HIS STORY

John Powner, consultant

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I graduated from (the then) Brighton Polytechnic in 1983, and having worked in local advertising for a year, started my design career in publishing, meticulously annotating cosmic maps for Patrick Moore's New Atlas of the Universe — both of which probably made me realise I wasn't quite ready for a lifetime of tedium and should spend a year seeing the world.

After traveling around India and Egypt, then working on a Moshav in Israel, I returned to a freezing London in 1986, where I joined Pentagram Design, which was and probably still is, one of the best design studios in the world. I spent 5 years there, learning my craft working for clients such as Art and Architecture, British Waterways, The Crafts Council and Polaroid.

I co-founded Atelier Works in 1991, because having been inspired by the likes of Alan Fletcher and John McConnell at Pentagram, I really didn't want to work for anyone else. Over the last 20 plus years, we've managed to stay small and thoroughly enjoy our work, winning awards and mentoring extraordinary people, many of whom have gone on to great careers.

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And the clients have been rewarding too, including English Heritage, Somerset House and Orange, Waterstone's (when they were a proper bookshop), Tate Galleries and Waitrose amongst others. I was a key member of the design team responsible for Labour's manifesto and campaign materials for their historic second election victory in 2001, pre-Iraq. My parents, lifelong Labour supporters, were exceptionally proud (when we showed up at No 10 to present to TB in our stubble, puffer jackets and jeans, Alaistair Campbell declared "You must be the designers!").

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I have always been fascinated by the built environment, and disappointed at how poorly it is explained to people (who ever looks up in a street?). Over the years, we have worked with some of Britain's best architects to help bridge the gap, showing in an exhibition, how Somerset House used to be without an Embankment, working with the LSE's Students' Union on 'graphic conversations' visually expressing their culture of controversy and debate in the bars. In 2006, we upped the scale and designed an award-winning pedestrian signing system for the whole city of Sheffield, based on street photographs and interpretation — a first for Britain.

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My work has appeared in numerous publications and awards include D&AD, LAUS, a Golden Grammia Award and commendations from the Design Week Awards and Society of Typographic Designers. Recent projects include the rebranding of University College Falmouth as they evolve into Falmouth University, promoting their 100 year Art School heritage, which includes the design of a bespoke poster from Alan Kitching RDI, whom I have worked with and admired for many years.

Payback to the design industry includes advising TFL on their 'Legible London' pedestrian wayfinding steering group and a communications strategy for Birmingham's BSF programme involving over 85 schools. I have also been a regular design judge for the D&AD Awards, and written and lectured on design to students and young designers, which I love doing — these have included The Royal College of Art, Ravensbourne and Epsom.

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My alter ego, away from the white-gloved world of graphic design, restores and rides vintage and veteran motorcycles — Brough Superiors and Nortons are my favourites — and I demonstrate historic racing motorcycles at events such as Goodwood and Brooklands. I guess the glue to these two sides of my personality is my curiosity for how good design works, and my passion for making it better.

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Contact us

ATELIER WORKS
21a Iliffe Yard
London SE17 3QA

020 7284 2215
020 7703 8979
info@atelierworks.co.uk