Build: Blood, Sweat & 11 Years

A Celebratory Anniversary Exhibition

Photography by Aidan Kelly & JMW Luxton

April 22 2015

Blood, Sweat & 11 Years celebrated the past 11 years of Build, of Michael and Nicky, and Joe, and Sophie, of the prints and posters they produced—some for clients, some for exhibitions, some just for them. But never before all together in one space, for one week only.

Can you tell us briefly about the steps in life that led you to
this position, celebrating 11 years with your studio?

Age 7 – I used to sell drawings of Puff The Magic Dragon to my fellow classmates.
Age 10 – Into drawing spaceships.
Age 14 – Into Heavy Metal. I used to paint album sleeves and band logos onto people’s leather jackets.
Age 16 – My art teacher said the immortal words ‘Have you heard of graphic design?’
Age 21 – First job in London working for maverick designer Trevor Jackson designing record sleeves.
Age 22 – Designer at The Designers Republic, Sheffield.
Age 31 – Founded design studio Build.

What are some of your greatest successes and failures along the way?

I consider our great success to be the studio, the people we work with and the adventures we have had along the way. Design has enabled me to earn a living, travel and meet some amazing people.

Failures? We’ve had a few projects not work out so well (who doesn’t?).

How do you describe Build to people?

To the man on the street – We design logos. To everyone else – We are a design studio that produces well-crafted, modern, forward-thinking graphic design.

Are you still being asked to design record sleeves?

Very rarely these days. We work with a few small electronic labels. I still really enjoy designing them, and would love to do more. Having done so many over the years it’s in my blood. I love the challenge of designing for something as complex as music.

Are they your favorite medium to design for? If not, what is?

They used to be. Now I’d like to go a bit bigger, a Boeing 747 would be nice. I’ve always said I’ll try anything once, and enjoy a challenge.

Do you find peace at the end of a project or are you the type that’s seldom satisfied?

Yes. I tend to think that it won’t be the last thing I design so I’m usually happy. Doing the show has been an interesting experience for me as it’s been an opportunity to look back at older work. I surprised myself by actually still liking about 90% of what we showed. Some pieces have little errors on them make me cringe, including a few spelling mistakes (we are only human). A lot of people who came to the show said that they could see a progression in the work from the early days to our current output.

Build’s aesthetic is largely based on your work. How has it been creating a team around it, and what was that transition like for you?

It’s been interesting. At first I found it very hard, but now I really enjoy working in a team. At my old job at The Designers Republic we didn’t operate under a traditional studio setup of Creative Director, Senior Designer, Mid-weight, Account Manager etc. We basically just worked on our own, seldomly working as a team. So when I started Build it was exactly the same, then as we got bigger it soon became apparent that we needed more structure to move forward. There are 4 of us in the studio full-time (Nicky, Joe, Sophie & I), we then have freelancers coming in to help out depending on the size of the project. I’m the Creative Director, and Joe is the designer, so day-to-day Joe and I work closely together. Being so used to doing everything myself (which I still really enjoy) I did find it difficult at the start, but now I love working with other people.

Have you released any custom fonts lately?

Not lately, I’ve been getting back into designing fonts for certain projects, which gives me immense pleasure. I’ve always seen it as a way of giving a project real personality. I would not call myself a typographer (that would be an insult to typographers), but typography is a huge part of the work we produce. And again looking at the show I think that really is apparent.

Can you tell us why the North of England is great?

The people, the accents, the countryside, the attitude (or lack of attitude). It’s where I was born, it’s where I grew up, it’s where my family still lives. I will end my days in North Yorkshire.

How do you take your tea/coffee?

Tea: Morning – Earl Grey (milk, no sugar).

Afternoon – Yorkshire Tea (milk, no sugar).

Coffee: Morning only (milk, no sugar).

What’s your favorite sandwich?

At the moment a Hot Salt Beef Beigal from ‘Beigal Bake’ (159 Brick Lane) which was just up the road from The Dray Walk Gallery where we had our 11 Years show. Anyone visiting London should go there.

Love comes up frequently in your work, would it be ok for me to give you a hug the next time we see each other?


Have you established new goals for the next 11 years?

Yes, we have some exciting projects planned for the next few years, watch this space.

Is there anything you’d like to share with the world?

(see answer to the ‘What’s your favourite sandwich’ question)

For more Build and Michael C. Place visit