The Falmouth University graphic design graduate striking the perfect balance between playfulness and criticality
For Charlie Bird, finding his voice as a designer was a matter of serendipity and passion. Inadvertently developing an obsession with old book covers in college kickstarted his initial interest in typography and design. It was only later on — while learning about lighting and studio shoots at Falmouth University — that Charlie began to explore the potential of articulating ideas through photography. By combining these ways of working, he developed a fluid and flexible practice that constantly blurs the line between graphic design and art direction.
That path was by no means a straight one, and it was this meandering approach, guided by an instinctive pursuit of his emerging interests, that allowed Charlie to develop the multidisciplinary process that makes his work as intriguing and diverse as it is. “Underpinning my work with a concept … helps me to communicate something more layered and direct,” he explains. While these grounding concepts vary across projects, what connects them is a shared exploration of human behaviours and the societies that produce them. Fascinated by the way people engage with each other and the world around them, Charlie often creates designed experiences — objects, films, books — to question and test his observations on a topic.
His final year project, ‘Play’, stemmed from an interest in the benefits of acts of play and noticing “a distinct lack of opportunities [for them] in adult life.” Searching for places to disrupt our play-less routines, Charlie “identified drinking from a vessel as a universal moment in which we break up our days.” This provided the perfect space to create “an opportunity in time to explore and express”, and to reimagine it as a moment of play. Developing a set of bottles that would encourage play through their use, Charlie also produced a series of shoots to explore further “the ways in which people could potentially interact not only with these objects but also with each other.”
The merging of varied practices exhibited in ‘Play’ exemplifies the approach found throughout Charlie’s body of work. Taking its lead from the subject at hand, he allows the medium to develop naturally, allowing the work to evolve through multiple forms if that’s what is required. “I try to keep my practice as free from boundaries as possible as I like to create what feels right and what feels true to … each of the projects,” he explains. It’s a flexible and organic approach that yields truly stunning, intriguing and unexpected results.
Taking his interest in human interaction to the digital realm, Charlie is currently working on a project “that will seek to break people out of their information and opinion echo chambers.” We’ll be waiting eagerly to see how this one turns out and to see what else is in store for the years ahead.