Darren Leader Studio


Is Peter a Punk?

On Design: Peter Saville at the Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Is there a single object that inspires your design practice? That was the question examined by Peter Saville in conversation with BBC Arts Editor, Will Gompertz, at the Sir John Soane’s Museum, Holborn, London.

Looking back at our formative years there can be tell-tale clues which explain our individual creative approach. And Saville’s moment arrived twice. Sometime in the early 1970’s, as an undergraduate he opened a book which featured ‘Toaster’, a poster by pop artist Richard Hamilton which referenced Dieter Ram’s visual aesthetic of ‘less is more’. In moments, Peter absorbed its simplicity and space, glided over the text, and acknowledged its reflective surface. Then closed the book, his mind probably quickly occupied by other teenage distractions.

What happens next, we know. FAC 1. Joy Division. Record covers. Or as Peter puts it, ‘the art of the playground’.

Fast forward to 1995, and Peter encounters ‘Toaster’ once again, but this time he has to sit down to process the shock that the poster’s component parts represent his own creative impulses. Apparently the poster was for sale, but despite his connection, Peter could not afford the £2,000 price tag. And from here, Peter’s story expands into mid-career questions. He is antagonised by commercial business. Bored of identity communication. And his very purpose of being a designer is unresolved.

Peter Saville in conversation is always good value. He can talk. And while thinking out loud and reflecting on his working life, the host Will Gompertz posed the question, ‘Are you an artist?’. But even that moniker puzzled and provoked him. No, but he was aware he was becoming his own brand.

Although the event was based around the inspiration of an object, I wondered if perhaps Peter’s antipathy was shaped by the people he knew and Manchester itself. Just think of this contrary roll call: Anthony Wilson, Rob Gretton, Mark E Smith, Linder Sterling, New Order, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols.

Is Peter a Punk? Not the image of safety pins or Jimmy Pursey. But certainly, Bryan Ferry with an engrained instinct to counter the mundane.

I loved the talk. I hope there is a autobiography in the near future, as we can all benefit from Peter’s questions and creativity.


Peter Saville on Richard Hamilton, Tate Shot, 2008.


Cut-out and keep – Unlocking a type workshop at Blickling Estate

Studio clients Tom and Sophie at Unlocking the Archive are currently researching Renaissance books at Blickling Estate in Norfolk. As their work progressed, several public events were delivered to share their discoveries, one of which included a type workshop devised and delivered by Studio with the expert assistance of New Impressions alumni, Paul Wolterink and Andy Campbell at Norwich School.

Given our audience could be new to graphic design and have little knowledge of design software, it was important that the experience of the type workshop was entirely analogue. Inspired in part by Letraset and traditional type specimen sheets, a set of type sheets were designed which featured selected letterforms from the Blickling collection at various type sizes. Participants were then tasked to create type compositions by cutting out their chosen letters.

But they had to consider an extra layer of complexity.

When planning the workshop we discussed the potential of each participant taking home a finished print. The brilliant Andy Campbell from Norwich School suggested the use of a Risograph printer which offers a limited range of special colours which print unique results.

When composing their designs, each participant had to consider not only black ink, but also the option of another red or blue layer. Which selected word or graphic would they highlight by applying an additional colour?

Alongside identifying type hierarchy, layout and colour participants were introduced to key design techniques.

Before the workshop, everyone had the opportunity to see a range of Renaissance books and select an extract or quotation to later apply to their designs. The conditions were set to create engaging work.

The workshop was an experiment, as we were working with people who were new to graphic design practice, but the quality of the finished designs displayed a pleasing standard.

Thank you to Paul, Andy, Tom and Sophie and the Blickling Estate. I look forward to next year’s event.

Workshop prints photos: Paul Wolterink

I Shout for the Fall

Over the summer, I was very excited to be invited by John Rooney to take part in ‘I Shout for the Fall’ a project to celebrate the words of Mark E Smith, the contrarian maverick and singer with The Fall who sadly died earlier this year.

Designers and image makers were tasked with creating an original design which used a line from a song by The Fall. As John noted in his brief, “this is a visual celebration of, independence, individuality and language disruption!”

The finished show includes an amazing roll call of designers and it was an honour to be included. And it was also an interesting challenge as The Fall often had an anti-design aesthetic which was always creative and appropriate to Mark E Smith’s abstract world view.

I worked with the song ‘New Big Prinz’ from the LP, I Am Kurious Oranj and the repetitive chant throughout the track inspired my design. Throughout the project, the Studio playlist was exclusively The Fall which was essential to the design process. In particular the 1983–1990 era was an inspiration. But then there is always more to discover.

Here are The Fall in 1988, checking the record.


‘I Shout for the Fall’ is part of Design Manchester 18 and on show at Bury Art Museum, 22 September – 24 November

See my submission here

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