Curated By … Martin O’Neal

Martin’s talk took us through a history of his design education and professional work, highlighting examples from different stages of his career as well as different phases of development in terms of the style of his work.

He opened this lecture by talking about his design education and his preference for traditional printing over digital and computer based work. This is hugely inspiring when you see the detail, intricacy and layers involved in his work. He also gave us an appreciation of his struggle to find artistic direction before what he described as a “switching the lights on” moment upon finding a paper recycling yard during an exchange trip to Germany. This would go on to lead and direct the rest of his degree work.

As a student this is great to hear, not only for its value in the realization that the environment we live in is full of design and that it’s possible to glean so much inspiration from your surroundings; but also for the comfort in hearing that these “switching the lights on” moments do happen and that if you put the effort in, great things can come from them.

He then told us of his decision to work in illustration following his studies and make his style work for him. Hearing this real life experience first hand was great for giving an understanding of trying to make your designs work and fit in a commercial environment. Referring to this period he said: “I’m a collage artist and I’ll always be a collage artist, but I’m trying to break out of the mold of doing things on my desktop.” Before going on to state: “the struggle is to make [your style] fit and interact.”

Following on from this we were treated to a privileged look through one of his sketchbooks and a look at his studio and practice. This was excellent to see and he did a great job of showing how the sketchbooks he uses as creative outlets go on to inform his commercial practice.  Also, showing his studio and his incredible bank of resources and images was hugely beneficial as a means of displaying just how much goes in to each piece of work and enforced the fact that designing is a way of life, not a job.

Moving on from this we were given an overview of some of his favorite projects. This was great for seeing how his work has developed and changed over time. Similarly, the honestly with which he talked about his work, such as feeling lost and overwhelmed on one particular project was very reassuring yet also valuable as he described getting past this and completing the brief successfully.

Overall it was a highly informative lecture filled with great insights into Martin’s work.