Over the last eight years graphic designer Richard Lock, aka Devolution Designs, has been busy designing eye catching creations for a range of artists and labels. He’s also ventured into other forms of media which has seen his business grow significantly. We asked Rich a few questions to get an insight into all things Devolution.
Tell us about your background as an artist. We can see you set up the company in 2006… what were your interests at the time?
I studied illustration and design at uni. Although I tended to be far more into my decks than I was actually working, I was convinced I was going to be the next Marky or Andy C for a year or two. I left uni and ended up landing a job at a heavy metal music distributor where I learned a lot working as an assistant designer.
I had an aim to be self-employed and work as a freelance designer so I set up Devolution Designs. I really wanted to work with music too, my main interest was drum & bass at that time so I worked in the evenings after my day job doing flyers and the odd logo, getting work through MySpace.
I was lucky enough to land a job at Nu Urban Music. I was basically chucked in at the deep end and told to run the art department. Somehow I managed to survive and created a reputation for myself, making contacts with the right people and gradually getting to work for them.
It was great working there, sitting at a computer and seeing Randall, Ray Keith or LTJ Bukem wander past. I distinctly remember going for a meeting with Krust in London going through his sketch book of ideas for his album thinking ‘Well, this is weird’. Around 2010 Nu Urban was sadly struggling due to vinyl sales decreasing so I left to go self-employed full time.
You have an extensive portfolio… what has been your favourite piece of work so far?
I always say that the best work is the work where I am given free rein to experiment. Where the client trusts me to do my own thing. If the client has too much control over the brief it’s stifling and the results are never as good. Trust your designer!
Most electronic music is essentially abstract and has no lyrics so the artwork needs to capture the sound or feel of the music without being obvious. I experiment with images until they sort of coincide with the resonance of the music and feel right. The best briefs just involve a zip file with MP3s in, that’s it.
My work for Hardware and Horizons recently has been pretty exciting. In terms of what I am most proud of, I guess my first sleeves for Metalheadz, Ram, Shogun and Hardware were all landmarks for me having been a fan since I was 16 or so. Seeing my credit on a Headz release was a moment, it felt like seal of approval.
Any tips for aspiring artists/designers on how to get your work noticed?
Get some formal design education as this will give you the platform to develop your style and give you a foundation. Just reading and copying Photoshop tutorials isn’t going to cut it. You can spot that work a mile off. Look at other successful designers and work out what their process is.
Apart from that, just enjoy it, immerse yourself, work hard and get your work out to as many places as possible. It’s probably like anything really, put the effort in, feed the passion and you’ll make it.
Also set up a Behance account, get a Facebook page, link with as many other designers as you can and send your work to everyone. Whatever happens, do not give up! Not giving up is what will ensure your success, it might take year or three but when you’re ready you’ll get noticed. Take every opportunity as you never know who knows who and where it will lead. Oh and never, ever use Bleeding Cowboys font!
Would you say as a company you feel pressure to keep expanding your list of services or do you feel you have reached a comfortable point where you can concentrate on doing the parts you enjoy the most?
Over the years vinyl sales have decreased so to make a decent living and pay a mortgage you have to offer other services. I wish I could sit here doing record sleeves all day! Keeping an eye on the market and where things are going is important. You can’t fight it, the industry as a whole has changed. Even in my career and we have seen very big companies disappear. You have to be able to keep progressing and evolving.
I don’t see myself as a freelance designer as much as a director of a design company. I try to steer and grow Devolution as best I can. Motion graphics, web design and social media are incredibly important aspects now. I try to now offer an entire catalogue of services to create and market music products from branding to video advertising. I do outsource a lot of work, not my artwork but the web stuff, video and that kind if thing. I have been lucky enough to work with very talented people.
I currently offer a fully manageable website solution where clients can run a label and sell products through one hub. As well as Devolution I also run a design company called Type One Creative that is catered for more corporate type clients, although I tend to outsource that work. The more plates you have spinning then the more income streams you have in case one dries up.
Your album cover design for Sridhar & Arun Shenoy which featured in Times Square recently was obviously a huge look! Are there any ideas you have for potential large scale projects that you would like to push for the future?
That was totally unexpected and slightly scary. I have had a few older clients come back recently which is nice. I am about to start work on Maztek’s new album which at the moment is just a blank canvas staring at me. I’d like to crack ‘the mainstream’ a bit maybe, or maybe labels like Ninja Tune, XL or someone like that. See what I can do in that arena. I guess as designer you want as many people to see your work as possible and you are constantly after validation, it’s a very insecure profession.
Are there any dreams you have for working with specific artists or anywhere you’d love to see your work featured?
I’m pretty open minded. As well as loving electronic music I’m huge rock, metal and indie fan and have really rekindled my love for that music over the last few years, so doing something for one of the bands I love would be massive. Maybe Mastodon, Interpol, Queens of the Stone Age, Deafheaven or even UNKLE, Massive Attack or Prodigy! Someone who really knows about good artwork and pays it proper attention, seeing it as part of the product, not just an afterthought or marketing tool.
I plan to market myself to a few major labels next year, it’ll be like starting all over again. I’ve been going to festivals most years since I was 15 so if I could go to a big festival and see a mid-afternoon main stage band with my artwork as their backdrop I’d retire happy!
Anything exciting in the pipeline you’d like to share with us?
A few good briefs sat here. The new Maztek album should be fun, I also have a new brief for a new album coming on Shogun from one of their guys. I’m not sure I can say what though at this stage and I have a brief for Headz in the inbox. I just completed Technimatic’s album which looks great as a gatefold double vinyl, even if I do say so.
We’re about to complete the new Serial Killaz website which will be up soon. That’s exciting as it’s a new venture into fully content manageable E-commerce websites that allows labels to take full control of their output, online marketing and sales very easily.
I have also done some clothing designs for Run Tingz. There’s always something going on and I try to keep moving forward. I’m also working on my own artwork, which has been going for about four years now.
As well as all that I am also on the look out for any talented designers and artists coming up, so if you have work you want to send me please do!