From PIIGS to 80s Tech: Inspiration Insights From a Designer

David Pope imageIt’s one thing to hand out business cards before a talk to a lecture theater full of strangers.

But it’s a brave man who hands out his iPhone too because it has Layar, an augmented reality app, that can read the back of the card.

Luckily for designer, David Pope, he was dealing with an honest crowd at this month’s Refresh Dublin (@RefreshDublin), a monthly event for designers, techies and usability enthusiasts.

A self-confessed “type obsessive,” Pope’s talk was on his A to Z of Design Influences. Held, as always, in the Science Gallery (@ScienceGallery), the talk was of “projects that I’ve been involved in and stuff that inspires me.”

Founder of the Design Pusher agency, Pope splits his time between Dublin and Berlin.

His influences are wide ranging. They include signs on Berlin trams, politics, economics and vintage computer games.

Fortunately for such a visual subject, Pope put the influences up on the Design Pusher website.

It has become a cliché among designers to talk about how awful Comic Sans is, Pope said. Yet, he did.

Pointing to the Higgs Boson, or “God Particle,” announcement, he said, ”It just seems bizarre to me how the most brilliant people in the world can produce something in comic sans.”

Turning to one of his own projects, Pope told of how he had once been exploring robot designs. That work was put on ice, but a customer later came asking for branding for a night club called Discobot. Pope produced his earlier designs and asked if any of them were appropriate.

That is part of what appeals to him about design work, he said. “You can do stuff for the fun of it and a brief might come along where you can use it.”david_pope_discobot

Ghost estates: Reaching back to the first computer games, Pope drew on the “eight-bit aesthetic” to depict Ireland’s property crash (shown). At first glance, the image says “game over.” But zooming in shows each of the pixels is a house. “That whole property infatuation we had was a game and it had to come to an end,” Pope said.

IAC: Turning to a project he did for International Aviation Consultants, Pope said it was relatively low budget. But he enjoyed it. “When you’re happy and they’re [customers] happy in equal measure that’s what makes a great project,” he said.

Dublin is a low-slung city, but there are a couple of taller buildings here. One of the tallest in town is the 16-storey Liberty Hall, which was built in the early 1960s and was once Ireland’s tallest building.

In 2009, Pope was involved in a project was called Playhouse that involved co-ordinating LCD displays in each of the windows in the building. “It was almost like a pixel palette but on a massive scale,” Pope said. He chose a number of themes, and one display was — what else? — a type face.

Next in his sights was the PIIGS designation bestowed on the debt-burdened countries of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. Pope didn’t like the name, but worked with it to produce an image involving pigs and text from the Financial Times. “I didn’t like the acronym,” he said. “But if u take ownership of the word it doesn’t become offensive any more.”

Images of Pope’s work are screenshots from his Design Pusher website.