I’ve been aware of Anthony Harrison’s work in the clothing industry for some time, having retailed his old label Rinse & Repeat at Digital Gravel several years ago. I must say I wasn’t really aware of just how much work he does for other brands though. My friend J DeBeck aka Selector JD put me in touch with Mr. Harrison last year when I was looking for someone to handle the lettering for a Selector t-shirt graphic I had in mind. Anthony absolutely killed it, generating one of the most popular graphics of the season for me. A quick look at his website The Home Office, will reveal that this is no fluke, and that he has no shortage impressive graphics up his sleeve, whether you’re talking logos, graphics, identity, album covers, or pretty much anything for that matter. And if you’re a mid-90s hip-hop head, you might just remember his verse as featured emcee Tony Bones, on Mr. Live’s “Splashin’ Over Monica.”
Hi. Where are you today? I’m here in my home studio in NYC.
What are you working on? I’m working on a collaborative project called Foolish Mortals with my colleague Marc Gunn and some movie poster stuff for Nike. I also just started a few personal projects that I’ve put off for far too long – Some quick caricatures and some writing.
Where have you been finding inspiration lately? Music and film are constants for me, but right now I’m also digging up anything I can find by writer and comedian Armando Iannucci. I have always known that he created Alan Partridge but never sought much else out. Right now I’m watching every episode of THE THICK OF IT. The man is a creative genius.
What is your favorite recent design/graphic/concept/project? I’ll be art directing Scott Langton’s bespoke line – High End tailoring by a Yorkshire Terrier in New York. We’ve always wanted to work together and now is our chance. As NY-based English ex-pats there is lots to build from. Exciting stuff.
Nice. Did you study design formally? Yes. When my high school (mis)guidance counselor talked me out of commercial art because, as he said, there was “no money in it” I chose architecture. When I realized that only a few architects actually drew, I soon switched over to the graphic design program at the New York Institute of Technology. By my third year I was attending part-time while working at a major record label as a Jr designer in the creative services department. I learned so much more on-the-job than in class. I was fortunate enough to have some really generous bosses who cherished their craft and instilled that in me. I think the designer I owe the most to is Angela Skouras who came to Arista as a highly respected art director from Rolling Stone magazine. I worked on a few projects including Kenny G and Patti Smith with her and she really pushed me. I came out on the end a better designer with a greater understanding of type.
How did you get into the field? Oh, the classic New York way – going for it. One morning on a day when I had no classes I took all my records and tapes and copied the addresses and phone numbers of the record labels. I compiled a list of about 40 companies and called each asking for the art director or creative department. I explained that I was a student and that I was looking for experience as an intern or assistant. That got me an internship at Jive records which really lit my fuse for design since I was mostly into illustration. From there I interned at the Source Magazine art department. Six months later after using my very same list, I was hired by Arista records as a junior designer. It still gives me goosebumps to think about.
Why did you decide to move to NYC? Um, Thatcher. Ha. My parents decided to move to NYC for a new start so we went through all that immigration crap for about a year. My gran moved here from England in the 70s so she’d been in NYC for ages. I absolutely hated it at first but I eventually got used t it. These days I’ve spent more years here than in London and I’m very much a New Yorker but London is still home.
Can you tell us a bit about The Home Office? The Home Office is my private design practice. A few years ago I decided to step away from the area of fashion that I was working in because it was killing my work. If I’d stayed on, I’d have lots more money now but I’d have been useless in my creative capacity. The Home Office is my way of cultivating the kind of client list that makes sense for my work in particular. My aim is how do I use my signature eye and hand to communicate this company or individual’s message? For most of my career I’ve been a hired gun and I really enjoy bringing other peoples’ ideas to life. Its crazy! When I meet with clients and ask them to share their ideas a lot of them are surprised. Everything starts with a blank page and the very effort to create something is part of the art itself whether commercial or not. So it’s important to have a clear plan and framework before ‘jumping out the window’ as they say. I’m thankful that mine is a business where I can create tangible content that proves its worth to the viewer.
What are some of the clothing brands/companies you’ve worked with? Fiberops, Bastard Squad, Alphanumeric, WESC, Nike, Know1edge, Mighty Healthy and PRPS to name a few.
You’ve also had a few of your own clothing labels correct? Yes, two actually. Rinse & Repeat was a little thing I did as a creative outlet really. Detergent, which I do with my wife Eliza, came later with the same sort of approach – more a creative outlet than a business so the last year has been about building. Detergent will be launched in Summer of 2010 and I’m really excited about this go round.
Anything cool you’ve seen from another artist or designer lately? The Tim Burton exhibit at MOMA. It was packed to the gills but so fresh! I was a bit overwhelming so I think I have to go back again.
Your verse on Splashin’ Over Monica was great! I have it on vinyl. Do you still rhyme? Haha! Thanks. Mr. Live and I made a few songs around politics and social issues but we made them funny to avoid preaching or talking ‘at’ people. I’ve always said that I’ll write again when I feel inspired to. Words are a huge part of my work which brings me back to the work of Armando Iannucci like THE THICK OF IT and TIME TRUMPET. The next thing I write will most likely be a short story. As it stands I have more to contribute to art and design than I do to music. While I slowly learn to play the bass I’m happy just being a fan and pushing myself to see what else I might enjoy. I just copped Mozart’s piano sonata no. 11 so we’ll see where this goes.