Designing Album Covers with 3D software and working on your freelance practise with Harry Butt
Brighton University, Working In Japan, and not fearing 3D software tools… ‘just get on with it!’
Interview by Hugo Ross
Illustration by Harry Butt
Dec 02, 2018
VM: Hey Harry. Huge fan of your work. Thanks for letting us chat to you! How did it all begin, where did you study?
HB: I studied Graphic Design at Brighton University, and graduated a couple of years ago. I would recommend it as a place to study, the course was open enough to explore routes that interested you. Looking back on it now I can identify flaws but I guess studying art and design in a formal environment will always have its problems.
VM: Did you spend anytime on placements, working outside of Brighton?
HB: I spent a number of months on an exchange to Japan, studying at Nagoya University of Art. My time there was definitely a turning point in my education, as well as it being an incredible experience it was quite isolating without much of a support structure which encouraged me to get a tighter grip on my practice and become much more self-motivated. On the first day my sensei asked me if I spoke Japanese, to which I replied I didn’t, so he told me to skip classes and come back in four months with a finished project. I had other side classes like ceramics and woodcut printing, but the two projects I undertook consumed my every moment whilst I was out there because I had to define my own working parameters. The introduction into this way of working has translated into an essential skill in the freelance world.
VM: What are your favourite tools for producing non-digital work?
HB: Honestly making digital work takes up the majority of my time, but during my time in Japan I was taught woodcut printing methods, and to accompany a tape release I created for a record label called Panatype, I created a small run of woodcut printed posters for anyone who bought the digital download. It was important to provide a physical object to accompany the music, whether you had the tape or the mp3s it felt great to know that everyone would have a manifestation of the music to hold. I love this method of creating prints and I’m hoping to have more opportunities to do so in the coming year.
VM: Can you teach us any quick tips for the digital programs you use?
HB: For anyone not familiar with 3D software my tip would be to try and ignore how intimidating it looks and just start clicking around. Online tutorials, as necessary as they are, can be really dull and there is no replacement for getting over that initial barrier and start dragging some cubes around. It can be really fun to make stuff on 3D it’s just a matter of not feeling overwhelmed initially; I still only know what half of the buttons do but I’m only bothered with making stuff that feels good.
VM: What are your favourite ways to collaborate?
HB: For me, the best projects involve working with other creatives. Getting other people’s opinions on work is a rare and valuable thing as a lone freelancer. I enjoy having long conversations and Skype calls chatting about the work. I love letting a set process dictate the working relationship. For example I recently created an animated music video for Elderbrook with the New York based illustrator Nicole Ginelli. I created a storyboard for the music video and we each animated one half each, both following the same storyboard but letting our own design choices drive the aesthetic. They were eventually stitched together to communicate the theme of “opposites attract” as each half interacted with one another.
VM: How do you seek inspiration and how do you document it?
HB: The most potent inspiration for me is still going to a gallery and seeing some artwork in real life. The most influential artwork I’ve seen recently is the Tomma Abts exhibition at the Serpentine. I went back to hear the curator give a talk about how they put the show together and the show catalogue is the most important book on my shelf right now. I think the reason why galleries are important is because of the simplicity of the environment, free of distraction. When you’ve got the train and bus and you’ve taken time out of your life to go and see something you’re ready to fully engage with what’s there. The Walker Art Gallery blog is also a great source of thorough and interesting pieces about amazing designers I’ve often not come across before.
VM: What is over the horizon? What’s your next project?
HB: I’ve got a few music projects that I’m really enjoying creating; getting the records pressed and holding the designed sleeve is always something I eagerly await and I should get my hands on those soon. I’m looking forward to a stint in-house at Sony Music banging out more record covers every day which is coming up soon. After that all I can see is the foreboding darkness of an empty Google Calendar but I’m aware we all must learn to know and love the sensation of having no idea what’s over the horizon!
VM: How long do you work? Can you talk us through your working day?
I’ll try and get through my emails first thing in the morning and then get into my studio in Hoxton at around 9am. Recently my most productive hours have shifted to earlier in the day so I’ve been getting in on time most days to make the most of these, I think it’s important to capitalise on when you’re feeling good! I’ll stay until the evening, but it’s nice to be flexible about when to finish for the day. I’m usually heading out between 5 and 9pm.
VM: What do you do to remedy writers/designers block?
HB: I feel like I can let a creative block build up for weeks and months and then suddenly try and solve it in this huge way. Earlier this year I had realised things had been super intense for me so I just stopped everything and went on a 3 day solo walking holiday in the Peak District. It was amazing! But I just need to get better at identifying creative exhaustion and remedy it in smaller, more manageable ways. One thing that helps is spending some time cooking in the evening, that helps me separate the working day and the evening, it is easy to let your problems in the studio follow you home and haunt you in your free time.
VM: Cheers Harry!