An Interview With Nick Barclays: A Modern Bauhaus Maestro
Originally from the UK, Nick Barclays is a designer who has spent the last 11 years becoming acquainted with the land down under in Sydney, Australia. If you look at his work, you will see a significant influence of Bauhaus-inspired design throughout all of his projects. Almost all have utterly different color schemes, so nothing ever seems repetitive yet always feels cohesive.
Nick's designs are refreshingly simple and bring a modern twist to the grid design system. And while he might consistently have an architectural twist to his creations, they're all different. From his oversized alcoholic recipe posters that are minimalistic, simple, and everything you'd ever need in a drink recipe to his brand identity work Banan, everything is so beautifully executed.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and go to school?
I'm from the UK, but I've lived in Sydney for 11 years. There has always been a little confusion about where I'm from as I get called an Australian designer a lot, and I've never really bothered to correct it. I studied graphic design at Norwich School of Art and Design many, many years ago.
What drew you to design? How did you first get started out?
It was actually a copy of Wallpaper that I picked up when I was young. I fell in love with the look of it then, as most people do. I found the Bauhaus, but I wanted to get into advertising after university and got onto the D&AD awards school. But I got offered a job in publishing and needed money more than six months of bouncing around AD agencies, so I took that and ended up hiding out in publishing for about ten years. After working in London and freelancing in Sydney on various magazines, I got bored and decided to empty my head of all the silly ideas, and the posters started from there as a way of self-promotion while being a little creative. People seemed to like them, and it just kind of went from there.
What is your creative process?
I generally get a lot of really stupid ideas, so it starts by filtering them. And then I normally think about them for a week or two, and once I have it figured out in my head, I sit down to do it. I've never been big on sketching things out. I find that I design a lot of posters because I use them as a way of exploring typography, color, and other bits and bobs I might use in branding or editorial projects. Generally, if I can get them to work in a poster, they will work on projects I am working on. Then it's the normal creative process of optimism, panic, and how the fuck did I do that at the end.
I love that you’ve been working on the Three Colour Cities project since 2014. What inspired you to start this project, and what inspires you to continue adding to it?
Back in 2014, when I'd left publishing, I was so bored of type I just wanted to play with shapes and colors. Not having a live brief to go off, I would set myself difficult tasks that involved subjects that people were interested in, such as brands, movies, cocktails, and travel, that would give me a range to design a set of posters. I remember thinking out of the blue, "could you represent something with three colors," and it turned out I couldn't. So I introduced the shapes as an extra layer of interest that might spark something in people's heads. I get inspired to add to them now and then but not being able to travel for a year has killed the motivation and inspiration on them for the time being.
When working for a brand such as Mister Wolf, how do you go about balancing their brand identity while still staying true to yours?
With Mister Wolf, the look and range of the watches dictated the style. They are classic but have a cool modern edge to them, so I used that in the design, pairing a clean, structured classic feel with an urban palette, and I put a blast of bright orange in there, which I suppose was my putting a touch of me in it.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from everywhere really. It can be surfing, walking the dog, art, photography, conversations. To use a lowbrow story, I was inspired to do the minimal emojis posters by seeing a chalk dick drawn on the street, and the cocktails were inspired by my friends in London having no idea what a Negroni was when I came back one year.