This month at Offset Dublin, a host of creatives will converge to hear and see stories and work by a selection of their peers from around the world. Shane Griffin will speak at his second Offset event (he spoke at Offset Sheffield last October), showcasing the work and process behind client and self-initiated projects for some of the most recognisable brands in the world.
Irish born, and based in New York since 2012, Griffin’s distinctive work blurs the line between fantasy and reality and has an immediate and visceral allure. Working on the threshold of visual art and commercial design has set Griffin apart, allowing him to be based in the USA, affording him recognition that has helped him stay.
“I think ending up in the United States was due to the affirmation that I was making work that was different. When I won Art Directors Club ‘Young Guns’ in 2012, I was introduced to so many creatives my age, doing their own thing, and it was really inspiring. Photographers, lettering artists, animators, directors – all hustling to build their personal brand. That hugely impacted my decision to move to New York. I was previously in London for a few years, and although it was an incredible experience, the New York mentality clicked with me a lot more.”
“PRINT magazine named me their New Visual Artist under 30 in 2015, which allowed me to really stand out as an artist, rather than a designer under the moniker of a studio. Accolades like that made it easier to obtain a green card, and once I had that I was ready to open up my own shop.”
His ‘own shop’ is Sunday Afternoon, an artist management agency and creative studio run by Griffin and fellow creatives as a platform for solo projects, commissions and collaborations. His own experiences in a variety of roles and locations have fed into the day-to-day operations and ambitions of the agency.
“Everywhere I’ve worked has been very different, the pace, the attitude, and the management have been all worlds apart. The biggest distinctions to me were decisiveness and communication, some places are willing to push the client to the place that makes award-winning work, and others just roll over. Communication is very much key, and that can get lost in the chains of command of the bigger companies. At one point, I had a boss who I never met, how ridiculous is that?”
“Thankfully, most of my day is spent in the studio making cool imagery or film with great people, let’s say 80 percent. I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different mediums, so usually every project is a bit different. Currently I’m making a mobile phone commercial, next I hop on to a sculpture project, so it’s a mixed bag.”
“The other 20 percent is the day-to-day management of the company, and checking in with the artists that we represent, doing payroll – all the boring stuff. It’s a nice balance. The core team is still the same since we established [Sunday Afternoon]: myself, Juan-Carlos Pagan and Ahmed Klink. Our producer and lead rep is Audrie Poole, and together we strategise how to get our roster in front of the right people, and how to tackle current jobs. Right now we’ve got eight artists, and an intern who helps with our studio projects. We’re planning a bit of an expansion of our roster this year, probably another three artists to round things off.”
Griffin’s view of what a designer or artist can be changed since he began his career, and this has informed both outlook and process. “It’s changed enormously, I remember seeing a commercial I made on TV for the first time, and just being like ‘Holy shit, that’s mine!’, now I don’t really get a buzz off commercial work at all. Before, that’s where the top of the mountain was, everyone wanted to make the best ad on TV, now I find we’re all pushing our own style and our own voice in different avenues, different mediums, and for different reasons. It’s a great time to be an artist and a designer, the landscape is wide open and for the taking. Instagram a has been a huge game changer, artists and brands can make immediate connections now. Way back when, we relied on forums and blogs!”
“I feel a huge move toward remote working and an ever-increasing freelance-dependent workforce. I’ve been seeing this more and more over the past year. It will be vital for traditional branding and design studios to have a strong motion department also, to consider the on-screen communication of the brand. Websites like Working Not Working make it easier than ever to connect with creative from around the globe, and start working with them.”
The shift towards remote and freelance work also colours Griffin’s view of the position and opportunities for Irish designers as they work in an increasingly international context. “Both the barrier and the opportunity are the same, and it’s competition, the ease of (and move toward) remote working that has really opened things up for Ireland, we’re not bound to just Irish work anymore. Although the competition becomes exponentially stronger because everyone is available, everywhere. I see a few Irish agencies picking up international accounts, which is huge for the ad industry, I honestly never thought I’d see that, it’s fantastic.”
“I think things can be made better by smaller studios doing bigger international work”, he adds. “Location just isn’t that vital anymore, look at studios like Universal Everything, RM&Co, or Korb, they started in small cities and towns, but are making fantastic art, design, and film, respectively. I’d be excited to see an Irish studio break the mould.”
Griffin will have the opportunity to connect with and inspire a large audience at Offset — an opportunity that he relishes: ‘‘I’m really looking forward to [Offset], it’s nice to be on home turf, if anything for the Dublin humour, that’s something I really miss being in the states. I’ll probably be a bit more comfortable than usual.”
“Talking about projects can often give a sense of purpose to the work,” he notes. “I like to have a little element of science or technology in everything I do, so it lives in a more conceptual space, and while on the surface level you can appreciate the aesthetics of the work, it’s always nice to give people a little extra to dive into.”
“I haven’t spoken in front of a crowd as big as the Dublin Offset before, so that’s a little daunting, but I’m hoping I can give everyone some eye candy and a bit of a laugh along the way. The best thing about the festival is engaging with other people’s work that you’ve never seen before, I’m looking forward to discovering.”
Words: David Wall
Images: Rich Gilligan