17th November 2017 |
Glug Profiles: Stuart Tolley

At Glug we’re always keen to bang the drum of creatives, makers, doers, tinkerers who do things a little differently. We’ve hence put together a series called “Glug Profiles” where we’ll be highlighting people from across the Glug world with different backgrounds and from all sorts of practices! To see more Glug Profiles, check out our news section.


Stuart Tolley, Founder / Creative Director at Transmission from Brighton


Hi Stuart! How’s it going? You having a good week so far? All good, thanks.  It’s been another busy week in the Transmission studio, but it was fun to see Public Service Broadcasting at the De La Warr Pavilion the other evening.

Let’s start easy, shall we? For those Gluggers who’ve never heard of you, who are you and what do you do?

I’m Stuart, the founder/creative director of Transmission, a graphic design studio and editorial consultancy, based in Brighton. I’m also the author of two visual culture books ‘Collector’s Edition: Innovative Packaging and Graphics’ and ‘MIN: The New Simplicity in Graphic Design’ which are both published by Thames & Hudson.


How did you end up doing what you’re doing now, then? Have you always dreamt of working in the creative industry, or what’s the back log here? I've always been interested in photography, art and especially graphic design. As a child, long before I knew what graphic design was, I would pour over my dad’s vinyl records and admire the artwork. It was typical Dad rock stuff, but I loved the psychedelic artwork for 'Disraeli Gears' by Cream and the die-cut cover for 'Jailbreak' by Thin Lizzy. At school I would shoehorn graphic design (badly) into all my projects, before deciding to go to art college and university to study visual communication.  Since graduating I’ve mostly worked for editorial and cultural clients, which are subjects I’m very passionate about. My published books are the ultimate expression of my interest in graphic design, music, publishing and culture. If I told my younger self that I’d authored two books, I wouldn’t believe it. It’s been a very organic process and I feel fortunate to work on projects that are an expression of my interests.

Have you had any mentors or influencers along the way of your career? Why, and in what way do you think they’ve influenced you? (Alternatively: why not?)

I’ve not really had any mentors, because I’ve built my career around working for myself. I leant a lot while working at Sleazenation magazine with Nick Booth and later Stephen Male. It was my first job after graduating, during a very chaotic time at the magazine, but I threw myself in the deep end. I knew nothing about print production and they taught me everything I needed to know.


Apart from working… What do you get up to in life? Got any exciting side hustles or passions to tell us about?

Music is a great passion. I love listening to music, learning how music subcultures have inspired society and watching live music – but I cannot play an instrument. I tried once, but I was rubbish and inpatient. I also own an old VW campervan, which I guess is a hobby. I take it out most free weekends and sit by a fire in the South Downs with my girlfriend. It’s a really great way to empty the head.


I also think it’s really important to embark on self initiated projects, as the creative freedom can trigger new working styles. I recently created a screen print created for the Sense of Place exhibition, held in Brighton. I experimented with halftone gradients on silver paper, a technique I’d not tried before, which will certainly inform future prints.


On a gloomy, totally uninspiring day, where everything just feels like an obstacle — what do you usually resort to in order to get your inspiration back on track again?

I head to the beach! I love living by the sea in Brighton and often take a sketchbook to the beach to work through problematic briefs. I find it really inspiring.

And on the opposite end — where do you usually find your inspiration in the work that you do either in your dream job or as a side hustle? I find inspiration from a number of sources, such as books and online, but there’s nothing like getting a bit of fresh air. If a project isn’t working, I tend to give it a bit of space and move on to another brief. 

Ok, so let’s get a bit dreamy, shall we? If you were to swap job with someone else in your industry, who would this be and why?

When I was younger I always wanted to work as a designer in the music industry. My dream was to create work that was central to a subculture and had an influence on society. Think Jamie Reid’s artwork for the Sex Pistols. It was a naive idea (and a bit too ambitious) but the person I’d love to swop with is Stanley Donwood, the longstanding Radiohead cover artist. I’m not a fan of Radiohead, but I admire their working relationship and Donwood’s non-commercial creative output is amazing.

And… If you were given the opportunity to move anywhere without having to apply for any visa what-so-ever and we’d sort the packing for you — where would you go?

That’s a tough question. I love to travel. The favourite place I’ve travelled is Mongolia, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Too cold in Winter. I’ve made a connection with South America, but daydream about moving next to a beach in Central America. Costa Rica, maybe? Mexico. Puerto Rico.    

If you were to give your younger self an advice on what to go for, or think about when you’re just about to step into the industry, what would that be?

Looking back I would’ve liked to gain experience in a small, independent design studio working on a variety of projects. I’d tell my younger self to absorb the way to run a studio and learn from it.

Ok, and last but not least! Please give a link shout-out to 5 pieces of inspirational, or just plainly awesome, work that you’ve stumbled upon recently… Or… just 5 people! Sure, my tastes are always changing, but I love the work being created by these studios:

Studio Feixen

Bráulio Amado

Irma Boom

Wang Zi-Hong

Guy Featherstone / Diagonal Records

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