• Callie Budrick

Eddie Opara: From London to New York

Here we take a look at the world of Eddie Opara, one of the judges for the 2017 PRINT Regional Design Awards. Every year thousands of art directors, studios and creative professionals not only enter the RDA, but also look to it to find the country’s top talent. Will you be next?

Eddie Opara was born in Wandsworth, London in 1972.

He grew up during a time when England was suffering economically. “There were huge deficits and strikes,” he told PRINT in 2011 while explaining how Margaret Thatcher “the Milk Snatcher” contributed to his desire to become a designer.

“One of Thatcher’s cost cutting measures was to take away school-children’s milk. It really had a huge impact on me. I loved milk, and she took it away. And I remember thinking from then on that I wanted to be part of a movement that gave back, that collaborated for the common good. It’s a strange impetus, I know, but childhood impressions are very powerful and that one really stuck with me and helped shape my attitude toward my work and my life in general.”

[Click the images for details on each project]

It wasn’t just Thatcher who influenced him. Opara’s Nigerian-born mother also had major influence on his life. During an interview with Kristin Ellison for Lynda.com, Opara told the story of his mother’s head wrap.

“…She placed it on her head like a crown. Like a queen. … And it was the noise, it’s very, very, sort of crisp material. It’s very, very sharp and it’s always colorful. And as she folds it, it starts to makes these sort of impressions and patterns, repetitions. And then when you place it on your head, it’s not just that it’s a crown. It’s this sculptural piece, this artistic representation of being a strong African woman and that is a very important statement of communication.

“And to me, utilizing that in parts of the work I was doing, way back when, it was sort of very important to use that and recognize it.”

Nearly seven years ago, Eddie Opara merged Map Office, the studio he founded in 2005, with the likes of Paula Scher, Michael Bierut and Abbott Miller. He was 38 and the youngest partner to join Pentagram in New York. Today, Opara continues his work with Pentagram and is also a senior critic at Yale University’s School of Art, a member of the Alliance Graphique International, author of Color Works and judge of PRINT’s 2017 Regional Design Awards.

“Don’t be scared. To say what you think, to restructure something, to take the lead. Just don’t be afraid. And make sure you do your own work. A creative director can’t just say ‘show me what you’ve done.’ You’ve got to be able to get in there and do the work yourself.”

“I believe that my team is pretty nuts. They normally call [themselves] the crazy gang. And for many, many different reasons. I feel as though the energy and the vibe in the office is what gives them the boost that they need to do, and it’s loud.”

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