It’s Grim Up North: Gary Bovill

In the second edition of analysing whether the North is in-fact Grim or not—we step up to Gary Bovill, possibly the only designer I know who could name all premiership football clubs. 

It’s not quite the amazing accomplishment I’m making it, but I don’t often stumble upon a designer who screams at both balls and iMacs; I mean what people do in their spare time is their own business isn’t it. You nosey buggers.

I’m yet to fully figure out how to pronounce Bovill, but like everyone other person in the this series so far (please note, there has been only one other so far) we’ve met once so that’s perfect criteria for my mild interrogation, as I strive to find whether it is actually grim anywhere geographically above Birmingham. As a side note, as far as I can tell in these early stages, it’s a little grim but not too bad.

My first encounter with Gary is both a sweaty and confusing one—as I sat at home, sipping some coffee working my way through an editorial design and I receive a semi-panicked message from my tutor “There are two senior designers here to see you”. Here being the campus I was currently 3 miles away from, dropping my coffee and suddenly now running towards, with great haste and bewilderment. As I reach the campus, I burst through the door to find two tall, beard owning men looking confused at my confusion. The two stood before me had travelled from the North more north to give a lecture and workshop to various students, for the second time—they’d want me to add.

One of these men being Gary. As his face pans up, he asks me “You do posters for the yard, right?” How many blessing I have received from just being involved in that half-broken lovely place. It transpires that they were regulars, still conversing with likes of Mark Howlette (& others), Mark being the previous event manager now fancy furniture selling aficionado. Big up The Brickyard massive.

Now off with the waffle and on with the questions!

Gary Bovill

Look as this trendy man, doing trendy things in trendy Berlin. Trendy.

Who are you, where do you come from and where do you live?
I am Gary Bovill. Originally from Darlington in the North East, I lived in Carlisle for 3 years whilst at University, then London for 4.5 years at the start of my career and now I live in a lovely little town called Marple, where legend has it, Agatha Christie came up with the name for her fictional spinster come detective, Miss Marple.

Who or what are your biggest influences?
My influences change on a daily basis depending on where I am or what I am doing. I think as creatives, we have the ability to take inspiration from things which others may find strange; The angle of a building, a pattern in the pavement or the contrast of colours on a fruit and veg stall. You can find inspiration in everything. I also think the internet has drastically changed the way in which we consume information and I am a huge Pinterest fan, but I still love getting the books down from the shelf and flicking through them, I’m a sucker for a new book from Unit Editions or Counter Print.

In terms of actual people, the list is endless. However, a few people I always fall back on are (in no particular order); Stefan Sagmeister, Jessica Walsh, Neasden Control Centre, Paula Scher & Pentagram, HEY Studio.

I also take inspiration from other designers around me, friends from university—it’s great to see what path everyone is taking. Big shout out to SNASK and Jane Bowyer—also my best man James McCarthy. This aint no radio show mate.

What items that you work with could not work without?
I mean the obvious thing is an iMac, but more importantly a second screen. It’s amazing how much of my time is saved by having my emails and internet browser on a second screen whilst working on the other. Apart from that, my hard drive, some paper and a pen.

Being that London is the centre of British design, why here? (Manchester)
We wanted a slower pace of life and to buy our first house, it’s that simple. The simpler life was achieved instantly and we bought our house after 2 years of living here.

The design scene is great here too, there is a big sense of community and everyone is really supportive. People want to help, encourage and inspire each other rather than compete against each other which is very refreshing. North 1 – South 0

What is the worst part of being away from London?

  • Our friends. A lot of our close friends still live in London and it’s hard to find the time to visit as we’re putting roots down and building a life for ourselves up here.
  • The weather. It’s different, no matter what anyone tells you. Directly related to my next point…
  • The number of beer gardens/outside drinking places. When the sun is out in Manchester, understandably everyone gets very excited yet there is a distinct lack of beer gardens in the city centre.
  • A good Turkish kebab/takeaway. I worked in Dalston for over 2 years and the options were endless, I’m yet to find somewhere that comes anywhere close to how good they were.

Do you feel The North lacks culture and/or support for design?
I think the culture here is fantastic. You can always find various exhibitions, talks, festivals etc to attend. Pair that with the welcoming design scene that I mentioned earlier and you have a very strong and healthy network of driven, creative, talented people.

What (design) work would you never do?
Free work. There is this sort of strange expectation where people think they are doing me a favour by ‘giving me the chance to work on this project that may lead on to some paid creative work.’ Nah you’re ok thanks. It happens a lot less now as I think people are becoming more aware of the value that design has to their business but it is still a problem. You wouldn’t ask a plumber to fit you a new bathroom in the hope that one of your friends might get them to do theirs, would you? Depends if your ignorant arse or not I guess, my friend.

Where does the north begin (or end)?
I think the North starts at the bottom of the Peak District. Maybe Stoke-on-Trent, although that is a bit close to Derby/Nottingham which is definitely Midlands, so somewhere above there. My dad thinks anywhere below the River Tyne is south.

How do you have your tea? (Brand, sugar, strength, milk?)
I’m a straight up coffee snob, black, no sugar, none of these fancy flavoured things or instant granules. After lunch it’s lemon and ginger tea or I will occasionally have a standard builders tea, with milk and one sugar.

What is the name for this?

It’s a bread bun. I can understand that to some people it’s a roll, but a muffin or a teacake? What? Glad you didn’t say barm-cake laddo.

End transmission, conversation with Senōr Bovill has concluded.

Well folks, that’s all I’ve got for you I’m afraid; but just to tease you a little more, I had previously wrote about some future plans of Gary’s but he’s a promiscuous bugger, and ask for it to say this. “We’ve chatted through various exciting projects that Gary is currently working on, so keep an eye out or something like that…” It’s all a sneaky secret here. Shhhhh! *makes cyber hand gestures that are completely unintelligible*

Despite only meeting once, I’ve grown quite fond of Mr. Bovill—it’s likely something to do with our shared taste of the ever-illusive MF DOOM and black coffee. I reckon he’s a pretty good lad, even if he does think the North starts at Stoke (pffffttt) and has a much better grasp of fantasy football than I.

If you have liked what you’ve seen, please see my previous bout in interrogating people where I quizzed the ever lovely Lydia Leith.