Born with the smell of ink in my nostrils
My version of “born with a silver spoon”
Being born to a sixth generation printer with roots dating back as far as 1876 in Riga, Latvia and with the smell of ink in his nostrils, paper between his toes, type, shapes and colours all around him; becoming a designer, printmaker, photographer and wordsmith was inevitable for Andrew.
Andrew’s father Leonard, set-up home above his east London printshop so, when growing-up, Andrew was surrounded by the processes and practices of the print industry that worked on all of his senses. The sight of letterforms, colours and graphics, all shapes and sizes; the red light in the darkroom and the brightness of daylight afterwards.The smell of ink and paper, oil lubricating a printing press, the aroma of slightly burnt paper as it passed through the heated elements of a thermographic machine that caramelised the wet ink onto shiny raised letterforms; the stench of printing solvents and photographic processing chemicals. The sound of the printing press, a guillotine blade slicing through paper, a stapling machine and the hum of the fan on a typesetting machine. The touch of uncoated and coated paper, strawboard, anti-set-off spray powder and the fragile matte emulsion side versus the strong gloss side of photographic film.The taste of currant buns from the bakers across the street (there were jobs to be printed and time was never on our side).
Andrew wanted to be the first member of his family to go to University; having a curiosity for most things and the What, When, Why, Where and How of a story or event. After getting straight A’s, Andrew was well on his way but right in the middle of his exams his father passed away. The dilemma was stark — follow his intended career path or inherit the family business — one that he candidly admits was in dire financials straights.
Andrew decided to continue with print. The technologies available for producing designs for were changing from the much revered method of rub-down lettering on plastic sheets called Letraset, to machines like the quirky and slightly ridiculous Strip Printer (allowed headlines to be made on photographic paper exposed via a strip of negative film) and the Kroy typesetter (much like an oversized Dymo machine). Following hot on the heels of these interim typesetting methods was the real game changer: desktop publishing. For the first time entire pages of text, graphics and images could be visualised on screen and output without using expensive photographic methods. The means of producing design for print was becoming affordable and it was a leveller in the industry.
The web came along by the late 90s and Andrew started to embrace this new technology with strap lines like: “Get a website for your business large or small”, “Print is dead!”, and “The web is the road ahead”. Websites started out with HTML text links in underlined blue and animated GIFs. However, the design side of the web quickly took hold when CSS came along with rapid progress towards mobile friendly layouts. Functionality and ease of use became important as technology made it possible to delight users rather than requiring them to have special powers to use a website — Andrew practiced user experience by default, not as a job title but because everything including websites, should be designed and built around making it easier and more pleasurable for people to use and engage with products, services and information.
It all felt like rapid progress at the time where better, faster, cheaper, more versatile processes were embraced all the time. In retrospect some of the technology left a lot to be desired and you could laugh at how idiosyncratic and limiting most of it was compared to what can be achieved today with cross-platform compatibility and open source technology. But those tools and methods made it possible for the technology we have now to exist. And so the story continues.
Almost a quarter-century on, Andrew brings his own unique blend of digital and analog design experience and skill to every project; achieving financial success and clients on four continents. More importantly though, he is motivated by a love of online and offline design, the processes involved in making it happen, the tactile nature of printed work, the convenience and experience of end users, and the appreciation from his clients.
Andrew has over 50,000 followers on Instagram (they chose him as a suggested user twice), has had his work featured by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and according to this newspaper report, has sold a photo of a broken down beach hut for £50,000. He is also a wordsmith and writes about technology as well as his thoughts on being an independent designer. Finally, but no means least, in his spare time, Andrew can be found setting lead or wood type and inking up his printing press in the corner of the design studio, with the imprints of his father’s craft at the forefront of his mind.