In our interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist of The Serpentine Gallery (London) we discussed his obsession for the titles of his exhibitions, the inspiration for our post ‘Titles’. This post featured some artists whose titles play an important part in their work; in fact, are the work. Here is an interview with the graphic designer, Anthony Burrill, for whom the titles are also the work.
Anthony Burrill became renowned for a series of typographic covers for Wallpaper* magazine in 2008 ‘The Wallpaper work issue: Defying the daily grid.” The covers featured slogans that included “Work More Live More” and “Work Hard & Be Nice To People”, printed in traditional woodblock technique on bold colour backgrounds. In 2010, Burrill created a poster with oil from the Gulf of Mexico disaster: “Oil & Water Don’t Mix”.
Here, Burrill discusses the origination of the phrases, some of which resulted from eavesdropping on conversations.
“Work More Live More.”
This was commissioned by Wallpaper* magazine as one of a series of four front covers I designed for their ‘Work’ issue in June 2008. The other three phrases had a positive spin on the live / work idea.
“Work Hard & Be Nice To People.”
This is another phrase of the Wallpaper* series, that I overheard whilst queuing in a supermarket. An elderly lady, talking to the check-out girl, was explaining the secret to a happy life. The phrase struck a chord with me and hung around in my head for a couple of years until I made the poster. It has become very popular and is my most recognised work so far. I’m very proud of it.
“Someday, someone may make a movie of your life. Make sure it doesn’t go straight to video.”
This phrase was written by my old friend Chad Rea. We first met whilst he was working at KesselsKramer [advertising agency] in Amsterdam. Chad had hundreds of phrases and we decided to consolidate them into a series of books – the Booksmarts series, which was a personal project, with only a couple of hundred copies printed. Subsequently, we’ve put some of the phrases (from that book series) into prints and posters. I really like the phrase; it resonates with people in a positive way, whilst still conveying humour.
“It’s Ok For Me To Have Everything I Want.”
I first found this phrase in a newspaper article about subliminal messages in advertising from the 1970s. I thought it was an interesting phrase, as I don’t think it is OK for you to have everything you want. When I made the poster some people saw it as a positive comment on consumerism whilst, in fact, it is quite the opposite.
Burrill has also collaborated on a series of posters with the author Alain de Botton* – who discusses contemporary themes and subjects in a philosophical style – including slogans “Pessimism Is Not Always Deep” and “Optimism Is Not Always Dumb”.
The characteristic woodblock printing of all these phrases is completed by the company ‘Adams of Rye’ – a rare print shop of typefaces in East Sussex that produces print and posters in the almost extinct processes of woodblock and letterpress.
200%: How did you find ‘Adams of Rye’?
Anthony Burill: I moved from central London to live in the countryside with my young family. We live very close to the ancient town of Rye, which is very traditional. I noticed that local events were advertised by beautiful wood block printed posters. I found out where the posters were printed and, to my delight, discovered an incredible archive of traditional wood and metal typefaces in their archives. Even more importantly, the company have staff who master the skills to set and print using this equipment!
Interview written and conducted by Thierry Somers (07/2011)
Your house could use some decoration? Some of these phrases could feature on your wall at home or studio as they can be ordered as a signed poster from Burrill’s website, printed by ‘Adams of Rye’ on 100% recycled paper.

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