Every once in awhile it’s nice to take a look at a designer and see how he got his start. What inspired him? What influences his work? In this post, we feature a short essay from Lippincott’s Brendán Murphy, a creative who has been having an impact on the design revolution based on his experiences with another, more dire revolution. Here’s what influences Murphy’s work:
I’m a child of the revolution. Not the sexual revolution—far from it. I was born and raised a catholic in Dublin, Ireland, and sex of any form out of wedlock, by thought or deed, meant eternal fire and brimstone. No, my revolution was the Irish troubles.
One of my earliest memories of school is being sent home early because of a bomb scare. They were always hoaxes by older kids whom I guessed wanted the day off school. We were all thankful. But there were other warnings, in the city center, that weren’t. And later, the black mourning flags in every window for Bobby Sands and the hunger strikers.
My dad, a taxi diver would bring me up north with him when he got a job going that way. It was a prized job, earning a week’s wage in one day. I was both his companion and passport. The Irish, while passionate fighters and dreamers, weren’t know for their suicidal tendencies. And, while taxis were considered dangerous, being used to transport arms and for car bombs, they were rendered harmless with a child aboard. I can still remember looking at the scared eyes of the British soldiers at the border checkpoints. Not much older than myself, and in a foreign country, they stood there with pointed guns.
After school everyday, I’d cycle past my grandmothers house to check in on her. In earlier years, she had filled me with books and stories of the Old IRA, and her fathers escape from a British firing squad. Now, she had early stage Alzheimer’s, and more often than not I didn’t go in, “it wasn’t safe,” she’d say. “The boys are hiding up in the attic,” she’d whisper. The boys, her IRA brother and childhood friends, were long dead from natural causes.
From an early age, I drew. Ironically, this was mostly by copying characters from my favorite British comic books. However, the first time I had any inkling of my future career, the subject matter was far from comedic. My entry to the school art competition my freshman year was a subject that was always top of mind. Not having very good drawing skills, I had drawn a soldier in concentric circles, with my math compass. I titled it “Revolution.” Handing me first prize, my Irish teacher asked me how I came up with the idea. “Assimilation,” I guessed.
Designers are very much products of their environment. And while I have since learned to draw, and value the breath of ideas drawing lets me explore, it’s the tools of listening and storytelling that are the fundamental skills of my design craft. Listening to the client, or the collective creative muse, provides the raw materials and plants the seeds of ideas. Storytelling helps us nurture and grow the ideas and helps the wider audience see the possibilities. And every now and again, when all the elements align, we create a revolution.
Sketching helped Murphy explore his artistic skills, and it can help you, too. Start with the How Your Sketchbook Can Open Your Mind, Boost Your Creativity and Rock Your World mp3.