Paul Andrew
Graphic Designer


Creative inspiration, thought and distraction.

Birmingham Design Festival — Sat 9th June 2018


Following a full-on Friday it was time to jump straight back in for the super Saturday, featuring a truly international line-up representing America, Belgium, Spain... and Sheffield. 

Highlights from my second full day at the Birmingham Design Festival.

Rich Wells introducing us all to Printed By Us

Rich Wells introducing us all to Printed By Us

Rich Wells — Printed By Us

First of the mornings Sheffield-based double-bill was Rich Wells from Yoomee, who took us on a lovely little wander along the streets of Sheffield, mapping-out his walk to work each day. Highlighting all the local hot-spots, like the Central Bus Station and the "Gates of Hell" underpass, where he says the plight of the local homeless was all too apparent.

Working within an agency that is all about creating digital services for good it seemed only right to try to find a way help these vulnerable people.

Rich went on to say how they first discussed different options, creating functional, usable products like blankets or flasks to give to the homeless people that wanted them, but that didn't seem to be (or do) enough.

Discussing it further and looking at it again they hit upon a fantastic idea... instead of creating something for these vulnerable people, they should find a way of making something WITH them. Giving them a purpose and an opportunity to help themselves.

This completely different way of thinking is what brought about the creation of Printed By Us. The craft of hand screen printing is taught to, and by, the homeless and vulnerable people of Sheffield. Running workshops and selling prints through the online shop to helps to fund even more workshops, to support more people making positive steps to their own recovery.

Rich really sold the positive impact of this project because you could see it was something he clearly believed in. He had experienced the change for good it can create for those wanting to make a better life for themselves.  

Lisa Maltby discussing Empathy & Design

Lisa Maltby discussing Empathy & Design

Lisa Maltby — Empathy & Design

Lisa is an independent designer, illustrator and lettering artist based in Sheffield. I was already aware of Lisa's work after seeing her recent 'No More Labels' project about attitudes towards mental health. 


Her talk was focussed on Empathy & Design, which is something I believe to be quite fundamental in a lot of the client work I do and I was very keen to hear Lisa's perspective on the subject.

Her talk was very insightful and it included so many great quotes. In fact, I probably wrote more notes during her talk than any other during the whole weekend. A couple of my favourites were...

"Empathy is more concerned with the outcome rather than sounding knowledgable."


"Good design says more about who it's designed for than who it's designed by."

Not forgetting, my personal favourite...

"We vandalise things that aren't ours with quotes we didn't write to impress people taking shits."

Fortunately, rather than rely on my sketchy recollections, you can hear the full talk on Empathy & Design from the Birmingham Design Festival via her website, which I highly recommend you do.

As well as being there to hear the stories and experiences of speakers like Lisa at BDF I was also very keen to try and meet some of the people that I follow and occasionally converse with on Twitter/Instagram etc in real life. So I hung around to grab a quick chat with Lisa, who I'm pleased to say was super nice and happy to stay and chat for a while.

The stage was set for the introductory talk and Q&A with Andrew Booth from BLIND.

The stage was set for the introductory talk and Q&A with Andrew Booth from BLIND.

Solo Screening

A far, far cry away from all the Graphic focussed talks booked over the weekend, this was probably the one event I was most looking forward to seeing. As I mentioned on the day...

The film itself was obviously a big enough draw but to get a deeper insight into the on-screen and in-film graphics was something I was very intrigued to hear more about.

To talk us through some of the key GUI/FUI aspects within Solo was Andrew Booth from Blind — one of the world’s top creative studios in user interface design for feature film productions. 

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the thought process behind the "future-retro" style and which other films had been referenced or riffed to create the graphic elements featured within the film. It was also great fun to watch Andrew try to describe specific elements within the film without giving away any spoilers or ruining key parts of the plot, which I'm pleased to say he manage pretty damn well.

The brief Q&A was also very interesting with some fans of the franchise and their work asking some great questions. One of which was about the level of depth and detail involved in the visual language of the film and whether any kind of dummy copy like a future Lorem Ipsum was used, to which Andrew responded...

"There's no techno-babble... we're creating impressionistic elements within the Star Wars universe."
— Andrew Booth, BLIND.

The film itself was an absolute blast (excuse the pun) and to be able to spot recognise the graphic elements discussed within the film was really quite fun and definitely added to the experience.

Speaking of experience, The Electric Cinema itself was a key player in how enjoyable the screening was. Not just the history of the venue but the look and feel of it, the setting seemed perfectly intimate without feeling at all small. The sale of locally brewed beer and ever-so-slightly fancy snacks sealed the deal... this goes down as one of my best cinema experiences ever!


The Main Event: An Illuminating Celebration of Colour, Craft & Creativity!

It felt like there was such a good buzz about the upcoming talks as I walked into The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, which was even grander than it sounds! Such a stunning venue and the perfect setting for the days main event.

I was lucky enough to bump into Lisa Maltby and Rich Wells again, after only meeting them earlier that day, and hung with them while we waited for the first of the nights speakers.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

The Yarza Twins

Having caught the eye of many people with their crazy, colourful characters created for the recent HP x Smirnoff campaign, Marta and Eva took us from their earliest collaborative piece through to their more recent work.

The early collaboration was very detailed school project that seemed to map out a whole town... including some dubious drawings of impending doom for some of the colourful characters.

The more recent projects included the creation of the Formula E typeface which features as part of the global branding by Dixon-Baxi but the stand out work shown was from their Panificadora campaign.

Not only did I love this for the cool retro minimal graphic design style but also for the personal crusade they embarked on in order to save this old bakery from demolition in their home town. You can clearly see how fully invested they were in this project from the fact that not only did they create change but they've driven it from the outset and have eventually swayed the decision makers and altered the future of the Panificadora.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Tom Muller

Absolutely one of the most animated and exuberant speakers I’ve ever witnessed! It was very clear to see that he loved what he does and he was more than happy to share it with us all that he was literally bouncing around the stage.

Again, it was so great to hear not only about the exciting and incredible visual work in the comic book world he has done to date, but also to get an insight into how things started for him and how the path you begin your career on doesn’t always lead you to the same destination.

The work he displayed on screen was an absolute visual feast! So much colour with such a variety of graphic styles… a real joy to behold. It certainly opened my eyes up the the breadth of work one man can do in a single genre. Quite incredible… and the comic book world is only a part of his amazing portfolio of work.

Discover more for yourself at →


Aaron Draplin

It was finally time for the main man to light up the main event.

I had obviously heard of Draplin, I mean… who hasn’t. You don’t even have to be in the design world to have heard of Aaron Draplin. But… I had never actually “heard” Draplin. I had no idea how hard he was going to rock that stage and he absolutely blew us all away.

Clearly jet-lagged, he still brought his A-game as standard… mainly because I don’t think he knows how to be any other way. He stood up there and bellowed out into the crowd, shared some great stories, told some home truths, shared so much of his fantastic work and pretty much bared his soul.

We all saw (and felt) the full range of emotions… all of which were clearly driven by pure passion. Passion in his work, for his country, and most of all… for his family. I’m pretty sure I’ve never witnessed a man share so much with a room full of complete strangers, and that’s precisely why you’ve got to love this man.

Sure he showed some great work (and plugged his increasingly popular book) but it soon became so much more than some kind of glorified portfolio presentation… we were invited into this mans incredible world and made to feel part of it.

An experience I will never forget and an amazing way to conclude this Saturday night spectacular.

There were a few drinks to be found afterwards, of course, as I tagged along with Lisa and Rich again and we wandered the streets to eventually find our way to the Dig Brew Co Brewery and Taproom, which was a really cool industrial looking building but reminded me and Rich of the opening warehouse rave scene in Blade! Thankfully it was just the beer that was free-flowing!

Most of the BDF team were there and looked to be celebrating the end of a fantastic first festival. You couldn’t help but raise a glass to Luke, Daniel, all the speakers, the volunteers, team members and everyone else behind the scenes for pulling off a truly epic Birmingham Design Festival. I look forward to catching everyone again next year and hopefully even getting involved myself.

InspirationPaul Andrew