Personal Best: Matthew Hague, Studio Social
Realising the potential of a photographer’s six months of hard work led Matthew Hague on a new journey into print that ended in far flung destinations.
“Through a series of Manchester-based networking events I happened upon an amazing and very interesting photographer called Graeme Vaughan. We hit it off and talked of collaborating whenever we met. Then Graeme picked up a 5-6 month, artist in residence commission on a housing estate in Birmingham as part of their 40th Anniversary celebrations and, finally, the opportunity to work together arose and the St Marks 40th Anniversary project was born. He needed someone to realise the physical aspect of delivering his work to the funding bodies, the archivists and most importantly the residents of the estate.
“I came in with expertise in art direction, graphic design and a passion for print. Graeme’s expectations were simply for me to push forward with an understanding of his initial ideas and I had free rein to come up with ideas for what we could do. The only solid requirement was that, at the close of the project, we needed to have 20 ‘artists’ books’ and 500 of ‘something’ for the residents to keep and access to help them understand the project.
“The ideas for something to leave behind for the residents included illustrated posters, booklets, folded posters, type driven images, concertina boards of Graeme’s photos and so on. I love the development stage, because that’s where anything is possible and your brain can just run wild. I think you instinctively know when you have hit upon the right thing almost immediately, but you just keep going to see what happens. Anything is viable at that stage. But, ultimately, Graeme’s project was about journeys – plain and simple.
“Graeme had worked with residents groups on mapping journey’s through the estate and exploring how it was used. He then took his own journey through it and translated what he found into photography, meaning that posters and booklets had no sense of journey about them at all. After a period of thought it came to me: what better way to sum up a journey, and the pride in what you are doing when there, than a postcard? The seed was sown.
“We undertook really intensive exploration into the greenest ways of making this project happen. I hate the word ‘eco’ and ‘green’ but we wanted the print to be 100% biodegradable, to leave behind little in the way of footprint. The project was a journey taken through the estate and we wanted the print to illustrate this and then, if discarded, leave no trace of it taking place. In the end the only thing that would be left would be the staples in the artist’s book. That way it would be a completely personal, private journey through the area and I think we got there. The stocks used were 100% post-consumer waste, all soya inks, wax based digital toner cartridges and a bio-degradable form of foil blocking.
“The only thing that I worried about was the impact that Graeme’s photos would have as we were printing onto uncoated heavy recycled stocks. This process eats up the ink and makes the image sit deeper in the weave and grain of the paper than a coated stock would. This can diminish the colours etc. but ended up making the project what it was really. They look great and had a real different aesthetic.
“The outcome was truly born from taking risks. This is one of the best ways to get a super positive result from your initial ideas. Flying close to the edge of your known tolerances is a good thing. It leads to more innovation and opens more doors. I like to work in a process type of way. One stage of development will feed the next and so on and that’s what happened here. Graeme could see that I was passionate about the work, and he got equally excited about the whole idea and the outcome.
“The sheer amount of care that went into this makes it a memorable project, and by care I mean the full blown consideration of every single aspect of the project. Graeme was such a positive client that he allowed all avenues to be explored and looked at in detail. Some jobs for various reasons just don’t allow for that to happen. I found that I could achieve more than I thought I was capable of, so in a way the project is integral to my development as a designer. I’m proud of that and the whole thing just looks so amazing too, which certainly helps.
“In the end, it was a big hit!. The client was blown away to have his photos and the five to six months of his time on the estate realised in this way. The residents began to send the postcards around the estate and then began sending them round the whole planet. It was nice that people ‘got it’ and that was all that mattered, it was aimed at them and they responded. You can’t expect any more than that. Job done.”
Digitally printed. A5 format.
Cover: Vanguard Deep blue 230 micron card. ECF free/FSC approved.
Laser and foil blocked.
Stock: 100% post-consumer waste. Wax based laser toner.
28 pages. Limited run of #20.
Litho Printed. Custom designed ‘net’ and packaging.
Stock: 100% post-consumer waste.
Soya Inks. Minimal paper waste through positive positioning on press.
Low impact press wash off.
Knockout & Conduit ITC.
Printed by Edward Pillings LTD.
Info: Matthew Hague is a Creative Designer at Studio Social, a Manchester based digital design and print agency. The studio creates graphics for websites, data bases, apps, magazines and books amongst other work. Formed of talented design creatives and freelancers, the agency offers project management and in-depth design consultancy.
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