Words by Anthony Thomas
The pursuit of meaning is at the heart of all creativity. It’s the inherently subjective nature and translation of that meaning, however, that causes division amongst those thinking with the right-hand side of their brain. Fine art practitioners construct meaning through methods of relentless inquisition and analysis designed to extract something more from everything. Designers, on the other hand, approach creativity with a calculated and minimalist perspective. Less is more, always. Its interests lie exclusively in effectively presenting information so that audiences can decipher meaning themselves. Hence a debate laced with polarity now exists between the two practices. So as a fine art writer, when I received my first assignment for PITCH – produce a feature on designer, Adrian Turner – I was elated at the opportunity to explore this other side of creativity. Safe to say, any initial reservations I may have had were swiftly put to bed.
Prior to his relocation to Sydney, Turner cut his teeth designing club posters and event promo material around Brisbane. It may not appear a glamorous start but Turner’s first experiences in design came far more authentically than face-value dictates. “I was managing bands and they needed websites and merch done, so I just (started) designing it for them.” It wasn’t long before opportunities began to present themselves, finding employment at the now defunct but iconic Nine Lives Gallery and local booking agency, Happy Endings.
After pushing the question of artistic roots further, it was clear the case was far more grassroots than simply an employment task. “When I was a young kid, I’d go and hang out at my parents work on school holidays. Next to their work was a sign-writer and I used to go in and play around with all the left over vinyl or whatever was around. That’s where I got my first taste of design.”
It’s a taste that Turner grew fond of and has bloomed into career boasting an extensive client list. Clubs, restaurants and record labels alike now demand his services. The diversity is intriguing. His back catalogue of work has subtle, dreamy pieces reminiscent of Leif Podhajsky sitting at ease beside colder, line-orientated works that are quite utilitarian in contrast. When I ask about his style, Turner’sresponse soothes any confusion. “I don’t think I have a style. The point I’m at now is trying to teach myself as many different styles as possible. I’m not trying to stick to one kind of thing too much. I’ve still got a lot to learn as far as becoming a designer goes, there’s still so much for me to learn and dabble in. I want to be influenced by every little pocket of design.”
As our conversation continues, the topic of client briefs crops up. A designer’s world revolves around the brief, often for the best – bringing together creatives for productive, ongoing collaborations. “It’s hard to design with full creative control without outside input because we get trapped within your own little world and you think you’ve created something great but at the end of the day you’ve either rehashed someone’s idea or it doesn’t look great.” Naturally, costs exist beside benefits. “But sometimes you get jaded by doing work for other people all the time. They’re either not happy with it or they completely strip apart your design and make it completely different.”
So amongst the pleasures and pains of the design world, where does Adrian Turner find solace? Album artwork for one. In a relatively recent addition to his practice, Turner had the privilege of designing Flight Facilities latest single. Featuring his first foray into the use of watercolour, something Turner says he is keen to expand on but within a typographic setting. Turner’s passion for identity design is apparent. “Creating identities for bands and their creative work is trying to mould something that works for them. When someone sends me a job for a band – I’ll listen to their music, research their previous designs and gauge my own opinion of what direction my design should take. Learning about who or what I’m designing for comes first. It’s challenging but definitely more rewarding then designing another club poster [laughs]. It’s the blending of two voices. My take on their sound, image and direction.”
Clearly not easily satisfied, Turner also recently launched his own clothing label, Westbury, debuting a small range with an extended range in the works. It’s here that Turner has truly been able to self-actualise. “I’m not trying to get away from briefs and all that but having this part of my creative outlet where I’m in total control is important for me. (It) gives me my passion for design!” It’s an outlet that Turner isn’t keeping locked away either, expressing a keen interest in collaborating with other artists, designers and labels in the future.
And what exactly does that hold for the young designer? Continuing to “find that happy medium between doing work for other people and my own stuff.” With commissions rolling in, including the creation of album art for a new Sony artist, and tireless development of Westbury, I think it’s safe to say Adrian Turner has things covered. Remember the name, he might very well be behind the artwork of your favourite song in near future.
Published online in P I T C H.