Alex Synge is one of those guys you’d love to go for a pint with. A witty, unassuming, super talented chap with an eye for clean, uncluttered design, Alex is a man fond of a craft beer and a Fox’s classic. He is also quite tall.
A couple of weeks back, we invited Alex and his motley crew of Keep Sketchers to decorate our RHA windows with their unmistakable doodles. The cast included: Fuchsia Macaree, Dave Comiskey, Ross Henderson & Mark Crawford. They sketched, Alex photographed the action unfolding. He also produced a rather lovely video from the day, here is a link to view it: http://vimeo.com/43115078 It was such a fantastic day that we have decided to make it a regular event, keep up to date on facebook/twitter for future Keep Sketch drawing days.
Preferring to remain in the background, we decided to drag Alex Synge out of his comfort zone with our series of questions which reveal the man of mystery behind ‘Keep Sketch’.
How did it all start? (keep sketch that is)
I wanted to make some small, self-promotional item to be able to give to people instead of just getting a business card done. I’d been thinking about getting some pencils made with the words "Keep Sketch" on for a while, so finally just went with that. They seemed to strike a chord with people, and got a nice reaction, being featured in Totally Dublin and a few other places. While it didn’t exactly end up promoting my own work directly, it did inadvertently create the Keep Sketch brand, which was all-the-better really.
What impact has the Fund it campaign had on the business & could you have set up Keep Sketch without its support?
Without the Fund it campaign, Keep Sketch would not exist as it does today. While we would most likely have tried to do small runs of things and more event-based work, there’s no way we would have been able to fund the production of all the stuff that we were able to do thanks to the campaign and the support we got. We’re very much indebted to Fund it and everyone who supported the project through it. Even having the project up on the site was great in itself; we were only the second successfully funded project in the design section of the site (the first being the Open House Dublin book) and it definitely gave us a lot of exposure. They’re wonderfully enthusiastic and supportive people, and I can’t recommend them enough if any designers have an idea that they need a bit of help with to get it off the ground.
Collaboration is the backbone of Keep Sketch, how do you approach designers?
I never gave it much thought to be honest, but it’s always been pretty simple; if I like someone’s work and think we could do something nice together, I tell them I like their work and ask them if they’d like to work on something with us. The approach was the same for old friends, previous collaborators and strangers alike. I think there’s a lot to be said for telling someone you like what they do, whatever it is. You never know what it can lead to, and it’s good for the soul too.
Who do you admire most in Irish Design, be it past or present? Who do you think is doing nice things at the moment?
It’s easy to take ancient Irish art for granted because its imagery has become some omnipresent these days, but I’m continuously blown away the metalwork and illuminated manuscripts from hundreds of years ago. There’s so much care and attention to detail and insane geometry going on in all that stuff. Two big twentieth century figures that I admire are Michael Scott and Eileen Gray. At the other end of the scale, there are a lot of people working today whose work I love. At the risk of sounding like a total cheese-ball, I’m very proud to be part or the Irish Design Shop family; lots of amazing work coming out of there. The people who have contributed to Keep Sketch are all amazing. I love Designgoat’s work and am really excited to be working with them at the moment. There’s plenty of sterling work coming from small graphic design studios like AAD, Conor & David, Unthink and Detail too. There’s actually far too much too mention… I have a lot of very talented friends, and keep coming across great work all over the place.
How do you see the future of Irish Design? Grim or exciting?
Exciting, definitely! There are so many people making amazing work in Ireland at the moment, from people in college, to those who have been working away for years and years. I’m genuinely excited about the future of Irish design, and happy to be around at a time where it really seems to be flourishing.
Future Keep Sketch projects?
There are one or two top-secret things that we can’t really talk about for now, but suffice to say, we’re very excited about them. Planning the RHA IDS window has been great, and we’d definitely like to do more large-scale and event-based projects like this. We’re always seeing work by very talented illustrators and designers too, so it would be great to collaborate with some new blood on some new projects in the near future too.
John Berger’s "Ways Of Seeing" had a pretty big impact on me when I read it and re-read in it college. In terms of fiction, "So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away" by Richard Brautigan is a book I enjoyed a lot that I hope to re-read again someday.
Favourite Dublin pub?
Impossible to choose, but here are four that I like a lot; The Long Hall, The Lord Edward, the Shakespeare and the Blue Light.
Tipple of choice?
I’m quite partial to fancy craft beers, but I always come back to Guinness or a nice Irish whiskey. Failing that, pretty much any 4-cans-for-a-fiver deal will keep me happy.
Hard to pick just one… It would probably be something classic like Gill Sans, although I can never fully give myself over to that font, because the man who created it was so vile. I have a soft spot for Didot, and am using a lot of Courier at the moment too. Too many other great fonts from small independent foundries to mention too!
Do you like to dance? Say, on a dance-floor?
Yes, and yes. Usually only with a suitable amount of Dutch courage though.
Dogs or cats?
Dogs for their unquestioning loyalty and stamina for playing fetch on the beach; cats for making the internet the place it is today.
Favourite Irish bird?