Behind the Studio – Ash Watkins
Behind the Studio, where we look closer to home and find out more about the people behind Nomad, this time with Ash Watkins, Creative Director at Nomad.
Do you have a favourite piece of design
Something that’s always stayed with me was an advert for Braun’s Style Sensor from around the sixties. It’s an incredible piece of art direction. No slogans. No CTAs. Just the beautiful tension between the slick minimalism of [Dieter] Rams’ product and the vulnerability of the chick, telling you everything you need to know about the features of the product. “Good design is as little design as possible”, as someone once said.
Obviously, Braun’s design history is well documented and applauded, but this piece seems to have got lost in the annals of time. From what I can see there’s only one image of it on the internet! But anyway, I love it as an advert and even a piece of photography in its own right. I even insisted on having it printed and framed in our lounge – my fiancé thinks I’m strange.
Who is your design hero?
Romek Marber. The Polish-born designer was responsible for some iconic British design throughout his career. His redesign and subsequent covers of the Penguin Crime series were some of the first pieces of design I became obsessed by.
The combination of structure and expression, order and chaos inspired a lot of my studies at university. It really got me thinking about the hands-on side of design, and not just about the precision offered by the Mac.
Outside of design, he lived quite an extraordinary life. During his childhood, he was persecuted for being a Polish Jew and thrown into the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. Most of his family (including his twin sister) were murdered during the regime. As he was moved from one camp to another, he endured freezing conditions and the likelihood of starvation.
He somehow managed to survive the war and made his way to Britain, where he studied design and forged his career. He was an incredible designer and a testament to the human spirit. I had the honour of interviewing him for my dissertation before he passed away.
What was the latest thing that blew your mind?
I recently visited the Moco in Barcelona and discovered the works of Guillermo Lorca, a Chilean artist who creates enormous dream-like oil paintings. There’s something very familiar, but utterly strange about the work. It’s both beautiful and creepy, welcoming and sinister, classic and contemporary. After an obligatory Google search into his work, I found one of Lorca’s biggest influences was French artist Gustave Doré – whose illustrations I’ve always loved for their depiction of Edgar Allen Poe’s work. There’s a harrowing, gothic beauty that runs through them, which you can really see come through Lorca’s art.
I love these little wormholes that the internet throws up. Seeing the inspiration behind one person’s work is inspiring in its own right.
What’s your karaoke song and why?
Around the World by Daft Punk. I’ve sung it so many times I can perform it without the on-screen lyrics.
What does being creative mean to you?
For me, being creative is about being almost unconscious from rational thinking and letting your mind swim away for a while.