Inspirer – Professor David Crow

“The reason I work with other people is I realise that I can’t do all of this on my own. I know I am better off if I bring in other people. You’re building a network here right now. It wouldn’t surprise me if you reconnect 15-20 years down the line to make things like this.”

Professor David Crow is Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Manchester School of Art. His industrial experience was gained in London where he worked on the design and production of various projects including books, brochures, packaging and promotional material. As a senior designer for Island Records he was responsible for art direction and production, and managed promotional and advertising campaigns for a variety of artists. When he was a student he had a summer placement with Neville Brody at the ‘Face’.

Before the Easter break Professor Crow gave an insightful lecture into the way he works and how he accomplishes his work by collaborating with others. He gave many examples of collaborative working, including:

  • The process of getting published. Professor Crow wrote ‘An Introduction to Semiotics’ as he saw there were no text books that linked up graphic design theory with examples of contemporary practice. He made the book by working with the publisher and inviting artists, designers and students to make illustrations to convey the ideas of the book. He designed the book to feel like a sketchbook/exercise book to make the theories covered feel accessible.
  • Working with members of staff to make publications e.g. working with illustrator John Hewitt to bring together a series of illustrations John made in response to the London bombings, and working with Hazel Jones (Interactive Arts) and Sharon Blakey (3 Dimensional Design) on a book about objects called ‘Emblem’.
  • Working with members of staff and others on installations (e.g. Pairings project).
  • Working with a team to produce an interactive digital piece for a Red Telephone box on display in London during the 2012 Olympics. This involved working with technicians and students from Science & Engineering to produce the code required. Professor Crow then had to find the right people to negotiate with to get the piece installed.
  • Overseeing the development of a new building for Manchester School of Art. Professor Crow talked of the two-way conversation that developed between the architects and staff of Manchester School of Art. This led to a design change and creation of the wooden stairways that we are all so familiar with today in the Benzie building. Along with the floral concrete pillars, the stairways “say more about us – the craft and materiality of Manchester School of Art.”

Professor Crow spoke of the need to push the boundaries, to reject default settings on any machinery you may use, and experiment to see what you can create.

He talked of the need to be generous and easy to work with. This will help you build a network. Do things well and you can be asked to keep on doing more interesting things. He gave the example of speaking at conference A Type I in Brighton where he challenged the hierarchies between art, design and craft, arguing that craft is a performance, an attitude and not something that should be side-lined. From this he was invited by Eye magazine (who had been in the audience) to write a review of a V&A show and later on to produce a six page feature.

“Put your heart into everything because you don’t know where it will lead to.”


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