Graphic artist, print-maker and designer Anthony Burrill is best known for his “Work Hard & Be Nice To People” poster. The thought-provoking phrase has become something of a mantra within the design community. It reflects the persuasive and up-beat style of communication that we connect with Anthony’s work and that we have all come to love.
Interview by Marco Markovic
When did you realize you wanted to be a designer and artist?
Like a lot of people of my generation I was inspired by record sleeves and logos for bands. I would spend hours copying my favorite record covers using colored pencils. The results weren’t always impressive, but I think I learned a lot about creating strong visual images.
Do you have a particular example?
I remember instances where it was difficult to get recognized in a meeting – either in a meeting with clients or with my partners. If there was another man or a male partner present, or if the client didn’t know who I was, I would be overlooked. But time changed things a bit – especially in my case and I just continued working on the things I like.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired by the world around me and the experiences I have had in it. I don’t see a separation between my everyday life and the work I produce. It’s not something I can ever switch off from.
Do you look to other artists or designers for inspiration? If so, who?
I’m aware of other designers but I try not to be influenced by what I see. I prefer to look outside the world of design for inspiration.
Which part of the creative process do you enjoy the most?
The part between starting a project and finishing it, I love what I do and relish every day I spend working in my studio.
What themes have you been exploring in your recent works?
Positive messages that engage people with wit and intelligence.
Your book Make it Now is not the typical book of a graphic artist. You show a lot of yourself and also show the reality of the business. How were the reactions to the book?
It’s been positive. I was keen to make a book that reflected my approach to work. I value honesty and integrity, I think it’s important for everybody.
The book also contains a lot of posters with punchy phrases and good life advices. How often do you catch yourself breaking one of your guidelines?
Quite often, but that’s the joy of being a human. Sometimes we make mistakes. The challenge is to learn from them and grow as a person.
How do you ensure you keep an element of personality or character in your work?
It’s something that is a natural part of my work. When I work on a project it has to connect with me completely. I find it difficult to make work that I have no emotional connection with.
Are there any themes you avoid when choosing the statements you make in your work?
I avoid being too obvious about politics, it’s easy to say ‘FUCK TRUMP’, where else can you go after that? There has to be more depth in my work. I prefer to offer solutions rather than being negative and cliched.
One of your slogans “Do not be normal do not be ordinary” goes well with our festival motto “The Odd One Out.” How important do you think it is for creative people not to adapt?
You have to be yourself and deal with the world on your own terms. It’s up to everybody to live their life how they want to and not feel constrained by boring rules.
Your posters are quite typographic. What’s the relationship between the type and the meaning?
I use letterpress because it has a human feel. It’s analog and has a personality and feels like an extension of my own voice.
Speaking of posters, how do you see the future of the poster?
There will always be a need for printed posters. It’s a romantic thought but I think they still serve a useful purpose.
Do you prefer the human feel of analog products as well? This interview got published and printed in Forward Magazine 2019. Order your physical copy here.