Artist Showcase: Tim Metcalf

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With his horn-rimmed glasses, side parting and v-neck jumper, Tim Metcalf has the classic graphic designer aesthetic. As programme leader of the graphic arts course here at WSA, and his work with leading graphic design agencies he seems the prime example of a Designer who has been there and done it all.

So what is Tim’s work like?

His recent work has taken a more photographic approach, observing the everyday and highlighting interesting or odd moments that can be seen in the scene below. Having to put it into three words he quotes ‘Social, Observation and Documentation’.

This is a far contrast from his previous design work which was predominantly based in print.

When asked to describe the most ridiculous job he’s undertaken he answered with

“a split between the artwork for the Britney Spears press campaign for her terrible film ‘Crossroads’… the second would be a logo for a Channel 5 TV programme, ‘Pets around the World’”, where he was given bizarre specifications to visualise wild animals scaling the globe- which weren’t even pets.

Tim has many influences, expanding beyond graphic design and ranging from a love of Joseph Müller-Brockmann’s Swiss school approach to layout to the photographic works of Catherine Yass, Jeff Wall and Bernd and Hilla Becher.

The best advice he has been given throughout his career came from a friend during his A-levels which was the more you can read, talk and think about design, the better. He adds, “It is too easy to just look at design and judge it. Digging deeper into what you are looking at and thinking is what improves you as a communicator and problem solver.”

Having been a freelancer for 12 years, we asked for three key principles which aided his success.

“Don’t turn any work down unless it starts to cost you too much time. Never burn bridges, as you never know when you will meet people again. Make sure you have the best work ethic possible, in todays market talent has to be backed up by a holistic approach to all commissions.”

Naturally we wondered if working closely with current third years influences his work.

“Obviously! The current level three students are the best final year cohorts we have had in 4 years. Every year we are growing stronger, developing students who are entering creative industries successfully.”

Tim Metcalf Photography

To finish we gave him the challenge of describing his professional career in a three-course meal. So to start? Jellied Eels, a cockney favourite…

“I think that today in the creative industries you need to be flexible as if you aren’t able to adapt to changes, clients will find someone else to commission”

Main? Sausages and Mash… “something that is quite straightforward and no nonsense, not flamboyant or extravagant with the sausages being from Lincolnshire as I’m loyal to my roots.”

Desert? Noodles in gravy… “I travel to China around several times a year and this was the most interesting ending to a meal I have had there. It sounds odd, but is more symbolic as a lot of the food is. It represents the ending of a journey.”

As a great tutor, complete with a quirky demeanour, we’re sure if you ever catch him around the WSA campus he’d be willing to depart more words of wisdom over some bangers and mash.

Written by Piero Regnante and Nicola Manuel.

Tim Metcalf Photography
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