Since graduating nearly 40 years ago, Paul Brotherton has enjoyed a successful career in Graphic Design. Having spent much of his career as a freelancer and in leading design agencies, Paul is now a self-employed practicing and exhibiting Visual Artist and a freelance post-16 lecturer.
Why did you choose the University of Wolverhampton?
After visiting Wolverhampton Polytechnic the College of Art & Design quickly became my first choice. The video and photography department was undoubtedly the best outside London and the emphasis was on practical skills as well as academic studies. This was essential if I was going to enter the emerging field of Graphic Design which, at the time, did not benefit from digital technology.
What are your memories of studying at Wolverhampton?
The course and the College delivered on its’ promises. The facilities used the very latest technology and the vast video studio was unique. The teaching was exceptional, particularly the Head of the department, Tony Messenger, and two other members of staff; Head of Photography, David Knight; and Photography Lecturer John Mason. They not only showed brilliant vision, they guided and mentored me, teaching me many important technical design and photography skills, whilst encouraging total creative expression.
What practical skills did you gain through the course?
In my final year, I worked on a film project placement to “crew” as a technician for Swanlind, a local film production company, working on an industrial promotional film for their manufacturer client, Henley Fork Lift Trucks. For this project I saw my animated graphic design and artwork successfully used in the final title sequence of this film, which was then distributed throughout the UK and internationally to promote the clients’ business.
Where did your career take you after you graduated?
I currently work as a self-employed, practicing, exhibiting Visual Artist and I also do freelance post-16 lecturing. Prior to that I enjoyed positions with leading design agencies and with two market leading commercial organisations; British Airways and the Rentokil-Initial Group.
How do you think the course prepared you for your career?
The course was heavily focussed on developing your skills to a level that was deemed the industry-standard. When I graduated I knew I was thoroughly grounded with the essential skills needed for a career in Graphic Design, some of which I still use every day, thirty-six years later. I was empowered not only with a broad range of traditional art & design skills and theory, but also with the ability to think creatively and work within a brief as a team-player.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Since 2001, I have had solo and group exhibitions of my work which have included shows at the Royal College of Art, Victoria Mill Arts Centre, Castle Park Arts Centre, Sunderland Museum, the Turnpike Gallery and The Chelsea Gallery on the Kings Road, London. A typical day would include some work on a canvass, perhaps travelling to give a talk, and perhaps a proposal to a gallery for a show. At the moment I am making preparations for a workshop that I will be teaching at Manchester Art Gallery. During 2012, I am represented by Agora Gallery (NY USA).
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your job?
With commercial graphic design, the greatest challenge is striking the right balance between creative expression and client satisfaction. You need to ensure that the design becomes a successfully integrated part of the marketing mix - sometimes your best work is not the most marketable. As an exhibiting painter, for me, there is no finer a moment than applying the final touches, for example, when we are in the process are hanging a gallery exhibition after maybe twelve months of dedicated painting.
What advice would you give to future students?
Seize the opportunity to study and make the most of every minute you have. After an amazing reunion thirty-four years later in 2009, some of my old classmates and I looked back with very fond memories and we are still discovering just what an important influence Wolverhampton was in shaping our careers. Never, ever give up in your determination to succeed in your chosen field and ultimately to fulfil your dreams.