Sadly, we have come to the end of this year’s In With The New series. It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know all of these up-and-coming designers. Our final article of the series features a designer who is very talented while also being very down-to-earth considering some of the big-name clients he works with. Liam Hamill studied Visual Communication in IADT, Dun Laoghaire. He has just started a freelance position with Pentagram in New York, having spent the last nine months working for Wieden+Kennedy. “New York has always been somewhere that I’ve loved. It’s also somewhere with massive opportunities in the design industry.” Liam’s first experience in a professional design studio was during third year in college, when he interned at Unthink in Dublin. “I learned loads and would definitely recommend doing an internship during college if at all possible.” After finishing college, he worked in Red&Grey for nine months before deciding to move to New York. “Working on projects for NCAD, Maynooth and Dublin Literature Festival was challenging, great fun and also really beneficial for gaining industry experience.”
Liam gained entry to the International Society of Typographic Designers in 2018 with The Life and Death of the Thirteen Month Calendar, a book design project that he completed in 4th year of college. The ISTD brief for that year focused on the subject of anniversaries. “I looked into different forms of time-keeping and yearly cycles. At the start of the 20th century George Eastman, the CEO of Kodak, made a thirteen-month calendar based on Moses B. Cotsworth’s 1902 perennial calendar design. The idea was so mental that I just had to make that the subject of my project. Cotsworth invented a calendar that had an equal amount of days in each month and thirteen months in the year with an additional day left over that would go in-between one year and the next. The thirteenth month was called Sol and went between June and July. George Eastman tried to get the Kodak factory workers to use the calendar as he believed it was super-efficient and would save on accountancy costs. It didn’t work but the concept is still very cool!”
Throughout college Liam always admired the work of Richard Turley, Global Creative Director of Wieden+Kennedy. Moving to New York and getting a design residency with W+K was a dream come true for him. “There is a very strong emphasis on good design in all of the advertising work created at Wieden+Kennedy. They also have a great client list, which includes Nike, HBO, Coke and more recently McDonalds.” Over the course of nine months Liam worked in the design department, which acts as an in-house studio for the overall advertising agency. “It was a fantastic experience. I worked on a wide variety of stuff, from branding for Delta Airlines to fan club swag for McDonalds and a title sequence for HBO. The team in W+K are super talented. They encourage a lot of creative freedom and responsibility.” One of the most challenging projects Liam has worked on so-far was a brand activation for Delta Airlines in Boston. “To celebrate all things Boston, we created a souvenir truck that sold speciality items from locations around the world that are also named ‘Boston.’ For example, you could buy scented candles from Square de Boston, France, umbrellas from Boston, England and wool scarves from Boston, County Clare, Ireland. The truck was hand-painted with a custom interior. I created the signage, totes, pins, and badges. Working on a project of that scale from start to finish was very new for me and definitely stressful at times.”
Since moving to New York Liam has been in-touch with a few familiar names! “Rory Simms, Jack Collins and Ken Deegan all work in Pentagram, and have made me feel very welcome. I moved over here at the same time as a couple people from my class in IADT, which was nice and definitely made it easier.” He has also been in touch with Lara Hanlon who is a senior designer at IBM in NYC and also one of the 100 Archive contributors. Liam was offered his current position at Pentagram NY by Ryan Smith, Associate Partner to Partner Luke Hayman. “Last year I was talking to Ryan about the possibility of an internship. However, I was offered the residency in Wieden+Kennedy first and didn’t want to turn it down! I kept in contact with Ryan throughout the year and he offered me a freelance position when it came up at the start of February. It was such a hard decision to leave W+K but I’m just starting off in my career and I felt it would be a great opportunity to work for Pentagram.” Liam is currently working on the latest issue of Netflix’s Queue Magazine, a publication that showcases the talented people and stories behind many of their popular shows. “The issue I’m working on right now focuses on comedy. The Pentagram team are organising shoots with David Letterman, Wanda Sykes, Jack Whitehall and some others.” He is also working on a book for an Ayurvedic healing / yoga studio in LA. “They have a lot of celebrity clients. Gwyneth Paltrow is involved with them in some way. It’s bizarre meeting people from an entirely different world to you.”
Liam is inspired by functional design that he encounters in every-day life. “I’ve been collecting business cards from car service companies and similar companies around the city. There’s something really charming about them. A lot of the time they’re created by someone with no design background or interest in design trends. For me, they look a lot more original and interesting than a lot of stuff created by actual designers.” Liam is also compiling photos and interviews to create a publication that focuses on the people he encounters in laundromats around his area of Brooklyn. “I think the visuals in laundromats here are lovely. The hand-made signs, old packaging and strange colours feel very particular to New York.”
Outside of his design job, Liam makes sure to give a bit of time to freelancing and personal projects. Drop Everything is a cultural festival that takes place on Inis Oírr every two years. “It was founded in 2012 by Mary Nally and she still runs it today. She seems to know every creative person in Ireland and is great at bringing creative people together for her various projects.” Mary initially got in-touch with Liam through social media. He has been involved with the project in a freelance capacity for just over a year now. “In addition to the cultural festival, they also do workshops in schools around the country. It’s really great to work for an organisation that is actively making Ireland a more cultural and creative place.”
Liam loves being able to make things for a living. He says that being able to use and improve your talents is a privilege. However, there are drawbacks and challenges in design, same as any job. “People in New York seem happy to work crazy hours in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen as much in Dublin. The culture just seems to expect more late nights and weekend work. Maybe I’m wrong but it seems like it might be easier to get burnt out over here if you’re not careful.” The birth of social media has meant that anyone can create un-curated photography, illustration and design content, and share it with the world. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the content is good. “Instagram makes popular trends way more apparent. It creates a feedback loop of super similar stuff, which can be boring and repetitive. It seems much easier to be a designer now, which makes it much harder to stand out as a good designer.” Liam offers the following advice for up-and-coming designers and design students: “Understand what is being asked of you and keep that in mind throughout the process. You can still create something unexpected or exceed expectations, but usually that doesn’t involve straying from the brief. When you work in advertising or design, I definitely think it’s important to look outside of those industries for inspiration. It can result in more interesting or unique outcomes.”
Two projects that Liam worked on were included in the 2018 100 Archive selection: an identity rebrand for Codmother Fish & Chips truck in San Francisco and Incoming, the identity for IADT’s 2018 Visual Communications Graduate Exhibition. He worked on Incoming alongside Shauna Buckley, Sean Cummins and Sara Celik (who was interviewed for In With The New last year.) You can view more of Liam’s work on his website.