Simon Cook may have only just graduated from the BA (Hons) Graphic Design course at Nottingham Trent University, but he is already well equipped for the working world. He in fact set up his own company, Stone and Spear (derived from the meanings of his middle names, Peter and Frank), back in 2008. “Stone and Spear has given me the opportunity to start exploring turning myself into a brand, something that really excites me,” Cook explains. “So far it’s enabled me to take my self-promotion to a new level.”
The Stone and Spear website certainly gives an excellent introduction to Cook’s work, and features a wide range of projects, from club flyers, stickers and editorial illustrations to identities, logos and T-Shirt designs. Currently top of the list on the site is a beautiful introduction to the project that first drew Cook’s work to our attention: a picture pattern book celebrating circuses. Featuring a striking combination of photographic imagery and bold graphics, this work formed part of Cook’s final project at university and subsequently showed at both the D&AD New Blood exhibition and at New Designers in London.
The circus has long been an influence on Cook. “As a child I was obsessed,” he says. “From the bright lights and lavish performances to the powerful imagery and colours, this has been a huge inspiration for me. I love looking through vintage circus books and gathering old posters. I couldn’t think of anything better than rummaging at a car boot sale on a Sunday morning or raiding the library for quirky imagery – it makes me go funny inside!”
Cook’s combination of bright colours and black-and-white photography reappears across the projects on his website, and this use of collage is central to his work. “For me it all starts with some coloured paper and scissors,” he says. “I love cutting, sticking and making little collages to scan and work on top of later. Everything I create is handmade, which to me is very important. There is something satisfying about working with tangible objects; it not only gives a desirable look and feel, but gives the end result an essence of authenticity. Constantly seeking inspiration from nostalgic memories and childhood experiences, the playful combination of wit and childish humour is something that continues to excite me. My style has definitely evolved into what you see today through the experimentation of colour, geometric shapes and vintage photographic imagery.”
The distinctive look of Cook’s work has already led to a number of work placements, including work at Skew design studio in London, Noodoll illustration studio, and at Swedish fashion magazine Bon. A selection of stickers and screenprints by Cook are also already on sale at Lik+Neon in London.
He is now working as a freelancer and is hoping that the exposure he has already received will help him progress in a difficult climate. “Graduating into the current economic climate isn’t something that has worried me too much,” he maintains. “It’s not something I’ve consciously thought about anyway. I really think that, no matter how creative you are, it all comes down to dedication. Being able to commit yourself fully and remain focused
is key,” he believes.