As part of Idealog’s Design Month, several wise souls from across the industry (and beyond) shared some insights on their favourite design-related things. In this section, we chat to ad-man-turned-artist Josh Lancaster, who finds himself straddling two different worlds as he answers the questions.
What’s your favourite…
Banksy. Frizzell. SBW.
The Axis Building in Parnell was home for us at Meares Taine, and conveniently also home of Cibo. My great-grandfather the architect Sholto Smith designed the building back in the day as the Nestle Chocolate factory. It was later beautifully re-crafted to how we all know it now by Patterson’s in the 90s. It feels heroic and reminds me of Gotham City.
A B&W photo of my old man puffing away on a dart when he was a young fella. A black Land Rover Defender 110.
Simon James. Jonathon Ive. Terry Gilliam. Ralph Steadman. Adrian Frutiger.
I invariably wear a tee, some jeans and a pair of Adidas originals. If I’m going out I’ll wear my black Adidas and I’ll find the tee with the least number of visible paint stains. The tee shirts are always from AS Colour. It’s one less creative problem to solve each morning and means I’m always super comfortable.
Use of design to change behaviour?
I think you can certainly influence people, but people change their own behaviour.
Inspiring design-related book/podcast/TV show/website/magazine/story?
Chef’s Table series one. Loved the philosophy of each chef and how their own journeys and acquired beliefs were shaping their ever evolving output. And beautifully shot.
Design project you’ve had a hand in?
The New Zealand Story was a big one as far as brand stories go. But over the years Jamie [Hitchcock] and I got to work as creatives on some really great New Zealand brands: Silver Fern Farms, Tip Top, Kapiti, Charlie’s and Griffin’s are a few of them. The work we did ages ago for L&P seems to be what we get remembered for. That, and the time we blew up a billboard in Nelson Street.
Design project that isn’t yours, but you’re envious of?
Since leaving advertising to paint full-time, I don’t think I find myself envious of much industry wise. In fact, I feel very lucky to be now distanced enough from that world, that I can simply get up in the morning and paint my pictures. As far as actual paintings I wish I’d been responsible for? Dick Frizzell’s ‘Tarawera’ and Colin McCahon’s ‘6 days in Nelson and Canterbury’ would be two of them. I also get some solid FOMO whenever I see anything from the Canadian Group of Seven. I love the timeless nature of all their landscapes – that an image created in the ’30s or ’60s or ’80s can look like it was finished yesterday.
The Group of Seven’s Mirror Lake – 1929
What first drew you to design?
I’d always loved drawing and making stuff when I was little. My mum taught me to draw when I was three. Specifically, the anatomy of a cow so I had something to draw in the Anchor kids cow drawing competition at Pakuranga Plaza. I remember putting the final teets on my entry while the big boys next to me were still debating what cows looked like. I won a cow puppet for my efforts and I liked the feeling of being good at something. And winning stuff.
In terms of what seduced me into the advertising world specifically, I remember spending all my money from doing the lawns on magazines like Esquire and FHM. And I’d cut out all the ads I liked and cover my bedroom walls with them. No boobs or bikinis or bands or All Blacks. Just ads.
Where does inspiration come from for you?
The uniqueness of New Zealand’s light and landscape and cultures, the familiar, shared memories, family and stories. I love things that feel like markers for who we are and where we are from.
Do you have a design ethos/motto you abide by in your work?
Not really… success for me is when a painting spurs a memory or anecdote and connects people in the process. So my focus is usually on capturing or creating an image which will do that. I like to make images of place as idealised as possible… true to how we remember them, not necessarily how they actually are.
Do you have any creative side hustles going on outside of your line of work? If so, what?
I sometimes still do the occasional creative brief or a bit of logo design for someone. I find it much more enjoyable now it’s not all day and every day. It’s funny though, I’m the same guy using the same brain, eyes and sharpies but people treat artists very differently to advertising creatives. Well, this one anyway.
How has technology impacted on your work? How do you think it will impact on it in the future?
As an artist, I love that I have access to social networks to promote my work, I love that I can Google any image or place anytime, I love being able to work anywhere, I love that Xero takes all the books out my bookkeeping, I love not having to look through old stock books anymore, or have to ask at gas stations for directions, or having to keep a paper diary… I think there’s never been a better time as an independent artist or creative to have access to such useful tools. The efficiencies it creates allowing more space for the creative process to happen is invaluable. As an advertising creative, however, I think I ended up resenting the technology because it left very little space in my day for family or painting or anything else other than work.
Back in the olden days before iPhones and MacBooks, I would leave my giant G3 Mac Hard Drive and monitor on my desk at the agency each night and weekend. So did everyone. And when you went out to lunch for the afternoon people actually talked to each other, and told amazing stories and hilarious jokes and nobody peppered with constant emails and briefs and requests and meeting invites…
There was a bit more light and shade when it came to what was work and what was not in the days, pre-smart phones. I think it’s something that the creative industry really needs to watch in terms of protecting our designers and creatives from the endless distractions and interruptions they are now exposed to.
Who are some of your design heroes?
Dick Frizzell, Billy Apple, and Banksy.
Best design-related advice you ever received?
‘If you stare at the wall long enough, a door will appear’ – Nigel Corbett
What do you enjoy the most about working in this industry?
The people, it’s one thing that I really miss. And especially Jamie.
How do you define New Zealand’s design culture?
Brave, honest, inspired, resourceful.
- This interview first appeared on Idealog.