Duane Dalton is a graphic designer and artist from Dublin, now working in London. Check out our chat with him below.
What inspired you to become a graphic designer?
I didn’t really discover graphic design until quite late in my education. I always had a keen interest in art and achieved a degree in that subject. My artwork always embraced a graphic aesthetic, often exploring simple forms and colours. After my art degree I went back to college to study graphic design, or at least what I believed to be graphic design at the time. In my first week in the graphic design course my tutor introduced me to the work of Wim Crouwel and Josef Müller Brockmann. This opened up a whole new world to me, I couldn’t believe this type of work existed. It seemed to be something I had been looking for the whole time I was doing my art degree. It was at this moment I knew graphic design was something worth pursuing.
What do you feel defines a minimal and reductive approach?
Clarity is key. I always find it interesting to see how much you can say with as little as possible. It is a philosopy that I’m constantly investigating and it always produces fascinating results. The work of Dieter Rams and his way of thinking is always a source of inspiration for me. When he was designing buttons for a record player he took the form of a standard cube, but he wanted the form to be more inviting to the user. To solve the problem he subtracted material away from the cube, creating a concave top, by doing so it invites the user to engage with the form and press the button. This methodology really stands out to me and really reinforces the philosophy, less is more.
“I am a big fan of self initiated projects and have maintained a couple of ongoing design projects over the past few years.”
Why did you decide to start your Basic Stamps project?
I am a big fan of self initiated projects and have maintained a couple of ongoing design projects over the past few years. The Basic Stamps project evolved out of an old self initiated project which I found became too restrictive, due to a fixed type system and layout. I was looking for a design project that encouraged more flexibility regarding typography and layout options. So I combined my interest in both design and stamps, and started generating how I think stamps should look whilst utilising reductive qualities.
What’s the process like of designing a new stamp for the collection?
It’s very straight forward. I basically have a list of countries that I would like to design a stamp for, and the list is always growing, so I’m never stuck for ideas. When I decide upon a country, I usually begin by researching their back catalogue of stamps. When sifting through all these stamps, I’m looking at colours, sizes, price, and anything unique used by that country that could create a more interesting result. Then, I sketch any initial ideas of how I would like the stamp to look. Then it is a matter of vectorising and crafting the design in Illustrator, once I’m happy with the outcome I pop it into Photoshop and use my custom stamp template, which gives it a bit of surface texture, so it looks like the real thing as much as possible. Then it’s popped onto Instagram and other social networks, whilst I wait for the responses to come in, which are usually of a kind nature. I always appreciate the responses I get on these platforms, it’s a factor that encourages me to keep going.
How do you find a good balance between your personal projects and your role at SEA Design?
It all works in a very fluid manner. If I think of something useful, I just pop it into my note book or on a Post-It note. I’m constantly thinking of ideas, so it’s just a matter of realising that idea during the evening. I usually aim to design 1 stamp a week so it very manageable.
“The solution was to develop a striking monogram, and apply a strict graphic system that is just as rigorous as Paul's approach to exercise.”
One of our favourite projects of last year was your identity for Paul Thomson. What’s your thinking behind the designs you produced?
Paul Thomson, is a personal trainer based in Dublin, Ireland. Paul wanted an identity that would stand out in the world of fitness and personal training. The solution was to develop a striking monogram, and apply a strict graphic system that is just as rigorous as Paul’s approach to exercise. We made an active decision to design an identity that didn’t fall into the cliches commonly associated with personal training and fitness. This was achieved by developing a unique and memorable monogram that would present Paul and his approach to personal training in the most effective manner across all touch points.
Do you have a process when approaching a new identity project?
First and foremost I set the client with a brief, which has been tailored based upon my research into what they do. This helps to establish both our expectations for the project and usually makes if difficult to diviate from what we are trying to achieve. All ideas for an identity begin with a pen and paper. I find this method the best way to run through an array of ideas at a fast pace. By doing this I know very quickly what works and what doesn’t. Then I usually develop 3 appropriate routes, and usually 1 will strike a cord with the client. Sometimes particular elements and ideas seen in other routes can be of interest to the client, these be developed into the chosen route to suit the clients needs.
“I wanted to investigate my own take on how a reductive typeface could look and work.”
You recently created a new typeface called ‘Apex’. What was your inspiration in doing so?
I was curious about using a limited range of shapes to create a typeface. This is nothing new as I was influenced by many of Crouwel’s beautiful typefaces. I wanted to investigate my own take on how a reductive typeface could look and work. It was great to design a full alphabet and it’s always fun to use. APEX is available to download and use for free. Download APEX here.
You’ve designed an array of monograms. What do you think makes a great one and what is your favourite that you’ve produced?
I find monograms fascinating. I love that they tend to evoke traditional qualities. I find it interesting to use this traditional quality but put a modern twist on it to create something relevant for todays culture. With any kind of mark, simplicity is the key element for me. Scalability of the final outcome is very important, this is something I always consider when designing a mark or monogram. It’s crucial that it works well on a billboard as well as on a Twitter profile image. It’s difficult to pick a favourite. Can I say my own? (Double D) It’s very hard to design for yourself and I’ve been through many personal logos. But I found a monogram was the perfect solution for me, and I have never felt the urge to change it.
Which creative people or studios inspire you and your work?
I have mentioned some already above, but some designers that really inspire me are Wim Crouwel, Josef Müller Brockmann, Rolf Müller, Geigy, Lance Wyman and Jean Widmer. I also draw on art as inspiration too, some of the artists I admire are Bridget Riley, Sol LeWitt, Sean Scully, and Ellsworth Kelly.
What do you plan to achieve in 2016?
2016 is already shaping up nicely, some really interesting projects are coming in and I can’t wait see how they develop. There will be many more stamps this year too, I’m aiming to hit 100 soon, so to coincide with that I am starting to think about collating all the Basic Stamps in to a book, which will hopefully be realised some time this year.