Melbourne born turned Sydney freelancer Corey Simons takes five with Heaps Good to explain his love of old school signage and the lowbrow art of American 50s/60s counter-culture, and what he hopes to archive now living in the UK.
1) I hear you’re on route to the UK and are currently enjoying the delights of the USA. So far what’s been the highs and lows of your adventures?
I’ve just rounded up a three month stint in the States, mainly West Coast, primarily California and mostly Los Angeles. Luckily my freelancing allowed me to head over there and soak up all the sun drenched goodness that California has to offer. I’m a fan of mid century design, lowbrow art, 50′s 60′s counterculture, B-movies, Tiki, kitsch, and have been mildly obsessed with old school signage since I can remember – all of which are well represented in So Cal. The time on the West Coast was massively influential, it was great to get a taste of the real deal.
Both the Pacific Standard Time program (Ice Cube and Eames anybody?) and the Modernist Festival were on while I was over there so there was plenty of heady design history and education between the classic cars and Tiki bars. Walking through the picture perfect Frey House II in Palm Springs was surreal. That, and waving at Fred “The Hammer” Williamson playing golf while we cruised past on a double-decker architecture bus tour. Only in California!
Overall I’d have to say the day to day living in West Hollywood was a stand out. The whole city is like nothing else I’ve experienced. Just massive. Sparse, congested, rough, shiny new and busted out all at the same time. There wasn’t a day L.A. didn’t throw up a relic of vintage Americana. It’s not always the refurbished Happy Days diners either, some of my favourite classic sign finds were just there on the street like it’s no big thing. To me spotting those was a real buzz. Some people spot celebs, I spot rusty signs. Oh, and don’t get me started on the flea markets… Rose Bowl is like Camberwell Market on a super-sized diet of Cap’n Crunch and dust. So much great design reference and inspiration.
For a pure signage overload, the Neon Boneyard in Vegas was as close to a religious experience as a letterform obsessive can get. It’s an ocular overload of the best kind. I’ve never been happier to have shelled out the money for my wide angle lens as I was at the Boneyard. You can’t take a bad shot in there. Visually it’s amazing and the guided tour gives some great insight into the history and cultural significance they have beyond the pure aesthetics of it all. Highly recommended. Just be sure to book ahead – my wife had to break out the tears to get us in on the last tour before we headed back from Vegas! I’m progressively adding my favourite sign finds from the trip to my blog as a way of showcasing and cataloging the variety of unique layouts, typefaces, and hand-painted letterforms seen in old-school signage – the Boneyard post will be hard one to whittle down.
No real lows or disasters, the unplanned late night petrol stop off in the heart of South Central was a tad dicey but hey, it is L.A after all. I am glad not to be making the slog through Customs for a while now. I travelled everywhere with my laptop, SLR and scanner so lugging my freelance setup around took its toll on my sanity. I also massively over committed on the collectibles and flea market booty… some $600 later in excess baggage and we were good to go. I picked up some sweet finds though. Pains me thinking of the stuff I had to turn down! I definitely discovered a third home away from home between Australia and London. Westside!
2) You say you’re into all sorts of work, from fashion to public radio, what really gets a smile on your face and your blood pumping?
One of my biggest motivators for going freelance was getting the chance to work with a more diverse cross-section of clients, so working with people who are as passionate about their work as I am about mine is what gets me inspired. “If you love your work, we’d love to hear from you” is my motto at The Fold. I like to think that level of commitment and passion is always a constant in my output. When I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to do quality work I’m at my happiest… also the most stressed! Stressed but happy.
Having the time to look at a brief from a broader perspective, sketching out the bigger picture of where the project sits within a larger story or brand position is something I find really drives my creativity and gets my brain ticking. I enjoy the challenge of distilling these big ideas down to an accessible and effective message whatever the format.
3) You sound like you have the travel bug… have you been to Europe/London before?…. Tell us about it
I only spent a short time in London when I was here last. It felt familiar and exciting at the same time. My wife Holly is a UK native so the move here was always on the cards. The US trip and move to the UK has highlighted the creative benefits travel can have and the influence this exposure has on how you view your own work. Some of the time it can open up your mind to a new set of ideas and other times it confirms and validates your existing approach. It’s a balance though. Having now spent a good chunk of the year travelling I’m looking forward to setting up my studio here in the UK, discovering London and putting the ideas and inspiration gathered on the trip into action. That said, if I can find an excuse to do some work in Europe I’d be more than happy to expand the Sign Finds photo archive!
4) You’re Melbourne born turn Sydney freelancer, will freelancing put food on the table when you get to the UK? How do you think it will be different to Australian freelancing?
I moved from a full-time design role in Melbourne to freelancing in Sydney a few years prior to my move to the UK so I’ve learnt a lot from that experience. I’m lucky I’ve been able to keep in contact with my Australian client base so that’s allowed me to maintain the momentum I had built up over the previous years and hit the ground running here in the UK. My biggest source of work in Australia began mostly through direct contacts, friends and people I’d worked with in previous jobs. I can see my UK client base growing in a similar way.
5) How long will you be calling London home? And what do you hope to achieve while over here?
It’s open ended at this stage… I’ve shipped over my entire studio setup including all my bulky-as-hell screen-printing gear so that in itself is incentive to stick around!
Beyond my Sign Finds and blog photography a lot of my bigger ideas and creative projects have been on hold while enroute to the UK. Now that I’m settling in I’m looking to put as much of that into action as I can.
I’m interested in the intersection of traditional design methods and mediums and more modern or online platforms. I really dig the tactile nature of traditional print, screen printing, RISO and the control and skill of freehand signwriting. There’s an unpredictability in the process that I like. For years back home I tried to track down signwriters who still used a paint and brush to try and pick up some tips and knowhow for what at the time seemed like a forgotten art. I even wrote to my local supermarket (shout out to ‘montes!) to track down the hands responsible for their painted showcard-style ‘weekly specials’. That front window of posters was like a public art gallery for me. I’d like to set up my studio here with the space to explore those kinds of techniques and methods – if only for my own personal enjoyment. It’s not applicable to every brief and client but it would be great if the current popularity of more traditional forms of design and craftsmanship brings a wider appreciation for the process and skill involved.
Overall I’m looking forward to growing The Fold in the UK and getting into some quality work with with like-minded clients and designers. Combining all those influences from back home, the US and the UK and putting that to work in both my commercial work and personal projects.
6) Where can we see more of your work?
It’s been a really varied half year of work so far, from fashion graphics, website design and development, illustration to identity and branding. If you’re back home in Australia you’ll no doubt see more than a few of my t-shirt designs walking around next Summer! I’m working with Outré Gallery again on two new book covers due out later this year so I’m looking forward to seeing those finished and printed.
For a more instant snapshot of work, I update The Fold blog and thefoldbespoke Instagram weekly with a mix of my Sign Finds and current work so that’s a good place to get an idea of what is catching my eye and taking up my time. Check the #signfinds hashtag for your dose of worldwide signage finds! There are also a couple of mini photo projects I shot while in the States that I’ll be posting up, the first of which is up here now. I’m hoping to roll that idea on to London so keep an eye out for that. Bring on the UK Sign finds!