Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) has continued its programme of industry speakers with a visit from Brian Cannon, a photographer behind some of the most iconic album designs in the history of British music.
Through his graphic design company Microdot, Brian is best known for producing the sleeves for leading 90s bands such as The Verve, Suede, Inspiral Carpets, Super Furry Animals and Oasis. Brian’s design have brought him award-winning success, with two record sleeve designs – Definitely Maybe by Oasis (#14) and The Verve’s This Is Music (#79) – featured in Q magazine’s Top 100 album covers of all time in 2001.
Brian gave a lecture to the packed audience of graphic design and photography students at the college’s University-level campus in Hartlepool. He talked about his early influences from his coal miner father, who liked to illustrate and believed drawing and art was cool. Citing bands such as The Sex Pistols, Brian knew that he wanted to create record sleeve covers from the age of 11.
During the inspirational talk, Brian expanded on his early career as a graphic designer, setting up Microdot in 1990 and developing a highly successful business in photography and art direction which has spanned 26 years. Over 100 students from the north east specialist art and design college attended the guest lecture, where they learned about the inspiration behind the iconic albums covers and the detailed work that went in to them in an age before digital technology.
In addition to creating music related imagery, Brian also talked about his promotional materials for blue chip clients including Absolut Vodka, Levi’s and Converse and expanded on his more recent career as a photographer with his ‘Northern Soul – A Photographic Journey’ project, which exhibited recently at the Hartlepool Art Gallery with great success. The exhibition documented the northern soul scene today in a geographically diverse, fly-on-the-wall manner.
Brian said: “I went straight from college to working on my own, and have had some luck on the way but my advice for those looking at a career in the creative industry is not to leave anything to chance, and to research and prepare as much as possible. It is also much harder to differentiate yourself from the many other people in the now popular industry, so take inspiration from anywhere and keep open to all influences to create that bespoke and unique style which will make you stand out. This certainly helped me in my career as I was willing to take chances.
“I also believe in the value of collaborating with fellow creatives as it brings a wider range of opportunities, so I encourage the students to get together wherever possible and exhibit their works, as well as increasing their awareness and understanding of other disciplines within the creative industry”
22-year-old Harry Garrens from Linthorpe in Middlesbrough is in his final year of a graphic design and communication degree at CCAD. Attending the lecture, Harry was inspired after seeing Brian’s extensive portfolio of works. He said: “The lecture was excellent and perfect from my point of view as a graphic artist, as it was really interesting to see Brian’s thought processes for the album covers. I do photography on the side so I understand the multi-disciplinary approach that Brian recommends. I also work with analogue styles such as collage and mixed media so it was interesting to see how Brian uses the same method and applied them to commercial work. My generation is so familiar with digital methods of working but analogue techniques are now seeing a revival.
“Brian encouraged students to put their own individual creative stamp and that is really important, especially when it comes to working commercially after college, so it is inspiring to hear about keeping your own style. For my final major project, I’m bringing fashion to workwear with a brand called A66 – creating a clothing range including workwear jackets, overalls etc and featuring screen printed images – and I will be taking my own images so I am taking Brian’s advice on board.”
Francis Fitzgerald, programme leader for graphic design at CCAD, said: “Brian’s graphic work resonates very much with tutors such as me who grew up with the music whose sleeves it adorns. It is heartening to find that the current crop of students are just as enthused and inspired by the creativity and originality in Brian’s iconic work. His current photography work demonstrates just how important it is to understand and participate in collaborations across the disciplines, which is a particular strength at CCAD.
For more information on opportunities at CCAD contact (01642) 288888 or visit www.ccad.ac.uk.