Type designer Alex Fowkes adjusts to a different pace of life in Vancouver
Alex Fowkes is an award winning British graphic designer, known for his typographic work, installations & murals. Having spent most of last year splitting his time between France and India, six months ago he settled in Vancouver.
As part of our ongoing series of interviews in collaboration with sister agency WE ARE GOODNESS, we caught up with represented talent Alex Fowkes to find out how relocating to a small town in Canada has sparked a renewed passion for working with the local community.
Hey Alex, great to catch up with you! We hear it’s been quite a year for you – can you tell us about your trip, what was India like?
India was incredible! I’d almost want to go back now with a little retrospect to be able to take more of it in. The culture and lifestyle there is obviously quite a shock to a westerner but I loved the pace and excitement in the air. Now I know what to expect id like to go back and really immerse myself in the colours, the culture, the visual nature of the country and allow that to then influence my work. I don’t think on my first visit I was really able to do both as it was quote overwhelming, but as my girlfriend is a yoga teacher/ photographer I am pretty certain we will be going back.
Since then you’ve relocated to Vancouver for the snow season and to work remotely. How have you adapted to the slower pace of life?
Moving here has been a different journey. I’m just outside Vancouver in a place called Squamish, it’s a thriving mountain town with a real community vibe.
Moving to Canada at the time didn’t really feel like a big thing for me – I’ve been traveling and working remotely for quite a while now and I just figured going to Canada would be the same. Turns out its been a little bit of a different journey, and it has forced me to get involved in more of the local scene here. I’m just outside Vancouver in a place called Squamish, it’s a thriving mountain town with a real community vibe. There’s so many niche start ups here which often revolve around the vast outdoor recreation market – such as specialist snowboarding gear to climbing equipment, custom mountain bikes and more.
I’ve met a lot of people that need design services and getting involved with businesses at a core level is really exciting both for me and for them. The outdoors have always been a huge draw for me and trying to combine that lifestyle with my work is a very exciting prospect. It’s a hugely inspiring place for many reasons, during the time I’ve been here (six months) only now has it given me a new excitement and spur to push my work and craft in new exciting directions. It’s been a real adjustment for me.
Can you tell a little about the creative scene in Vancouver city – have you connected with other illustrators / designers since you moved there?
I’m connecting with quite a few people of different levels at the moment, there’s plenty of established artists here already that I’m trying to collaborate with on both a personal and a business level. I’m starting to help a new screen print studio setup with their branding and identity. They have plans to move in to a big studio and turn that space in to both a print studio and creative/collaborative workspace which is really exciting. I think after 5 years of running a studio and creating artwork on my own (often in isolation) I’m desperate to collaborate and get some exterior influence to help push my work forward and most importantly have fun and make some meaningful connections.
After 5 years of running a studio and creating artwork on my own I’m desperate to collaborate and get some exterior influence to help push my work forward and – most importantly – have fun and make some meaningful connections.
How do you best hope to match your passions (snowboarding, skateboarding) with future creative projects? Are there any specific brands (locally or nationally) that you’ve got your sights on?
My passions for board sports and my design work have always been pretty separate. I’ve never created work for the brands I look up to. Its something I would certainly love to do but I almost want it to be a natural progression rather than making a conscious effort to go after it. I’m happy chasing the work I know and I’m known for. For example I’m talking with interior design studios here about making murals and environmental artwork for their clients, the development part of a project is always the most exciting part for me. For now my passions are just a great way for me to escape everything and enjoy what I’m doing.
For now my passions are just a great way for me to escape everything and enjoy what I’m doing..
How do you deal with the challenge of balancing freelance work on the move? What do you love most about living out of a backpack?
Minimalising your life really allows you to concentrate on what you enjoy. It allows you to find out all those little things about yourself you never really knew and understand how your brain ticks. Its been quite a journey for me the past year or so. I’ve found out a lot about how I work, how I don’t like to work, what drives me, what doesn’t drive me, why I lost confidence or why I’m inpatient. I’m hoping after going through this journey I’m then able to use what I’ve learnt about myself to then create an environment where I can enjoy every aspect of work and really push my creativity.
Last year you launched Drawing Type, and the follow up ‘Expressive Type’ has just been released! Can you tell us more about this title, and what reader’s can expect? Can you tell us anything about the artists and designers you’ve chosen to include?
Drawing Type was released in 2014, it was my first venture in to the book world and one I never thought I would ever really explore, I’m no writer and my spelling and grammar has a long way to go. It took a year to create and I’ve learnt a lot about the process. My second book was more of a streamlined process I tried to listen to feedback and make it a book with content that keeps on giving, depending on the project you are working on or idea you have in your head.
Expressive Type was released at the back end of March and we are just gearing up all the promotional work now, there some really great designers in there that I look up to, from Gemma O’Brien to Jon Contino, Chad Micheal Studio and Lauren Hom. I tried to get as much about the process of each project in there as I could. We’ve divided the content by medium rather than by a specific style this time e.g. Branding, Packaging, Environmental and Self Initiated. Each category has a little bonus brief in the back which is just a prompt for anyone interested in making their own project taking inspiration from the book as a base for a self initiated project.
Minimalising your life really allows you to concentrate on what you enjoy. It allows you to find out all those little things about yourself you never really knew and understand how your brain ticks.
In recent years your creative output has increasingly focused on large outdoor and indoor type projects, such as the ongoing series of graphic murals for Urban Outfitters, and recent work for Saddington Baynes and Terranova Style. What do you enjoy most about scaling up your work in this way?
Working within an environment is a really great process. I love it when a client has an interesting space and a brief which allows me to really work with the space and create something that works together with the interior or exterior as a whole. Its these kind if constraints that allow you to add new elements or exciting parts that you have never got to try before in your work.
Saddington Baynes originally came to me and said they wanted all three of their brand values on one wall in the break out zone. As soon as I was in the space I could see potential for a more exciting and original execution which was to spread the values around the room, which allowed me to wrap ‘Be Courageous’ around a 90 degree corner and do something with my typographic murals that I’ve never done before.
Combining interior design and graphic design is really fun for me, as I love immersing myself in the process, and seeing how it can transform a space, which is why I make a point of documenting each piece I create.
Combining interior design and graphic design is really fun for me, as I love watching the process of it transform a space.
What are you aspirations for the rest of 2017, do you have any specific bucket list ideas you’re itching to tick off the creative list? Such as a collaboration, designing a line of clothing or snowboards, or large mural for a specific brand?
Aspirations for 2017 are to get some solid work in the local community here in Canada, its really nice to see people get so stoked and be really thankful for the work you do for them. I want to then try and push my work in a new direction. I’m not really sure what or where that is right now but I feel like I need to develop on what I have and push it forward. That could be collaborating with new people to help influence where my work goes or it could be from within.
I would love to get involved with one of the many outdoor brands here wether its snowboarding, mountain biking or skateboarding. I feel like the rest of this year is going to be one of new things, I want to try and looking at using new materials and tools to expose myself to newer processes. That could be anything from natural materials or even using different tools like utilising tablets and Photoshop more in my work, I feel like I’m ready for that challenge now.
I would love to get involved with one of the many outdoor brands here wether its snowboarding, mountain biking or skateboarding.