We interview Radio co-founder (and ex I Love Dust) Byron Meiring about creating posters for the latest season of the hit US show.
US TV show Mad Men has provided inspiration across the creative industries, as designers, illustrators and animators tap into the retro tailored simplicity of its design language – though often ignoring its representation of the cultural negatives of that era of casual misogyny, racism and homophobia (plus some truly horrible outfits for children).
For last year's fifth series, Cape Town-based creative agency Radio produced a series of self-initiated posters that represented the show in a textured CG style – and which ended up shared across social networks. For the currently running season six, the firm has produced a new set of posters with a more stripped-backed style that concentrates on the shows aesthetic as it lives in our imaginations – even as the show has moved forward through the 1960s and designs from fashion to homewares have become less traditional.
We sat down with Radio's co-founder Byron Meiring to find out more about the project and the creative scene in Cape Town, which will be the World Design Capital in 2014.
NB: Why did you decide to create the posters?
BM: "The way the show is done and styled takes us back to an era and time we never knew – so I suppose romanticism of that. That it is about the advertising industry, which we are very familiar with, makes us connect with it. I also think a lot of our work has an influence from that era."
NB: You'd already created posters for Season 5 – so what made you want to return to the series?
BM: "The Season 5 posters had such good press [that] we landed up for a long time getting a lot of our work from clients referencing those posters – so i suppose we wanted to try something a bit different and show our diversity as a studio."
NB: What did you want to do differently with these?
BM: "The Season 5 poster was all on computer and quite structured in the sense that we drew it all in isometric. Season 6 was more loose and focused on the characters from the show. If we had done the Season 6 posters the same as the season 5 poster it would have been a bit predictable.
"We recently hired a very talented chap named Stephan Pretorius and we briefed him on creating the initial sketches for the posters. We started with a sketch of Don in the city (above), which we never even used in the end – but we just kept stripping them back until we had the simplest design, so that the characters could be easily identified."
NB: Tell us a bit about the composition of the 'Joan' poster.
BM: "We wanted to make her trademark red hair a main focus point. We used that and the props and setting from the show to make her stand out – so you know who you are looking at."
NB: What do you get out of doing self-initiated projects like this?
BM: "It gives us a bit of freedom to explore some new directions and have a bit of fun, it also shows prospective clients something that may not have seen from us before. It's probably the most important thing you can do is to keep pushing yourself to do and try new directions and keep people interested."
NB: Tell us a bit about Radio.
BM: "Radio was started by myself and Gert Schoeman in 2011, we met while working at I Love Dust in the UK.
"Gert moved back to South Afrioca in November 2010 and I followed in December, as my wife and I were having our first child. We freelanced remotely for I Love Dust for a few months, then I decided to take the leap as a full time freelancer in April of 2011. I got in a few jobs that I needed some help with, so I got back in contact with Gert and from there Radio was born.
"We worked out of the tiniest studio in a fishing town called Melkbos for six months, where we were stuck in between a pre-school on the left and a pub on the right. Once we started growing, we moved to a studio in a old Brewery that has been converted into studios and offices – and we are still here today."
NB: How would you describe Cape Town as a place to work?
BM: "Cape Town is a great place to live and to work, in that there are also a lot of great designers and illustrators who are based here: [such as] Jordan Metcalfe and Daniel Ting Chong. So there is always something cool going on – plus the community is quite small so everyone knows each other.
It's hard to say what the worst thing [about being in Cape Town is] – probably that we are a nine-hourr flight away from London or NYC. That's a bit of a disadvantage, as it's not like if we were in Europe where everything is a lot closer.
"I think things like the World Cup and Cape Town being the World Design Capital helps [how clients see us] – but i still wonder if people think because we are from South AFRICA that we ride around on donkeys and there are lions roaming in the street."