Ben Topliss
contact: [email protected]

Based in Manchester’s hip Northern Quarter, Ben Topliss has carved himself a little niche creating flyers and branding for the local clubs and bars that he also DJs in. These clients are a natural fit for his slick, edgy style.

“I try to portray in my work a certain level of energy and vibrancy,” he says. “I’m inspired quite heavily by music culture – especially electronic music, which I think probably stems from a love of the 1980s. My other major influence is architecture, especially anything that uses glass.”

However, Topliss isn’t just limited to bar and club flyers. He trained in product design and computer applications, but found that he enjoyed the Flash-heavy interactive design component so much that it gave him a clue as to where he should head after graduation.

“I’ve developed further via Flash and interaction design into graphic art and web design,” he says.

On graduating from Sheffield Hallam University, Topliss worked as a CAD designer while doing as much freelance web-design work as possible.

“During my free time I would work on personal projects, including setting up an online store selling my own artwork on T-shirts and clothing.”

He’s now moved up to Manchester, where he works in a studio, and has worked for clients including Asda, Siemens, Cooperative Food, Supanet, and Minoru 3D, as well as local nightlife haunts.

“In my work I love playing with the ideas of light and perception,” he says. “With every new project I want to expand and grow as a designer from my last. This is the driving force within my mind.”

He continues: “Every project I do seems to be different, so the materials I use tend to vary also. I do my best to use the most suitable materials for each project. This often starts with a series of sketches and finishes on my MacBook Pro.

"Photoshop is my main weapon of choice and Illustrator is pretty much always open too. I use Flash and Dreamweaver for realizing web projects, and InDesign and Soundbooth tend to get a good workout, as well.”


Craig Shields
contact: [email protected]

Even among our selection of promising young designers, Shields is the baby of the group – he’s still a student, in his final year of a graphic design degree at Lincoln University.

He’s already developing a feel for which way his future lies. “I enjoy the course, but illustration feels more suited to me,” he says, adding that he’d like to either do a specialized illustration course or remain in Lincoln to freelance when he graduates.

“I don’t think I have a creative style: I tend to try and experiment with as many different styles as possible, because I get bored of work I’ve done,” Shields says.

“I always try to mix up styles and keep my work fresh. One thing that I like to do with most of my work is keep it dark and then inject a bright mix of vibrant colours and shapes to give it ‘pop’.”

His works often incorporate hand-drawn or handmade elements – “I’ve always tried not to let the computer completely take over my work,” he says.

Shields says that his work hit a turning point when he joined the online art collective “Inspiration comes from all around me, but especially people that I speak to and collaborate with.

"Being a member of, I’ve had the pleasure of working with artists such as Mike Harrison, and Pete Harrison, both of whom are well-known for their illustration work. I’ve learned a lot by collaborating, helping me refine and improve on my techniques, and overall creating better works.”

His first clients include Lincoln University, Razorfish, and Digital Arts. He says that for young designers it’s important to be “as different to everyone else out there as you can – try not to follow trends, try to create your own style and build on it.”

He continues: “Secondly, try to join an art group on the Internet. They’re the best places to learn, talk about and enjoy the work that you want to create.”

Enjoying the work, for Shields, is the key thing. “Ilustration isn’t just a hobby or a way to make money: it’s a lifestyle, so make it a part of your social life,” he advises.