SCA Spotlight on…Craft Mentor, Ian Hands

1. Tell us a bit about your creative career.

I think it’s been 36 years since I graduated from St Martins School of Art. I was a successful illustrator for 10 years and worked for loads of big companies: Vogue, Boots, British Rail, BBC, BT, Radio Times, Penguin, New Scientist, Body Shop, Harper’s Bazaar, Island Records, the Labour Party, NatWest Bank… In advertising I was at Abbott Mead Vickers for 7 years—two of my favourite jobs were bespoke typeface designs for Sainsbury’s Homebase and ET’s ‘finger writing’ for BT. I spent a similar amount of time at Proximity as the agency Typographer.

2. How did you start out and what’s kept you motivated over the years?

I grew tired of having to constantly repeat my illustration style and wanted to explore other ways of working. I’m a habitual learner, and as computers offered so many exciting possibilities I consumed software. Like most people of a certain age I was inspired by record cover design. All of it—image making, photography, type, composition, branding… and computers allowed me access to so many tools. I consider everything I do to be drawing—whether that’s on paper, oil on canvas, or on a screen; in 3D or in motion; people and scenes or typefaces and layouts—they’re all drawing to me. I’ve even worked as a chef, and a food photographer and stylist.

3. It’s your 10th year at the school, what keeps you coming back?

It’s such a pleasure working with so many people with big, throbbing, creative brains. I love students who are hungry to learn, that take chances and are open to trying new techniques.

4. What’s your favourite thing about mentoring at SCA?

Not knowing what I’m going to make that day. I love it when a student asks ‘how do I make this?’ and I have no idea. There’s an opportunity for both of us to learn.

6. Do you think you have to be a certain ‘type’ of creative to benefit from the school?

I honestly think anyone can benefit from the school’s curriculum and teaching methods. We’ve a proven record for developing creative potential—so many students say they learn more in the first term than in 3 years of uni. And although the learning may be through a lens of ‘advertising’ there’s a solid core of fundamental problem solving. The skills you’ll acquire are so useful whatever path you decide to take.

7. Why do you think SCA students are so successful?

SCA is the most thorough learning experience out there. Ironically, the energy and momentum is very like how St Martins used to be. With 3 members of staff having graduated from there I like to think we’re keeping that experience alive and well. Combined with the rigour of Marc’s curriculum its a pretty much failsafe entry into the creative industries.

8. Top tips to succeed in the creative industry.

You have to have a hunger to learn, unlearn and relearn. The most successful creatives never stop trying to be better. I really don’t buy into the ‘do one thing well’ school of myopia. It’s such a limiting mindset. In this day and age you’re expected to have more than one skill. Being unafraid to experiment and explore different disciplines is actively encouraged. SCA will stretch you into a new shape.

9. How should students approach life at SCA to really benefit from everything it has to offer?

It’s unbelievably intense, and you need to be open and ready to be able to soak it all up. There’s no padding on the course, all the techniques, masterclasses and opportunities are geared towards getting you into a fulfilling job. And it’s a laugh! You only have so much time and energy in a single day, so use them to power your radiator—and prevent opportunities from slipping down the drain.


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