Known for bold graphic work reminiscent of vintage propaganda posters and vector graphic instructions, English artist Anthony Burill created "One For Me, One For You", the latest up in the award-winning Zune Arts project. (Click above image for detail.)
Burrill's trademark clean typefaces and line drawings combine with a witty sense of humor to playfully convey simple yet effective messages. Highly sought-after, leading ad agencies around the world have tapped his potent aesthetic in campaigns for Diesel, Nike and the London Underground, among others. He's also created interactive web-based projects for Air and Kraftwerk, while producing short video and animation pieces with collaborative PAM. Busy and engaged, Burrill is super-productive but soft-spoken and credits his success to following his own advice and motto, "work hard and be nice to people."
Tell us about your installation for the Zune Arts project.
The installation is comprised of four repeating rows of images I created using Illustrator and printed on light gray cardstock. The individual panels are all simple line drawings that somehow relates to the Zune experience…burning of records, sharing experiences, smiling faces. I like the repetition because it has an even sort of feel to it. I don't usually work in this scale, so I definitely had to think it through.
Were the individual images made with the cohesive bigger picture in mind or did it develop naturally?
Yeah, I suppose it was made with the bigger picture in mind. There is some sort of sub-level thread but it was also a natural progression. All the images are made with a point width of two so they naturally fit together and match. I was picking and choosing images with a similar idea in mind, however, yeah, I think they could all work standing alone.
How did you get involved with this sort of media?
When I was younger I used to copy and draw record sleeves and logos all the time, that was my thing. All of my friends and classmates use to have branded bags and clothes. I used to have an unbranded bag that I would then brand by drawing logos with marker. I was always trying to copy the logos and trademarks perfectly. This type of controlled drawing is evident in my work today.
All of your work is very simple and clean. What is it that you like about the simple aesthetic?
That is how I live life as well, just keep things very simple. I don't like anything to be too complicated. Overall I like things that are easy on the eyes. (Pictured left, click for detail.)
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How do you keep it so simple yet fresh?
I think humor plays a large role in my works and I suppose it helps keep it fresh. Now I'm getting more involved in motion and animation so that's fairly new.
What is your creative process like? Do you work quickly, spur of the moment, or is it more thought out?
Sometimes it's like lightening hits and you have a great idea, but other times it's a slower development, so it's a lot of start and stop. I like to let things stew in the back of my brain for a while and I like to change my point of concentration quite a bit, especially when I'm having trouble with a specific project. I think it's good to take a break and come back to it. I'm a believer in that. When I come back to the piece, it feels fresh and ideas flow more easily. I have a studio space at home that's a wildly creative space, especially when my kids get home from school, so that helps.
Oftentimes you will make prints using a copying machine as your primary tool. What is it about the copying machine, why do you like to work with it?
I graduated in 1991, so that's what we had at the time. No computer those days, so it was simply a necessity, but I also love the simplicity in the process of using a copying machine. I worked for a few years on a photocopier before I eventually got a computer, but when I got a computer, I used it like a photocopier and produced the same sort of aesthetic.
So a lot has changed as far as technology, is the photocopier still useful to create your work?
Yes, I still use the photocopier every now and again, but the computer makes my life easier. I use Illustrator all the time and I love the fact that computers can make my work more precise. Computers are also good at layering things and making things look alike. The computer is capable of many things but I use the computer kind of like a photocopier. It's like when you first get something new you take it to the limit just to see what it's capable of, but then scale back to your original levels of comfort. That is my relationship with computers. Another thing about computers is that…well the airline lost my baggage on the way over including all of these prints. Luckily I had it on a disk and we reprinted them all.
And you did some work for Air and Kraftwerk, what was that like? Are you a fan?
Yea, I did a project with Air for their Talkie Walkie album. I am a great fan of theirs so it was especially an honor. Bands like Kraftwerk, I think that was the first band I ever knew about really, so it's great to be able to contribute.
What are your thoughts on the Zune? Did you know anything about it prior to getting involved with this project?
Well, there's so many gadgets and things out there I think success ultimately relies on the product. It's about whatever can give that gadget the extra bit of reach to people, whether it's the content or something else. But no, I didn't know much about Zune, just what Thomas, the Marketing Manager, told me about it. It was actually pretty nice because it gave me a certain freedom, they just told me to run with it, get on with it.
So you work with a lot of ad agencies and I'm sure that comes with having to cooperate with corporate wishes. Does this ever interfere with your artistic vision?
Well, you kind of get used to directors and stylists trying to shape your stuff, but I think its more about their personal opinions about the aesthetic. I don't like having to do twenty or thirty versions, which happens often, but I get my agent to kind of tell them to stop. Yeah, sometimes they try and direct my creativity but it's really more about collaborating in the end and I've never truly had a problem with that.
Any crazy stories come out of working with these high-profile companies?
I almost got arrested in Paris for the Diesel campaign! We were writing on the walls and doing the graphic backgrounds for the photo shoot. The police came and wanted to arrest us for defacing public property! We had to explain the situation for a long time and assured them that we would wash it off after the shoot. They waited for us all day to finish to make sure we washed it all off.
Anything lined up for the future?
Well my kids want to color in this latest project for Zune, so I've thought about producing a coloring book. I've also got another ad campaign in the works for a hotel in Amsterdam with Kesselskramer and I am looking to pitch more of my motion work with PAM. Otherwise I'm just looking forward to getting back to my village with my kids.