Edward Vince, Vince & Son. Interview
Edward Vince is the founder and head of London based Art Direction and Graphic Design studio Vince & Son. Originally started as a family business in 1868, Edward re-established the firm in 2010, bringing with him a fresh outlook on design and a drive which has earned the studio more than a few recognizable clients. Edward was recently commissioned to design Cut & Shut, a first-of-its-kind publication chronicling the history of the Creative Selvedge design movement which operated at an underground level in Britain through the early ’80s. Left with an open brief by co-authors Nick Wright and Gareth Williams, Edward has pieced together around 45,000 words and over 500 images in a way that is representative of the aesthetic style of the movement itself. Given the recent release of Cut & Shut, we caught up with Edward for a chat, where he talked about design, publishing and porn…
Jack Smylie: Edward, how did you come to be involved in this project?
Edward Vince: Through a good friend who used to work at Bonham’s. The book has been produced by two chaps, Nick Wright & Gareth Williams, the latter is head of contemporary at the auction house. They were looking for a designer to help make sense of all the incredible content they had gathered over the previous three years and make it into a book. They saw my portfolio and liked my approach and also the style in which I worked. I feel blessed to have been involved in this as these opportunities really don’t come around often.
JS: Before designing Cut & Shut, had you any direct connection to the Creative Salvage movement?
EV: I had never heard of it as a specific movement but knew a bit about the various people involved, particularly the later work of designers like Tom Dixon and Ron Arad. It’s been incredible to see where these influential figures came from though and what it was that inspired them. The combination of depressed urban areas facilitating big ideas both because of an access to materials and space but also because of an access to culture never before seen in England.
There is also a chapter called ‘Who stole the soul’ which discusses the massive influence music had on the work of these designers, in particular the sampling and remixing of early hip-hop artists and how this influenced their design work. For me this was the most inspiring content that I felt most connected to as everything that Factory records produced both musically and graphically has always had a huge influence on my work.
JS: Tell us about the book’s design.
EV: It’s very rare for a book of this size and scope to be self-published, and it is incredible for a designer to work on a project that isn’t destined for a specific market or pigeon-holed by a publisher to sell in volume – it is a book with wide reaching content that meant I had complete freedom to create a style which best served the content itself and not a perceived market.
You could say that this is a hugely flawed business plan, but the publishers firmly believe that good stuff sells no matter what and fully supported my desire to make it as appropriate and unique as possible.
The story of the cover design is also something quite remarkable as I got to work with Ben Kelly – the interior architect for the Factory Records club the Hacienda, and together we created the third incarnation of a concept he began at the RCA in the 70’s and was then subsequently used by Peter Saville to create the single cover for Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear us Apart’. This again shows the importance, relevance and uniqueness of this book.
JS: What aesthetic or cultural references have you taken from Creative Salvage that have inspired and shaped the design of the publication?
EV: I have purposefully referenced the era in which most of this content was produced to make it feel genuine but have kept it current and have aimed to make it feel contemporary at the same time; it’s vital to give it contemporary appeal and relevance.
The book design is defined by the content itself. The subject matter is raw and inspiring, and the type of visual content disparate and disjointed. I had to find a style that would accommodate all of this and allow everything to have it’s own place in the book without the chaos becoming overpowering. Cohesion was vital to bring this wide reaching story to life, but at the same time I wanted to let it find its own place on the page.
This is why I used an open spine that not only shows the raw edges of the book but also allows it to sit completely flat, allowing me to lay images across the full spread without losing any of it in the gutter. Simple things like using un-coated recycled paper and a heavy raw dark grey board for the cover also help to make it feel right. Choosing an orange for the highlight colour also reference the rusty metal these designers were working with but also the post-modern hues of Factory Records and the design scene of the time.
JS: Because of the subject matter, and perhaps because of the independent nature of the publication, were you able to roll with a certain amount of creative freedom in your design?
EV: The freedom I was afforded was at times terrifying and also incredibly liberating. I had no brief other than make a book out of the 45,000 words and over 500 images I was given. Once we had edited this slightly and worked out a running order I was essentially allowed to do whatever I wanted to make the design as relevant and individual as possible.
Sometimes I do feel like I got away with murder though especially on pages where I have put big quotes right on top of images such as the incredible shot Peter Anderson took of John Lydon. Luckily he saw it and loved it giving me his full approval.
JS: As a British studio, how do you experience the effects of the Creative Salvage movement in your everyday work, three decades down the track?
EV: The effects of Creative Salvage are apparent for most of the society but particularly the creative industries. I think the ‘Cut & Shut’ approach of this period is something that is so relevant now, sampling and re-mixing a multitude of references and periods to create contemporary stuff – something that the internet has fuelled significantly. This is the approach of my studio – always be aware of your references and know where you are coming from so your ideas and design has context but also relevance. This means that I can create awesome weird and abstract stuff with confidence.
JS: From your experience with this project, can you draw any parallels between Creative Salvage and any current design trends or movements of today?
EV: I think as has been proven time and again, out of adversity comes creation, and as this book covers an era in the early 80’s that experienced the depression of Thatcherite Great Britain with job losses and privatisation fuelling a desire for something new and something better. To think that something as diverse and inspiring as Factory Records could come out of a soot stained Manchester in the late 70’s is testament to human endeavour. The same can be said for the creative industries in London dealing with the recession we experienced a few years ago.
I have never witnessed such a desire for people to be self-employed or to run a business, or to self-publish or to set-up a restaurant. Anything, just to feel independent and that you are in control of your own destiny. There are definitely parallels to be drawn there.
JS: What’s next for Vince & Son?
EV: 2013 is looking like a great year for Vince & Son with the launch of our first magazine. It is a new soft-porn publication called TALC which will be out in Spring and will be available both in print and online. It is re-inventing soft porn publishing in a way that appeals to the tastes and desires of today and features all original content from international contributors. The content is a fusion of soft porn and design, with the interiors being as relevant and arousing as the porn itself. As for editorial it features design critique and soft porn features including interviews with important practitioners both past and present. We also have short films and music commissioned for the release online. It’s going to be good.