Dean Stockton Creative: Producing the Best Work Possible

Introduction by John Mair Television Producer & Book Editor

I am probably Dean’s longest-surviving client. He is a design genius. I first met him, fresh from art school and the Radio Times, on Sixty Minutes in 1983 on the BBC. He stood out from the graphics crowd even then. We have worked together since on television programs, many books, visiting lectures, and more. His (understated) genius lies in understanding a design brief very quickly and turning it into a brilliant series of images. He researches the subject, applies his brain and his work discipline to it, and out of that something, magic emerges. Rarely do I have to cavil or fiddle with his creations. Among the many, two pieces stand out. Together, we put on a tribute dinner to Lionel Barber, then editor of the Financial Times. Dean, together with a young undergraduate at the University of Westminster, produced a stunning series of animations for that. His work has graced the covers of at least twenty of my books, especially those for Bite-Sized. Hard as it is to pick one out, the cover for Boris Johnson: Media Creation, Media Clown, and Media Casualty shines. Boris as a broken blond puppet on the steps of Number Ten surrounded by the detritus of his regime—broken bottles and broken promises—was sheer class. The price of the book was worth it for that alone. The graphic design world should salute ‘Dino’ as a titan. He has brought style, humor, and distinctiveness to all he touches.

What inspires or motivates you in your career?

To try and be the best at what I do. I know the saying, “To try is to risk failure,” but the person who risks nothing will never progress.

What is your work philosophy?

Always produce the best work possible, no matter how important the project is or the budget size.

What do you like best about design?

I love the beauty, simplicity, and purity of good design. I hate clutter, over-thinking, and too many cooks.

Who is or was your greatest mentor?

Ms. Little, Old Clee Primary School, Grimsby Lincolnshire, 1971. As a child, she was the only teacher to encourage me to follow my heart and pursue a future in the arts.

What’s the most difficult challenge that you’ve overcome?

Financial reward versus creative fulfillment.

Who were some of your greatest past influences?

Paul Rand, Helmut Krone, Saul Bass, Neville Brody, Adrian Frutiger, the Surrealists, the Pre-Raphaelites, Dada, Holger Trülzsch’s Veruschka Transfigurations, Norman Parkinson, Norman Rockwell, Euan Uglow, Orson Welles, Terence Davis, Oscar Wilde, and art historian Robert Hughes.

Who among your contemporaries today do you most admire?

Nancy Fouts, Christophe Huet, Loretta Lux, Erwin Olaf, Lissy Laricchia, Nadav Kander, Ron Mueck, Ai WeiWei, Antony Gormley, and Jonathan Ive.

What would be your dream assignment?

Working with Saul Bass. Alas, it will never happen.

Who have been some of your favorite people or clients you have worked with?

Teatro Real Madrid, Rebel Rebel London, Channel 4, Molinare, Splice Media, Red Bee, and Bite-Sized Books.

What are the most important ingredients you require from a client to do successful work?

There’s just one: trust.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

Being nominated for an Emmy Award.

What is the greatest satisfaction you get from your work?

That eureka moment when an idea comes to life and works exactly as imagined.

You originally worked at many prestigious TV and media companies like the BBC, Disney, and Liberty Global. What made you interested in working in this type of media? How did it influence your design work and style?

I’d always dreamt of working in television as a youngster, and though it seemed an impossible dream to reach from a small, deprived town in northern England, through a mixture of determination, hard work, and natural ability, I made it happen.

Working in television, especially in my early career when it was primarily craft-based, taught me the importance of concise storytelling, lighting, movement, spatial awareness, sound design, and seeing situations from different points of view to tell the story more imaginatively.

You work in many areas, such as creative direction, typography, illustration, and photography. Do you have a particular area that interests you the most and is your favorite?

I think illustration. It’s a contemplative, creative task that is extremely enjoyable and rewarding.

You regularly hold workshops and speak at conferences and universities. What drove you to start doing this? Is there a certain workshop or speaking engagement that’s the most memorable for you?

I enjoy my university workshops the most. Although they are the least well-paid, they’re ultimately the most rewarding. While at Chellomedia (Liberty Global), I would hold three-day creative workshops for global employees to impress upon them how important creativity is to all areas of the business. Brilliant ideas are what make the difference between an ordinary product and an exceptional one.

My most rewarding and memorable moment was when I met an ex-student I’d taught many years before, and they told me how I had changed their life for the better.

What professional goals do you still have for yourself?

Do not do it because of the money; do it because you want to.

What advice do you have for students starting out today?

Learn how to draw. It doesn’t matter what software you use or what platform you’re on; they’re just tools to craft brilliant ideas with.

What interests do you have outside of your work?

I try new varieties of coffee, visit galleries, gentle cycle, and sit by the river with a pint of beer and a good book or crossword puzzle.

What do you value most?

Health, family, and happiness. Money and success aren’t everything.

What would you change if you had to do it all over again?

Everything and nothing.

Where do you seek inspiration?

Reading, photography, in-depth research, visiting galleries, and observing the beauty, absurdity, and weirdness of everyday life.

How do you define success?

Happiness. If you’re unhappy, you’re failing.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Living in Ireland by the sea away from all the madness: painting, drawing, taking photographs, and walking the dog. Is this an impossible dream?

Based in the UK, Dean Stockton has experience across a wide range of creative digital media, creating a broad range of design and illustration work for publishing, advertising, marketing, and communications. Throughout his career, he has worked in various creative roles, many at a senior level, for several global organizations, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Disney, Virgin Media, Sky, AMC, Liberty Global, and more recently with AMD, Royal Television Society, Financial Times, and Teatro Real. A few years ago, Dean decided to escape the world of corporate culture and instead focus on his passion for being an image creator and storyteller by means of intriguing visual narratives. As an advocate of clear and simple ideas and with an eye for detail, he aims to create elegantly crafted tableaus and compositions that effect an emotional connection with the audience through intriguing and involving illustrative communication. Dean’s work is often filled with hidden meaning and visual cues as he considers perception requires involvement by the observer. He always takes an innovative approach to creative briefs, from initial concept proposal through to realization; he overlooks nothing and has the courage and motivation to break as many boundaries as possible. Dean’s recent work for the Teatro Real Opera House in Madrid, Spain, and book cover design and illustration for Bitesized Books have given him the freedom to allow his imagination to abandon all restraint. He works effectively under tight deadlines and takes a hands-on creative approach to all his creative projects. Dean is proficient in Adobe Creative Suite with expertise in all areas of digital media, and he has unique experience and technical knowledge in art and design philosophy and design principles. He has received several prestigious awards for his work as well as for writing several published pieces on creative media. Dean has a 1st Class Honors degree in art and design and is an engaging communicator, regularly holding creative workshops, presenting to large audiences, and lecturing at universities.

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Author: Graphis