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Creative Spotlight: Q&A with artist and typography specialist Craig Black

In this blog series we're putting the spotlight on some of our favourite creatives. This time we speak with artist and typography specialist Craig Black.

Having spent the early part of his career in leading design agencies in London, Craig Black currently runs his own art and design studio in Greenock, Scotland.

Best known for his bespoke and innovative typographic artworks, as well as large murals and installations. Craig has recently worked on high-profile projects for UEFA Euro 2020 and Rangers Football Club. His client list includes BBC, Sony, Monotype and The Washington Post

We caught up with Craig to discuss his recent work, how he got into specialising in typography, and his advice for aspiring creatives.

Firstly, what sort of impact has the on-going pandemic had on your approach to projects and work?

During the pandemic, my wife Ally and I welcomed our little girl Olivia into the world. This instantly changed my whole perspective in relation to my career. With both the pandemic and Olivia coming on the scene, it made me incredibly focused on what I really want to do with my career and that is to pursue my art practice. So I used my downtime wisely to invest in this area of work. And as a result, I’ve created some incredible opportunities for myself.

We recently featured your Fusion Series Football art installation on our Fresh Picks blog, we love the work you did on it. What was the inspiration behind that?

The main inspiration was Scotland qualifying for the first time in over 20 years for a major football tournament. It felt like a weight had been lifted for most Scottish fans and it was a time to celebrate us arriving. As a result of this, I wanted to capture this excitement through an installation. After one experiment with my acrylic fusion technique and a football, I was hooked on creating a series which would celebrate the whole tournament.

That project resulted directly in a collaboration with UEFA to produce a promo video for one of the matches at Euro 2020 this summer, that must have been a special feeling?

Absolutely! I put six months of time, money and effort into bringing this project to life. It was a huge investment, but deep down I knew I was onto something special. When I released the project, the response was insane and the positive feedback is still continuing now which is incredible. So when UEFA reached out after seeing the project, it was truly special. Within days of receiving the email, I was whisked away to London to do live painting of the footballs. The whole UEFA crew were amazing to work with. It was an amazing experience that I will forever cherish.

What first inspired you to get into art and design?

It really stemmed from my love of football. Every single day as a young boy, I was out playing football, I absolutely lived and breathed football. In the evenings, I would sit in my bedroom and draw football crests, typography on the back of shirts and even customised my own football boots that I wore to the park. It was nothing more than sheer love and passion.  And then later in life I found out I could actually do this for a living, and I did everything in my power to make that happen.

You’re known for your work within typography and bespoke lettering. Have you always had an interest in producing that type of artwork?

I’ve always been fascinated with how typography and lettering can enhance a brand or experience, make you think differently and engage people. There’s so much depth to typography and lettering that it influences everything around us (without us even noticing!). It goes back to my early love of football and seeing the typography on the back of football shirts and football crests.

Having worked on a wide range of large-scale murals and installations, how did you get into that specialism?

Pestering people to give me an opportunity! In the early days, I convinced a barbershop to allow me to paint a window mural in return for free haircuts. That project in fact was the catalyst for more opportunities, and with each opportunity I was continuing to push my skill set and hone in on my craft to become a specialist in those fields.

You recently worked alongside See Saw Creative to create a custom typeface as part of a rebrand for Rangers FC. How did that collaboration come about?

Destiny! Ha I’ve grown up a Rangers fan, all my family and friends are huge fans. The club is ingrained in me so when this opportunity occurred it was genuinely one of my dream projects. As a kid, I dreamed of running out on the turf at Ibrox, but unfortunately I wasn’t good enough. However I truly believe everything happens for a reason. All those football related drawings when I was younger have finally paid off!

Seesaw Creative are a wonderful bunch of people and they were appointed to rebrand the club. The team there had been connected with me on LinkedIn and were impressed with the work I was producing but also thought I was a good guy to work with and reached out to me about the project.

Soon as I found out who the client was…I was sold!

With such a vast portfolio, is there a particular project that really stands out for you and is your proudest piece?

The typeface for Rangers stands out due to the connection to the club, the global brand and responsibility on me to get it right. Football fans can be incredibly ruthless as we’ve seen with many football rebrands over the years so when my work was met with so much positivity, it made it extra special.

Also the Fusion Series – Footballs because there were moments as a self-initiated project that I wondered “ Is this really that good? Is it worth the time, money and effort?” But I am really proud of myself for believing in myself and bringing the project to life as it has been a catalyst for my art practice and has certainly created many exciting opportunities.

With the current situation in the UK, what advice would you give for aspiring creatives, and those who are graduating this year?

Build relationships, connect with people, brands and agencies. Be at the forefront of their minds so when opportunities occur, they think of you. Work hard is a given and use your down time wisely to invest into self-initiated work that will enhance your portfolio.

All creatives have different approaches to receiving a brief, what is your usual design process for a project?

All briefs are different so the approach will be curated to that brief especially as I work in various different areas. I build the relationship with the client to understand and receive as much information as possible then use that as the building blocks for the project.

What are you currently working on, any projects in the pipeline?

This year has seen an evolution of my career with my art practice being the forefront of the studio. There’s a lot of exciting art projects I am currently undertaking but unfortunately I can’t spill the beans on those yet. Last month I enjoyed collaborating with The Midnight Club in a live performance acrylic fusion paint pouring event at The Protein Studios in London.

This series is all about putting the spotlight on creatives, are there any creatives who you have recently come across that you would recommend?

Dan ForsterBrand Brothers and Tina Touli always push the boundaries with their work which is incredibly inspiring.

Thanks, Craig!

It’s been great to get a perspective of some of Craig’s recent work with UEFA Euro 2020 and Rangers Football Club and how his career has developed over the years.

You can check out more of Craig’s work here, or over on Instagram.

We’ll be back soon with our next creative spotlight, so keep an eye out for that one.

In the meantime, we share some of the cool and creative stuff we spot over on our socials. Follow us on Twitter here.