In conversation with… Steve Stacey, Art Director & Designer

In conversation with… Steve Stacey, Art Director & Designer

Steve Stacey, art director and designer, recently got chatting to our students about his career so far, his favourite projects, and shared his tips on getting into industry.

Steve Stacey, photo by Denisa Ilie

About Steve

Steve has had a diverse and exciting career, from working as an in-house Senior Designer for Sony Music, to setting up his own freelance design business. He has established himself as one of the top graphic designers working in industry today.

His creative background is varied, from graphic design and image manipulation (through digital and analogue methods), to illustration and art direction.

He’s worked for an abundance of artists, including George Ezra, Nothing But Thieves, Little Mix and Beck.

Steve is inspired by…

Kurt Schwitters – “Kurt’s work resonated with me because it was very hand-made, but it had that graphical element to it. I try to incorporate this into my work.”

David Carson/Ray Gun Magazine – “this was a seminal publication for me. It was a music and culture magazine that ripped up the whole rulebook about what graphic design was at the time.”

Mark Farrow – “a British designer whose style couldn’t be more opposite to the other examples! Everything is clean and in order, very styled. His attention to detail and use of colour is something I’m very drawn to. He makes the mundane look beautiful.”

Music – “Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains. I would always look at the credits on the album artwork to see who created it.”

Steve Stacey x Nothing But Thieves
Steve Stacey x Nothing But Thieves
Steve Stacey x Nothing But Thieves

Steve’s favourite project

“I think the ‘Broken Machines’ and ‘Moral Panic’ album projects for Nothing But Thieves. It was just an idea I came up with entirely on my own and drove it all the way through to completion” said Steve.

Moral Panic took the best part of a year to go from the initial concepts to the final product. The band told me about a lot of their songs being about problems in society, social media and things like that.”

“I wanted to come up with this idea about capturing the relationship between two people that left the viewer with an opinion on what was happening. I wanted each person to see the imagery differently” said Steve.

Steve Stacey x Nothing But Thieves
Steve Stacey x Nothing But Thieves
Steve Stacey x Nothing But Thieves
Steve Stacey x Nothing But Thieves
Steve Stacey x Nothing But Thieves

Our students ask…

Where do you find inspiration now that you are further in your career, to keep generating new and unique ideas?

I think it’s simply about being aware of cultures and anything like fashion, film, other music – that all feeds into inspiration. There’s no real formula to it, if you feel the project is good and you enjoy doing it, the ideas come a lot quicker and easier.

I’m a big fan of just being aware of visual culture and immersing myself in it.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into designing album covers for bands and musicians?

Don’t limit yourself to thinking you just want to work in music. If you’re a good designer your work will be relevant to a lot of different areas of design.

You can also take the route of directly sending ideas and examples of your work to bands. Do some concept work for them, come up with merchandise and artwork ideas if there are particular bands you really want to work with.

“Don’t shoehorn yourself into a style of work because you feel you need to tick boxes. Stay true to yourself and your work, and do what you enjoy creating.”

Is there any advice you can give to students who prefer to use a pen and a paper instead of a laptop, knowing that technology is the future?

There are a lot of artists whose work I love who create analogue work. You can embrace digital outcomes of it, for example collage and stop motion.

I find that a lot of people are afraid of technology – it’s fear of the unknown. I would say to learn the programmes and see how you can apply digital methods to it.

There’s so much work out there at the moment making analogue work move – even big brands are still making campaigns that look hand-made while utilising motion in it.

Don’t shoehorn yourself into a style of work because you feel you need to tick boxes. Stay true to yourself and your work, and do what you enjoy creating.