Remembering The Craftsman

In this era of digital design and connectivity, the true skills of craftsmanship, artistry, and complete originality in creating a brand are often overlooked by clients in favour of speed and cost.

When I first started out in the industry – back in the last few months of the last century – I cut my teeth working under Michael Peters at Identica, alongside some of the finest creative minds I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. People that have since gone on to create some incredibly brilliant, award winning brands and campaigns. People that couldn’t and didn’t rely on the internet to come up with original ideas – it was all about filling up sketchbooks and notebooks with page after page of thoughts, notes, ideas and scribbles. The best of these ideas would typically be finessed and refined by a skilled artist so that we knew each and every concept presented to a client was totally unique and beautifully crafted.

Our go to guy was always – without fail – John Geary.

Despite suffering from muscular dystrophy, John was able to take our scribbles and rough drawings and refine them into something beautiful – time after time. His only tools were his pencils, pens and paper. The beauty of the Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, Russian Standard and Levi Strauss brands have a lot to thank John for.

Over the past few years, I’ve called John up many times to help us craft some of our logo ideas into something magical. Something that can’t be found anywhere else – not on any Pinterest board, design blog or stock library site. Something that we can present proudly to our clients as being created uniquely for them – born out of their own vision for the business, brand values and our scribbled ideas. It is, after all, what creating a brand should be all about.

Each one of John’s emails back filled me with delight – because every one contained page after page of beautifully drawn, perfectly crafted translations of our scamps. Emails and scanned drawings were actually a relatively new part of our working relationship – only recently had a newly purchased scanner allowed him to speed up his usual method of posting back his sheets of work to us.

I’m writing in the past tense because I received the unbelievably sad news of John’s passing last night. The rarest of talents, the kindest of souls. A man possessing more natural artistic ability in his two hands than a thousand others combined. 

I really believe that we need to remember and reflect on what John brought to the creative process – and share this with every new artist, designer, illustrator and photographer that is starting out on their own path. Agencies should not only be encouraging and empowering interns, graduates and junior designers to further their natural talents by filling up sketchbook after sketchbook with ideas, but they should be embracing and utilising the skills of brilliant artists all over the country and world to bring their ideas to life in the most original ways. By hand. With strong ideas. 

Time should be factored into EVERY project for this – rather than just jumping straight onto the Mac or pilfering second rate, often seen, designs from Pinterest, Dribble or Behance or whatever new site is in vogue at a particular agency.

We can’t, and shouldn’t, stop the power of social and digital connectivity in our professional worlds – but it should always be there to support, and not replace, the skills that we were born with. It’s too easy these days to take the quick route. That’s why it’s much harder, yet infinitely more rewarding – and right, to create something truly original that will become a benchmark for years to come.

RIP John – we will never forget. We are immensely proud to have worked with you. From all of us at We Launch.

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