On the 14th October 2015, the lights dimmed in the packed out Arnolfini auditorium for the much anticipated screening of Made You Look – a film about creativity in the digital age.
The film showcases the work, studios and processes of an influential collection of people who are all part of the UK graphic art scene in the 21st century. We heard tales of Bob Gill leaving cakey fingerprints at
Print Club London and were left green with envy at the beautiful posters being made in Antony Burril's letterpress studio, as well as getting the chance to finally put faces to the names of those who we only normally see as a Twitter handle appearing in our feed from time to time.
The beautifully shot film is a thought provoking piece on how designers, makers, illustrators and graphic artists (the 'what we call ourselves' debate is also discussed) create work in a digital age and we were able to get their take on much debated topics of the era that we live in – is the internet a good thing? Why are we reverting back to the handmade? What's next for design?
When asked about where their passion of design and being creative came from, nearly every single person featured in the film reminisced to the days of being a child, surrounded by pencils, playing with different materials and getting inky fingers, totally absorbed and falling in love with what they were creating. Now as fully-fledged adults they get to do this 'playing around' as a legitimate profession, and the passion they have for it is practically contagious. As Fred Deakin of Airside said, "what better place to play than in a studio", a sentiment that resonated with all of us sat watching the film, the slow realisation washing over us that we get to do something amazing everyday as a career.
Highly debated discussions on whether the internet has been a help or a hindrance also feature throughout, as well as touching upon just why there has been a resurgence of handcrafted, tactile and print based work in the last few years. The conclusion being that each new design trend has a saturation point, and from that begins a counter reaction. The thought that everything we create ending up in a virtual, digital cloud, is not something we are happy with, so we revert to the traditional processes of letterpress, screen-printing, painting, drawing. Yet, this time round we are aided with technology, we are creating something new again. As designers we are collectors; hoarders of all the things that we see as being beautifully functional, or aesthetically pleasing. We like to touch, to feel, to get the ink on our hands and to smell the paper from the printers. In the words of Jon Burgerman "But what does it SMELL like?!" With this handmade comeback, we are indulging in all of these things once again, not content with just seeing work on a screen, stored away in a computer, a shining example of this being the work coming out of all those featured in Made You Look.
However, this is not a technology-bashing documentary. The praise of the digital era enabling designers to work whenever and wherever they want, not being bound to city life but being able to work in their studio one minute and walk around the countryside the next, is happily discussed. The pros and cons of social media are highlighted, weighing up the ability to be able to showcase your work to thousands more people, yet somehow the lack of face-to-face communication is sadly talked about. Some say that they would feel an overwhelming relief if the internet broke down tomorrow, others are thankful that they are lucky to live in a digital age and are grateful for the amount of work that it has allowed them to be a part of. Collaboration is easier, we are somehow on a more level playing field with each other and everyone now has the ability to be as exposed as the next person, all at the click of a button.