Alex Synge, founder of graphic design studio The First 47, has collaborated with Irish Design Shop to create a new homewares collection called Áras, which launches this Thursday. We caught up with the designer about his favourite pieces and making the move to Belfast …
How did you get started originally?
I set up The First 47 during that typical lull after leaving college. I studied art history and philosophy in Dublin, followed by an MSc in multimedia. I was juggling a few different things and trying to find my feet both creatively and career-wise. I was doing a lot of music and art projects but wanted to separate my design practice from that. I like to create work that is simple and meaningful, but carefully and lovingly executed. I would describe my aesthetic as minimal.
What is your favourite item that you’ve created?
Either the 2016 Constellations calendar that I made for the Irish Design Shop or else my Everyone Makes Mistakes pencil. My Constellations calendar is printed in silver ink on a beautiful black paper stock, and includes 13 tearaway prints to keep – it was a lot of work, but I’m delighted with the final product, and the reaction it got. I’m still very proud of my Everyone Makes Mistakes pencil, too – a simple reminder to be less hard on yourself when you mess up.
How you define good design?
For me, the definition of good graphic design is something that does what it sets out to do – whether that is to be a beautiful decorative print hanging on your wall, or to tell you what time your bus is due.
How has your move to Belfast been?
I’m fairly new to the city, so I’m excited to explore it more. There are some great shops like Kiln & Loom and Maven, a pretty unique florist called Best Buds Belfast, and new cafés and bars are always popping up. Belfast had its inaugural Design Week in 2015, and I was glad to be around for that – it definitely feels like an exciting time to be in the city. I grew up in Dublin, so it’s very close to my heart. There’s a really supportive creative community in Dublin, and it’s an inspiring place to be right now. I have a lot of friends working in design, food, art and beyond too, so it’s fun to see an increasing overlap between these disciplines.
What’s does your working day look like?
The bulk of my typical working day is spent behind a computer – with lots of coffee and lots of music. I try to get out whenever possible, see an exhibition, visit a friend’s studio, or sit in the park or a café with a pen and paper in hand. The Palm House in the Botanic Gardens and Black Mountain are two of my favourite places to go when I need to clear my head.
What are you working on next?
Quite a few things. I’m working on a clothing-label identity, an exhibition design, a record sleeve, a photobook, two children’s books and a few new prints. I’m in the process of getting a new studio space in Belfast too, so I’m excited to see where that will lead me.
Portrait: Al Higgins