Alex Szabo-Haslam explains us how his latest design project turns 24 inspirational quotes from the history’s most revered thinkers into elegant pieces of art.

With a series of beautiful, simple, note cards and silkscreen printed posters of quotes from scientists, philosophers and great thinkers, the last project of Alex Szabo-Haslam aims to inspire us. Using the crowd-funding website KickStarter to raise funds, the posters will be printed onto high quality paper using a hand-pulled silkscreen process and the note cards will be printed in a variety of colours and packaged inside a sleek presentation gift box. In this interview Alex talks us about his project, “Great Minds”, and how to make our ideas work.

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sugoru: Why don’t you introduce yourself?

AS: I’m Alex, a designer working in my home city of Sheffield. My working week is split in two at the moment: I’m designer at TruthStudio and also support students studying creative courses at The Sheffield College. When I left school I had no idea what to do: I told my careers advisor I wanted to draw for a living, and the look she gave was one of mild amusement – with a hint of pity. I ended up studying Graphic Design at Norton College, working various jobs I hated, before eventually becoming a picture framer.

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sugoru: What inspired you to work on these posters and cards? Why did you feel it was important to document these quotes?

AS: Over the years I’ve collected hundreds – perhaps thousands – of quotes in notebooks. Eventually, when space runs out, each book is filed in a drawer somewhere. I was clearing some of these out last year and thought it would be nice to do something with them. Often, the quotes I collect are a snapshot of how I’m feeling at a particular stage in my life; sometimes I write things down because I’m reading something interesting, or because I want to explore the idea later. With this particular set of 24 posters I chose the quotes I felt were positive or inspirational in some way, or relevant to my life.

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sugoru: Why did you start this project? 

AS: Beyond the base of financial considerations – print production, postage and so on – I don’t have a goal as such. The best explanation I can offer is that I take on a project simply for the pleasure of creating and the challenge of seeing it through. When I was younger I would abandon projects because they were too difficult, not financially viable, or I just couldn’t see who would be interested. So now when I have an idea I just think, well, why not? Where once my attitude was ‘this is too hard’, these days it’s ‘how do I make this work?’ All things considered I’m just happy to be keeping afloat!

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sugoru: Why did you choose such a minimalistic design?

AS: Initially I set out to create all the type by hand, but I felt my first drafts were too stylised. With each revision the posters became simpler and bolder; I wanted the quotes to stand on their own, but always imagined these looming figures staring down from the wall. My personal work tends to lurch from one style to another: if I’m doing a lot of labour-intensive photo-editing in the studio, I tend to produce handmade things in my spare time; if I’ve been working on brochures with pages upon page of text and images, you can bet my personal work will be much more minimal. I’m not wedded to a consistent visual style as such, I just do whatever makes sense at the time – whether that’s down to the task at hand, or how I feel (or both).

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sugoru: Who is your project meant to?

AS: As cliched as it sounds, first and foremost the projects I run separate from the studio are meant for me; I spend a lot of time making work for client’s needs, which I enjoy, but it’s nice to do something to satisfy my own interests from time to time. With some projects I’ve been lucky: for one reason or another they resonate with other people – and those people will sometimes buy my work. There are so many artists and designers out there making great work that I think the only way to get anywhere is by doing work you care about. Some people will like what I do, and it’s a good feeling when people tell me; a lot of people are indifferent – or perhaps dislike my work, but that’s OK too. I gave up trying to make everyone happy a long time ago.

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sugoru: You have previous experience with crowd-funding. Could you briefly explain what those projects were about?

AS: The last two projects, both called Waveform, involved visualising sound data generated by techno and electronic music. The project came from my background as a club promoter really, and I drew upon sound wave art and graphs from the 1920s. I’d already spent a lot of time researching Kickstarter by this point. For me, it’s the best option available to realise projects such as this. I don’t have a large following on social media – in fact, I don’t really like using social media at all –so I don’t have a platform to launch my work. Kickstarter provides artists a way of testing ideas without spending lots of money first and, having now run three projects, I can’t imagine producing work in any other way.

sugoru: Finally, what are you learning through this experience?

AS: That I spent far too many years thinking about things than actually doing them!


You can find more images and information about “Great Minds” on Kickstarter.

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