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Q&A Graham Sturt

On 1 June 2024, the Now24 conference will take place in Paris. On that day, more than a dozen graphic design lecturers, art directors and type designers are expected. Join to attend talks by international speakers around graphic design, web design, motion design, publishing, visual identity, communication and type design. If not already done, register now to take advantage of the best rates.

It seemed interesting to us to make you discover the profiles of our guests. Discover Graham Sturt’s interview.

Biography Graham Sturt is Head of Creative at Monotype, where he leads an in-house multidisciplinary team across the globe. Now based in London, he previously spent 16 years in Amsterdam, where he held a number of creative roles at leading international agencies including Interbrand and Superunion. His work has been recognized by industry awards including D&AD, Dutch Creativity Awards, Design Week, Cannes Lions, European Design Awards and One Show. He is active in the international creative community as an awards judge, collaborator, guest speaker, and mentor for emerging creative talent.

Interview

Do you prefer a permanent/dedicated workspace, separate from home or at home?

Graham Sturt As much as the Covid era taught us working hybrid is viable and productive I prefer to separate work from home. I do work from home for part of the week but would rather spend my working day surrounded by fellow creatives in the studio. Having the possibility to share and review ideas with each other live is much more interesting to me than the regimen and formality of scheduled Teams calls. 


Favorite kind of music to listen to while working?

Graham Sturt It really depends on what I’m doing. If I need to write something silence is generally preferable. If I’m in a flow designing or putting together a presentation, I’m happy to be accompanied by any genre of music played loud.


“Typography has essentially provided a red thread throughout my career to date, so there is a certain kind of serendipity in that I now find myself at Monotype.”
– Graham Sturt
Project: Amsteldok. WPP Campus Amsterdam Agency: Superunion Amsterdam


Do you ever feel “too comfortable”?

Graham Sturt In my role at Monotype I always encourage the team to find new innovative ways to create and deliver our work. In this respect there is always room to explore or learn and each new brief is treated as a creative opportunity. Thankfully due to this constant curiosity there is no room to get too comfortable. A creative studio is no place for comfort after all. 


What’s the difference between Creative director in a design agency and to be the a Head of creative at Monotype?

Graham Sturt The creative team at Monotype operates as an in-house agency so there are fewer differences than you might imagine. I’m blessed to lead an incredibly talented multidisciplinary team split across the US, UK and India. Working effectively with this geographical split does require a lot of discipline and flexibility but so far, its proving to be incredibly rewarding.
 
 

Project: Johan Cruijff ArenA Agency: Superunion Amsterdam

Do you remember when you decided to pursue your career in design?

Graham Sturt I’ve had a genuine love of typography since I undertook a work experience opportunity at my uncle’s typesetting business in Islington when I was just 15. During my time there, I eagerly absorbed everything, from the formal discipline of working with type through to the countless expressive personalities that different typefaces offer. It’s fair to say I was pretty much hooked on type from that very moment, and I still treasure the Linotype catalogue they gave me as a souvenir on completing my internship! While my career path to date has led me to hold senior roles at a number of leading international design agencies, my focus has consistently revolved around creating innovative and impactful solutions driven by typography.

Along the way, I’ve had the privilege of applying this approach with esteemed brands such as Yo! Sushi, Lucky Strike, The Heineken Company, PostNL, ING Bank, Johan Cruijff ArenA, Amsteldok, Pride Amsterdam and Canal+. It has also gifted me the opportunity to collaborate closely with many incredibly talented type designers and foundries. 

Typography has essentially provided a red thread throughout my career to date, so there is a certain kind of serendipity in that I now find myself at Monotype.


“It’s the power of a strong idea which will make your work stand out not how slickly it’s executed. Always.”
– Graham Sturt

Who had the most impact on you?

Graham Sturt I’ve been incredibly fortunate along the way to have worked alongside, taught by and been mentored by some incredibly inspiring creative leaders. Observing and absorbing the behaviours and wisdom imparted by many of these brilliant individuals gave me a lot of perspective and certainly helped me develop my own unique style as a creative leader. If you need names, I’d say I owe a sincere debt of gratitude to Silke Dettmers, Andy Edwards, Carol Warren, Alex Quero, Mike Warry, Mark Norton, Tim Greenhalgh, Steve Haggarty, Greg Quinton and Eugene Bay.


Do you have words of wisdom for someone who wants to become a designer?

Graham Sturt With increasingly greater competition and fewer opportunities within the creative industry I suggest the following:



Be humble — Even if you think you know it all already, you really don’t… yet.



Be grateful — See any opportunity as a step up the ladder. Make the most of it and use the experience to work your way up.



Work hard — It pays off and gets you recognised more quickly. Working in a collaborative way as part of a team can be one of the most rewarding ways to achieve this. You also get the bonus of learning hands-on from others with more experience than yourself and to share your own ideas with them.

A well-crafted execution WITH a strong idea every time — Never overlook the importance of an underlying idea in your work. Craft skills and technique can be learnt along the way. It’s the power of a strong idea which will make your work stand out not how slickly it’s executed. Always.

And finally, be interested in people — Working in the creative industry is seldom an isolated experience. You may often be working as part of a team, giving feedback, meeting clients, giving presentations, talks and even networking. All these demand differing levels of communication, interpersonal and social skills. As you mature in this industry you notice that you need to sharpen these as much as your design skills to function at a higher level.

Thank you very much, Graham!

– Interview by Jean-Baptiste Pernette

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May 13, 2024
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