Wise words: Anthony Burill



As part of the Sheffield Hallam University “Created By…”  guest designer, speaker series, I was super excited to see that Anthony Burill was on the agenda for February. 

I’ve been a follower of A.B’s bold typographic prints and quotes since the dawn of time (as have many graphic designers I'm sure) many of the posters have meanings and sentiments that we can all relate to. I have one, (just the one) of A.B.s prints above my stairs, set there as a daily reminder that “The World Is for You.” It was at the top of my list of things to buy when bought our (less-than-designer) house.

It was a strange event, walking back into uni as an alumni of… NEARLY 6 YEARS! I graduated 6 years ago! and yet I find myself back in the Pennine Lecture theatre listening more than I ever did... but as an actual designer this time!


A.B.'s story, is light years apart from the stories of new designers emerging from University now. When he left the Royal College of Art in 1991, instagram did not exist. I know. Its madness. With this though, comes a deeper feeling of authenticity and organic creation through his work; from an angle of exploration and discovery through to “making the world a nicer place” by sharing and connecting.

I laughed out loud a little bit when A.B. was telling his story of leaving the world of commercial work to focus on his own practice. “I was being art directed by idiots who didn’t understand my genius.” Pretty sure every single designer in the world has those thoughts!


“Persistance is Fruitful”

All designers, business people, entrepreneurs, ANYONE, will have some connection to this one in particular, that hustle when you leave uni; in search of your first job. Or that moment when you decide to leave the 9-5 in search of free-range life; it all takes persistence and burning desire to succeed. A.B. brought this to life, ever so poetically; by a larger than life poster printed by a steam-roller, none the less. The messaging being that; nothing is ever impossible.

It was interesting to hear that the “Work hard and be nice to people” poster - the super super famous one, came about upon hearing a lady in a supermarket, simply say “The secret to a happy life, is to work hard and be nice to people.” The montage of this message travelling around the world, showed how far a simple, sincere message can move and how through this one message, many people in different corners of the world are now connected. 


Connecting with others, thats where you want to be. - A.B.


Connection and “being one” was a key theme through the talk, the understanding that one way or another we’re all connected. This is no new philosophy, but how you use that information and what you do with it, is important. 

Printed using the oil from the Gulf of Mexico oil spillage

Printed using the oil from the Gulf of Mexico oil spillage

The amazeballs Portuguese version of Work Hard &..

The amazeballs Portuguese version of Work Hard &..

The lasting sentiment that stuck with me, aside from the message of making connections and sharing joy with others is the feeling of authenticity.

"It’s problematic when things are being created just for social media, and the intentions aren’t there. You can tell."

This is something I’ve often found myself concerned with: are we creating the best design for the client, for ourselves, or for the most likes? It’s a difficult balance in this new design-world; where social IS the world. Selling your brand, your studio and yourself has become synonymous with raising your follower count. How many designers or businesses can make it without having a social strategy now? Very few I believe.

Taking a step back to remember why we do something is more important than doing anything.. just for the likes.