My first monograph book is in production at the moment and will be available very soon (hopefully around Easter). Its hardback, 275 pages and the first collectors edition of only 300 copies which will be signed and numbered. A box set is also available, which will include a ltd edition print, t-shirt, selection of original club flyers and more again will be limited to around 50 copies. Hit the link below and order from Gamma Proforma asap !
Every now and then I get asked to pitch for a job. If theres one thing that really pisses me off its the ‘Free pitch’. Nobody should have to work for free ! As a sole trader and one man band every minute and every hour of every day are precious. Why should I waste my time putting together brilliant designs on a job that may not happen. In the past I have fallen for this, and as far as I can remember never ‘won’ a pitch. Having spoke to other designers about this they too say the same! So clients and individuals looking to hire me or any other designers please take note
I DO NOT PITCH FOR FREE !
Available now in the Swifty shop are the Mo’ Wax editions produced exclusively for the ‘Build & destroy’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery last December.Click on the images below to take you to the shop for purchase.
It seems like yesterday when I set up shop in London’s East end amidst the run down warehouses and empty office spaces, but here i am still knocking it out twenty five years in ! I still feel the true 90’s graphic design story in the UK has still yet to be told. As one of the designers of the ‘Sampling generation’ at the start of the 90’s a new aesthetic and a new way of thinking was emerging and I’m very proud to have been a part of that, its my mission now to get that story across.
The practice of graphic design is never an easy one, it can be the most rewarding of jobs and the most frustrating at the same time, but I do feel incredibly lucky that i’ve managed to work with some great people and I like to think I’ve pushed some boundaries in terms of what graphic design is. During the two decades I’ve been in business I’ve seen a lot change, and in some ways the digital revolution has been a godsend and in other ways the death of graphic design as we knew it.
Although I have fully adopted the digital domain and was one of the first graphic designers in the country to embrace the new macs – I like to get my hands dirty. From simple hand drawn typefaces to cutting out stencils or lino cutting I’ve always been a firm believer in the crafted look. That’s what you get here at Swifty Grafix ! You wont find me grabbing vector files off the internet and pretty much most of the time I’ll create my fonts from scratch. I will generally put in that little extra effort were some don’t!
I have to do everything myself, I don’t farm out any aspect of my work and I do pretty much everything even the silk screen printing here in house. My opinion is that to have control of every aspect of your output you have to have control of every process. Heres to the next twenty five years and beyond !
Click on the images below to direct you to the swifty shop.
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Sometimes the business of graphic design can be tough. It’s hard to get a foot in the door, it’s hard to get a break. For designers just starting out its tempting to do the work for free. Clients know this and will exploit to the max. When a new potential client says ‘theres no budget’ its a load of old crap! How can you start a business with no money, it just means they would rather put the money into something else. There’s plenty of graphic designers out there who are willing to work for free and the clients know this. So if you are an up and coming designer DON’T WORK FOR FREE , and if you are a client DON’T EXPECT ANYONE TO WORK FOR FREE. Let’s put a stop to this wave of unethical practice.
Even if you’ve never heard of Swifty you can bet your life you’ve seen or even owned a piece of his artwork. For two decades this man has cast an innovative and distinctive visual shadow over contemporary urban culture as we know it. However, we need to go back in time to the dawn of clubland to fully get the picture. Back in the late Eighties, Swifty was fresh from art school in Manchester. He moved to East London and was operating as right hand man to the most radical designer of the day, Neville Brody, and working on The Face and Arena magazines. I was introduced to Swifty by Neil Spencer, a former editor of the NME and a co-founder of our “designer fanzine” – Straight No Chaser. Swifty was looking to do something of his own and Straight No Chaser was a blank canvas. The arrival of Apple Macintosh had laid the foundation for a DIY revolution and Swift was a “Mac Daddy”. He was totally on it. Swift’s design of Chaser rapidly notched up a ‘XYZ Magazine Designer of The Year’ award. Chaser was at the hub of into the jazz infused wing of the club scene. ‘E’ swept into town and “Rave” nudged the rare Groove scene onto the sidelines. There was a surplus of energy. We were all on a mission.
In ’90 Swifty left Neville and we set up shop in Hoxton. The area was derelict and run down, it bore little resemblance to the gentrified Shoreditch we know today. The Chaser office became club flyer central. Prior to Swift, club flyers had been knocked out, punk fashion, cut and paste, either with a felt tip or Letraset. It was Swifty on his twinned Mac SE’s who revolutionized the art of the club flyer. It was those designs that brought him together with the flyer queen of the day, Janine Neye . Yes, it’s the same Janine who organizes annual Dingwalls session with Gilles P and Patrick Forge and they’ve been together ever since. Talking Loud & Saying Somethin’ at Dingwalls was our “office” each and every Sunday. It was all about the music and the session was a radical melting pot of inner city cultural politics. The club became synonymous with the ‘Acid Jazz’ movement through bands like the Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai and the James Taylor Quartet. In reality, the session was fierce meeting point between the hard core post Electric Ballroom Jazz dancers, refugees from the Rare Groove and boogie scene, the musicians at the heart of the Jazz Warriors, the Acid Jazz crew and a controversial hip hop sensibility best characterised by the recordings of Tribe Called Quest. Hip hop’s sampling sensibilities found their way into Swift’s artworks where they collided with the classic sleeve art of Blue Note records.
When Gilles Peterson launched Talkin’ Loud records, Swift was the natural choice for art director and believe me he made the most of it. His output was staggering – a seriously radical body of work. Check out those Talkin’ Loud album covers and 12” singles – Young Disciples, Galliano, Incognito, Marxmen and Omar amongst others. Cast your eyes over the spreads we’ve included here from Straight No Chaser. We weren’t looking to develop “a look”, we simply embraced the creative energy that is implicit in change. Chaser had a format but there would be seismic shifts with every issue. At the heart of that was Swift’s fonts. This is a man who took a font and then blasted it with 12 bore shotgun – the result was a new font called “Gunshot”. Swift’s growing body of work was mightily impressive and pretty soon he was designing for labels as far away as Japan.
When 17 year old James Lavelle appeared in the Chaser office suggesting we give him a column because as he said, “we needed him” and that decision signalled another phase in Swift’s work. Swifty and James, were on the same page. They were united by their herbal intake, a passion for “toys”, a love of Japanese graffix and Seventies TV programmes like Man From Uncle (hence U.N.K.L.E – geddit?). James was a hip hop afficionado and pretty soon Mo’ Wax records was up ‘n’ running and they were “kickin’ more funk like a shaolin monk” – they tapped into NYC’s street art movement and worked with artists like Futura and Stash. Then worked with Japan’s Major Force and DJ Krush along with a US college going crate digger, DJ Shadow. It was radical stuff and while Ben Drury has garnered most of the credit for the Mo Wax’s creative vision, it was Swift who laid the foundation and set the tone.
In ‘95 Swift moved from Hoxton to the Harrow Road end of Ladbroke Grove. He set up shop and invited a bunch of younger designers to join him. It was became known as ‘Studio Babylon’ alongside Swift it was home to Mitchy Bwoy , Kam Bohgal , Robi Walters and Fred Deakin. Swift’s stay in the Grove resulted in hundreds of album sleeves for labels like Far out and B&W Music. In 1995 he Art directed and curated the ground breaking Fosters Ice ‘Street Art’ campaign which won a Media Week award for the best use of a singe medium. The effect was so radical that it inspired a whole generation of Graffiti artists from Bristol to London and beyond and help lay the foundations for the ‘Street art’ movement we know today! Mode2 and Delta both traveled to London in ’96 to check out what all the fuss was about and resulted in Mode joining studio Babylon as a permanent member until its demise in ’99.
Not content with print graphics Swift then expanded his skills to include title sequence design and as he slipped into the new millennium Swifty graphics hit the TV screen via Peep Show, Smack The Pony and Derren Brown as well as music docs like Jazz Britannia and Soul Brittania. Today, Swift still does flyers, album sleeves, logos, fonts, TV Titles, clothes for Addict and designs and makes his own skateboards (old skool – he still skates!). But most crucial are his own artworks. Branded but twisted, he loves the opportunity to mesh the technology with rootsy lo-fi production techniques. Visit him at his yard and he’ll be knocking out screen prints or working on etching techniques! He’s a modernist with a nostalgic streak. He has exhibited all over the world and is a regular face at the ‘Art Car Boot fair’.
My working relationship with Swifty has spanned 20 years – 97 issues of Chaser along with dozens of other projects. We are good friends and kindred spirits. The “Freedom Principle” lay at the heart of what we both did. We never knew what a mag would look like until it was done. Producing Straight No Chaser was all about respect and trust and under the guidance of El Swifto aka the Graffix Overseer the magazine was an ever changing phenomenon. For that I’m eternally grateful.
Paul Bradshaw – Straight No Chaser (former publisher/editor Chaser 2011)
I DO NOT PITCH FOR FREE ! – If I must pitch then there has to be some kind of budget to cover my time. Ideally this is paid upfront or on receipt of a purchase order. Ideally clients and individuals commissioning graphic design should look at portfolios and then hire a designer to do the job, that is the ethical procedure. I DO NOT WORK FOR FREE! well that’s not true, I do work for free but only with long standing friends and clients I know I can trust. It takes a while to build a relationship with anyone and usually I do the odd favour when I know the rewards will be great. When there is absolutely no budget then a trade off is that’s left! I am big fan of the trade off or swap. Back in the day I could trade my services for a chicken or a loaf of bread. Today its not perhaps that simple but in any case a potential client should be able to trade off goods or their time in way of service. In the past I’ve traded my time for all sorts of stuff from records, clothes, art materials and even a slap up meal!