Ian Anderson, English

on Sep 30, 2011 in Now Boarding | No Comments

A man with a unique talent for graphic design and contemporary visual culture gives us his view of Lisbon.

Before becoming entangled with Lisbon, he already preferred coffee to tea. 50-year-old Ian Anderson is the man behind the image of electronic music. Born in south London, he went to Sheffield University to study Philosophy in 1979 and never left. In this northern industrial city, he defined the graphic language of electronic music. Over the next month or so, he will be in Lisbon to accompany the 2011 edition of Experimenta Design (EXD), where he is the creative director of the Communication Department.

But let’s start from the beginning. He chose Philosophy to save time: on enrolment day he had to go to Manchester to see his girlfriend and, so as not to miss the train, he signed up for the course with no queue. Over the years, his academic choice proved to be the right one. Ian always has a “why” to be answered.


Both during college and after, he managed nightclubs, as well as working as a music agent and DJ. The mad ‘80s in Sheffield (around 270 km north of London) was the time he became a graphic designer. First he did the flyers for his DJ sessions, then it was record covers, like those of the band ABC, who he represented. Like he says: “I became a designer because people asked me to do things in that area”. Along the way, he founded The Designers Republic with a friend (who didn’t have a degree in Design either) Nick Phillips and they accidentally ended up being the design gurus associated with electronic music. This was the ‘90s and Sheffield was exporting the image of chart-topping music to London.

“The best creative professionals I’ve met are self-directed”, says this self-taught graphic designer who has a thing for Lisbon. Two years ago, when The Designers Republic was getting too big, Ian accepted Experimenta Design director Guta Moura Guedes’ invitation and began designing the visual identity of EXD Lisboa 09, overhauling the whole re-branding process.
He thinks Lisbon is similar to Sheffield, which is also a city surrounded by seven hills. He is particularly attracted to what he defines as an honest working class, where a socialist mentality still exists. A good climate, good food and an attractive pace of life combine with other more visual pleasures in streets filled with old buildings alongside contemporary architecture.

Wandering between the new and not-so-new stimulates the imagination and the “positive response” that he uses in design. EXD’s mission is to present intelligent ideas in a non-intellectualised form, making the brand known to all Lisboners.

The biennale focuses on the future via products, architecture, graphic design and communication and this year runs until 27th November with a vast programme of exhibitions and conferences, on the theme “Useless”. The image of the biennale: a brain connected to a toaster – “functionality is the enemy of creativity”, declares Ian Anderson, and “design is the application of that creativity”. So simple!


by Cláudia Almeida



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