Exclusive interview with Sheffield Designers DED reveals their ‘dirty little secrets’
Sheffield Unchained has the privilege of being one of only two, since DED Associates began in 1991, to interview one of Sheffield’s most creative design duos.
Following the very enjoyable launch party of DED’s new studio 99 Mary Street, Sheffield Unchained went to meet with twin bothers Nik and Jon Daughtry to find out how DED Associates began.
DED describe themselves as an ‘artist to design studio and back again’. They have an elaborate and varied portfolio including illustration, TV adverts, print, Ipad and Iphone apps, T-Shirt designs, wallpaper and branding.
Just going along for the ride
The bothers admit they have never had a five or ten year plan and describe many of their projects as organic. From a T-Shirt claiming ‘Bored of the Bekhams’ selling 37,500 in 18 months to sensual wallpaper finding its way into the newspapers and fashion magazines, DED said they like things to move naturally and to just go with the flow.
In 1991 DED started off creating the designs for all of Sheffield’s clubs such as The Leadmill, the Palais, Cuba and Warp Records. They then began designing the record labels for bands and artists until they moved into working for MTV and advertising agencies in London.
“It was about 1995 when we’d done the graphics for ‘Music in the City for BBC Radio 1 and then MTV saw our work and asked us to go down to London and show them our portfolio. So we started working with MTV and then moved into working with TV and the media.”
DED’s clients are now from all over the world, with half representing the north of England. After the recent opening of their studio 99 Mary Street they are hoping to do more in Sheffield.
Working seamlessly and intuitively
The business started as ‘Daughtry, Edwards and Daughtry’ or ‘DEAD’, however the brothers said the bank didn’t like the name so they changed it to DED, although Jon said they are still ‘DEAD’ to their clients. Edwards left and they became just two, working with freelancers until they employed Rob Barber as their illustrator ten years ago.
Nik said that he likes to be free of the business side of things and that this translates into their projects:
“I’m more free in terms of work and Jon focuses more on the detail, so I can do something and then pass it on to Jon and he will focus on the detail, so in that sense we work well together.”
The brothers say that being twins means that they work intuitively together, where one of them can start on a project and then pass it on to the other and they will know ‘exactly where it is coming from and where it has been’.
“It doesn’t necessarily feel like we are handing it over to somebody else, so for a client it is quite seamless to have both of us working on the same project at the same time.”
Here is an audio slideshow from our interview, where the brothers talk more about thier projects and working together:
Note: Apologies for the terrible audio, this audio slideshow was an after thought from audio recorded soley for my notes – I’ll never go to an interview presuming I won’t use the audio again, as it’s bound to turn out to be as interesting as this one!
We inspire each other
Nik and Jon, 43, always knew they were going to go into business together and after living in a caravan for over a year at the age of eleven, whilst their father built their home, they were inspired to focus on art and design at school and college. Nik said:
“My father’s an electrician and he had his own business, he used to bring drawings home of the electrical projects he was working on. These drawings, even at the age of six, always fascinated us.”
At the age of 17 Jon went to study art and design in Lincoln and Nik stayed in Sheffield to study a similar course. Jon said:
“The intention was that we would come back together after our studies and start a business together and we never really expected anything other than that to happen.”
Jon explained how as children at school they used to sell boxes of lollipops they were given at a profit and how at college they bought the T-Shirts a tutor had designed and sold them to their friends and around the city.
When asked about where they get their inspiration from, the brothers simultaneously pointed to each other and then after some thought added,
“Through like-minded people, people like Sheffield university professor Tony Ryan who inspires us to expand our ideas and how we visualise and communicate the projects we are working on.”
99 Mary Street – a new concept space
For the last eighteen months DED has been renovating and ‘re-imagining’ their new studio at 99 Mary Street. DED describes the 1890’ s industrial building as being “crafted for the showing and sharing of everything that’s good in creative endeavour.”
After stripping the walls and opening the former goods entrance, DED has transformed the space into both a working studio and a venue which they plan to hire out for creative events such as exhibitions, concerts, workshops or meet ups.
DED will also be using the space to build their own designs such as a large robotic plant that will mimic the process of photosynthesis, as part of a project with Sheffield University.
99 Mary street will have a programme of events so keep an eye on the website to have a look at what is happening.