and blue prints etc.) in my small office on the CSULB campus. I do more preliminary or conceptual work, and a lot of writing, at home.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet right now? I’d like to swap my desk for a George Nelson Rolltop Action Desk so I can just lock it all up and go… see previous answer for reason why!
What desk accessory can’t you do without? A pencil, a sketch book, and a decent pencil sharpener … and a Mac.
What and who inspires you? Charles and Ray Eames have been my biggest inspiration. Their work, and how they chose to document it, always seemed to be very playful and joyful. They were open to exploring new materials and processes and worked hard to master the associated constraints. They were also endlessly prototyping and experimenting.
I’m also impressed by designers like Alvin Lustig, Massimo Vignelli, and younger designers working today like Jonathan Keller who are able to work across disciplines, but still keep their own design principles intact.