For the first episode of Campfire: Meet The Creators, we were delighted to be joined by Malcolm Garrett MBE. An iconic graphic designer, he is also the Creative Director and a Co-Founder of the annual Design Manchester Festival.

In the first part of our exploration of his career, we looked at Malcolm’s iconic work in the music industry – including sleeve designs for the Buzzcocks and Duran Duran.

Below is the second part of our conversation with Malcolm about his time at the forefront of digital design and a journey through his biggest campaigns.

Moving from Duran Duran to digital design

After talking through his work in the music industry, Malcolm discussed his next steps in the world of design – and why he moved on to digital campaigns. “I still love music and am really passionate about music,” he says. “Which is why I’d like to think that my work was successful because it wasn’t just about working with a client; it was my life and lifestyle.”

“However, as I was getting older, I was a less and less relevant person in the music industry,” he continues. “So, I needed to expand – and there were plenty of other areas of interest out there. I was always interested in technology and we’d been designing record sleeves digitally.”

This led to a new direction for Malcolm’s studio and his team of designers. “I’d set up a division of Assorted Images called AMX specifically to work in digital media,” he says. “We designed the first-ever Guinness website and a site for Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, which was the one and only Music Week Award I ever won.”

Shaping the world around us

From here, Malcolm worked with an array of global companies and organisations. This saw his work take on an unprecedented scale – reaching more people than ever before. 

“I was Creative Director at a company called AIG, where we worked on a project to develop a walking map for London that was more useful to pedestrians than the tube map,” he explains. “Most people who come to London use the tube map to find their way around, and it’s not really that good.

“Through working with clients like that and Dublin Bus, I found that I was really interested in information and how to make complex info simple,” he continues. “Also, the audience for the Buzzcocks when we started was maybe a few hundred people. The audience for the walking map in London is potentially everybody.”

Working on huge projects like this also gave him a greater appreciation of how effective design informs every area of a project. “What I’ve learnt is that all of the components of a complex design programme all interlink,” he says. “But, if you’re working on a project for Dublin Bus, you can’t change everything overnight. It takes two years or more for things to be put into place.”

Going beyond borders at the airport

Another major project that Malcolm found success with was the creation of a visual border at UK airports. “The Home Office asked us to look at the info people see when they get off a plane at places like Gatwick, Stansted or Heathrow,” he says. “The first thing we identified was that people are confused and disorientated, which means they can get argumentative and obstructive at the desk – and that’s because they don’t know they’re there yet.”

The answer to him was straightforward. “So, we said what you need to do is put a marker in the ground. Say ‘you may have landed, but you’re not there yet’,” he explains. “We won the job and within a year, it looks exactly as it does now. From the first design, nothing really changed.”

From rebel to rabble rouser with Design Manchester

Alongside the major campaigns he was working on, Malcolm was keen to give something back and be involved in education. This prompted the creation of the Design Manchester festival. “I’ve gone from being a rebel to encouraging contemporary rebellion,” he says. 

“Eight years ago, we started Design Manchester. Based in the town hall, we had an audience of maybe 250-300 students because we launched it with Manchester School of Art. Last year, we were in the 3,000-seat Bridgewater Hall, which we almost filled.”

As Malcolm points out, the festival has grown massively. “It has gone from one event (with five others attached to it) in the town hall to 50 events over two weeks in partner venues across Manchester last year,” he explains.

Just as it has for everyone else, this year has been difficult for the Design Manchester team. However, they’ve risen to the challenge. “What we’ve done is use this as an opportunity to realise a vision we always had,” says Malcolm. “We always saw ourselves as an international design festival. The objective was to connect Manchester to the world and connect the world to Manchester. So, this year, we’re teaming up with colleges in cities across Europe – and we’ve already launched work in a virtual exhibition for Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven.”

See our full conversation with Malcolm Garrett below and watch the first episode of Meet The Creators on-demand, here.

Designed for anyone in marketing, sales, emerging tech or simply those interested in all things creative, Meet The Creators is a monthly show that gives you a shot of inspiration and explores new ideas.

Episode 2 went live on November 19th with legendary DJ, producer and artist Justin Robertson. Discover more, here.