Q&A with John Miles
Last week I had the wonderful pleasure of exchanging emails with typographer and designer, John Miles, co-founder of Banks & Miles.
After chancing upon my Which? magazine collection, he emailed to tell me that a full collection of the magazines can be seen at Reading University in the B&M archive and that he was glad I liked them so much as the Consumers' Association were, "a great client to work for". Banks & Miles of course designed all the Which? covers from 1968 to 1988.
I was thrilled to hear from such a great designer and took him up on his offer of more information, by asking a few questions about his time working on the Which? covers:
Where did the inspiration for the covers come from?
At the time you are so absorbed in meeting the deadline that you don't think about where it is all coming from (an experience I am sure we share).
Looking back I don't remember much in the way of inspiration but there were a number of limitations which drove us in a certain direction. We had only black and spot colour so we couldn't rely on full colour or graphic effects.
How did the design process work?
All designs for both cover and text pages had to be agreed with the client using hand-drawn finished roughs which meant we all had drawing skills of some sort.
So really everything depended on the idea in your head which took graphic form through the end of a pencil. Lots of thumbnails which threw up both good and terrible ideas but in the end one usually surfaced and we agreed 'that's it'.
One huge advantage, which I don't think we fully appreciated at the time, was that the magazine was available to members by direct mail only so we were not under pressure to make the covers look like every other magazine competing on the book stalls. And the marketing men weren't blaming the covers if membership numbers fluctuated (In fact during this period the membership was growing steadily).
We worked directly with the editors who were invariably supportive and encouraging and a joy to work with.
Which is your favourite cover?
I am not sure I have a favourite – there are a few I would rather forget – but I always had a soft spot for 'Fly killers' (the fly in a parachute) and 'Sun glasses' (the lady sunbathing with the sunglasses in the bra position).
Hopefully Q&A's will become a regular feature - it's so interesting finding out a bit more about how people work and their inspirations.
So John, if you are reading this, thank you so much for your wonderful insight into the Which? covers and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It's been a pleasure!