With Designival almost upon us, we thought we’d highlight one of our favourite city based designers, and one of Liverpool’s most likely to – Rowan Stocks Moore.

With his bold reimaginings of Disney films, pulp fiction covers and literary classics, Rowan’s work cleverly combines bold graphical cues to his subject matter – a hand grenade-turned birdcage for Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong, a wardrobe and trees effortlessly forming a lion’s face for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (have a look at his portfolio here) – within a strikingly elegant illustrative treatment.

Make no mistake, this is clever stuff, presented with a deft touch, and a draftsman’s eye for simplicity.

“I’ve been drawing since I was very young. My mother is very artistic, as was her father before her, and they both encouraged and inspired me to draw, paint and sculpt from an early age. Illustration has always been my favourite art medium though,” says Rowan.

But it’s his graphic design nous that sets his illustrations apart – his ability to use form, shape and colour to convey a narrative. A visual language. It’s a trick not every graphic designer can master quite so convincingly.

And, this year, his stories set the internet alight, when some of his speculative treatments for Disney films found their viral way around the design blogs of the world.

“I love darker material, such as the work of Tim Burton and Alfred Hitchcock, but I enjoy the challenge of giving otherwise light hearted films and books a darker twist. So it was a natural choice for me to create a series of posters for Disney films, especially as many of them originate from much darker fairytales in the first place,” Rowan says of the project that was no more than an exercise for his portfolio.

“As a favour to a friend I allowed use of the Disney inspired designs for his film and music blog, and from then the images went viral; they were shared on other blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and were featured in the Huffington Post, the Observer and Elle magazine,” he recalls of this summer’s internet sensation.

“I wasn’t expecting such a great response at all, before then I had been struggling to find work and as a result any confidence in my ability was beginning to wane, then suddenly I was getting more job offers than I could take on, and seeing my work in places I could never have dreamed of.”

One such offer was, perhaps, the most surprising of all. Rowan received a call from the Magic Kingdom itself.

“I’m currently producing designs for clothing for the Walt Disney company. They had seen my work online and loved it, and as I’d wanted to create graphic tees for a while, I jumped at the opportunity! I feel I’ve come full circle, from putting together Disney designs in my bedroom, to working for Disney themselves. The past few months have been a whirlwind, at times stressful, but always rewarding!”

For Rowan, the call from Disney is, so far, the highlight of his career (which has also seen him create the design identity for this year’s Royal Exchange Christmas show in Manchester, Carol Ann Duffy’s dark reworking of classic fairy stories, Rats Tales) but a man can still have ambitions…

“Working for Disney is a dream job itself and I’d be more than happy if that was the pinnacle of my design career, but I’d say that my dream commission would be to design a film poster or book cover for Tim Burton. Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice are two of my favourite films.”

While his eye for composition and narrative reveal the marks of a top-drawer graphic designer, illustration still informs everything he does. Asked for advice for budding designers, Rowan’s clear, forget about your tools, concentrate on your own creativity.

“I have a great affection for illustration and it will always be equally if not more important to me. Above everything though I would say that ideas are the most important thing to have. As more and more people become adept at using Photoshop and other design software, it is the imagination of designers and artists that will set them apart from their peers, though obviously a good eye for design and artistic skill is still vital.”

Despite working for clients on the other side of the globe, Rowan’s staying in town.

“What I love about Liverpool now is what I’ve always loved about it; the people, culture, art and the architecture. Being exposed to such creative hubs like Tate and the Bluecoat it isn’t a surprise that Liverpool is still home to many artists that are seen as being world class. It’s great that our local artists have helped many youngsters realise that success doesn’t necessarily have to come with academia.”

Describe yourself in seven words:

imaginative, upbeat, frivolous, creative, humble, friendly and ambitious.

For details on how to buy Rowan’s work, visit his Tumblr

7 Responses to “Designer in Wonderland”

  1. Well done and good luck to Rowan.

    However, his work does look hugely inspired by the british poster artist Olly Moss, whose Star Wars, Princess Mononoke & Evil Dead posters have spawned a trend in poster design to use silhouettes and shapes that combine to create a bigger picture. But its good to see a local lad do well so hats off to him.

  2. Well, it’s not just Olly’s techniques that are being soaked up by other designers, but also simply the trend for reworking classic film posters. I doubt it would’ve been a trend as it is if he hadn’t have done his first (and sold shitloads of prints in the process). It’s an easy, brief-free way to showcase the kind of design brain you’ve got.

  3. Yeah and im all for that, personal projects are the best way to display your creativity. Im a big fan of reworking classic posters too, Ive done some myself featured on Sevenstreets a while back. I just felt that the second I saw Rowans work it looked like Olly Moss imitations. Nothing wrong with being inspired by Olly, but there still needs to be an element of originality in your work,otherwise whats the point?

  4. Hi Dave, this is Rowan. I honestly wasn’t aware of Olly Moss’ work when I did these designs. It has since been brought to my attention that my Lion King and Sleeping Beauty designs share certain qualities with Olly’s Star Wars designs, but this is honestly just a coincidence! I have been designing for 10 years and silhouettes and visual quirks have been my signature style for all of that time, so I was producing designs in a similar vein to Olly’s long before his work entered the public domain. I’d argue that Olly and myself, (and many other designers) are in fact inspired by designers such as Saul Bass, who were using silhouettes and visual trickery back in the 50’s and 60’s, and any similarities between our work are a result of that rather than imitation. It’s true that people rip-off designs, I have myself been victim to a few copycats, but I’d like to stress that my designs are original, and hopefully if you take a look at my portfolio you’ll agree!

  5. hey, I have no doubt. It’s a funny quirk of creativity that styles have their time in the sun, and, for some unknown reason, this often happens – that similar treatments are favoured by unconnected designers. I really wouldn’t worry too much about it. Your designs were, rightly, an internet hit – so they obviously had enough resonance for people not to think they were derivative.

  6. Hi Rowan, congrats on the success of your work, the Disney stuff must be a dream! I wasnt claiming you had copied Ollys work, I just felt that it was so similar (coincidentally) that all I could think of was Olly Moss when I saw your stuff. I think its the sun making up the eye in the Lion King print that has a real similarity to the Star Wars stuff Olly did.

    As for Saul Bass, that man is just a legend.

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