8 Questions: Designer Heath Killen
8 Questions is our feature where we ask designers, artists and illustrators the same 8 getting-to-know-you questions (sort of like the web series 7 Minutes In Heaven but without the closet and awkward kissing). We’ve chosen questions we think will elicit informative, character revealing and insightful answers, allowing readers to learn from and get to know these lovely people a little better.
Australian designer Heath Killen has been on my radar since I first came across his stunning (and aptly disturbing) alternative poster for the film Perfume. I’ve been hooked ever since. Heath’s concepts are abstract yet comprehensive. He captures the essence of these films by using surreal imagery to connect to viewers on an emotional level (much like the work of Neil Kellerhouse). What makes him particularly interesting is that he’s not a one-trick pony. He experiments with each new piece of work whether that be with typography, layout or style (typically all of those and then some). We’re really happy to have him here, in his own words, so with out further ado:
1. Describe yourself in 5 words or less.
Human being on planet earth.
2. How long have you been a designer and what made you want to be one?
I’ve worked professionally for a little over six years. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a strong fascination with images and ideas. When I was young my father ran his architectural practice from out of our house, so I grew up with models and plans laying around the place. I’ve always enjoyed studying album covers, movie posters, books, magazines, cartoons, video games and any other kind of graphic ephemera that I encounter. I think ultimately I just believe in the power of an image as a means to motivate, challenge and communicate with people.
3. What would you say are your biggest influences?
This changes constantly, and comes from a variety of sources. I draw inspiration from all over the place. Art, architecture, nature, culture, music, misheard conversations, happy accidents. You name it.
I’d have to say though, when designing a film poster – the biggest influence really comes from the film itself. Considering the themes, the visuals, colours and textures, visceral elements. The legacy, if it’s an older film. Ideas that exist outside of and around the film. There are so many little aesthetic, intellectual and emotional considerations. Ultimately you need to find a way to connect the film to the audience – and I believe the only way to successfully do that is to deeply understand and appreciate both and allow them to guide you.
4. What is your favorite thing about being a designer?
I enjoy problem solving and working with interesting people. I like the fact that no two projects (or clients) are exactly the same. I also like to explore new ideas and learn new skills – and this job often requires me to do both.
5. What’s the worst (non-design related) job you’ve ever had?
I worked at a major music and electronic store for a few weeks and hated everything about it. The people. The business. The work itself. It might seem inconsequential, but it was a crushing experience because I’d romanticized working at a record store from a young age. I’ve had a far more “unpleasant” jobs that were infinitely more enjoyable.
6. Who are some of your favorite designers and why?
There are so many that it’s genuinely hard to narrow down just a few – but in terms of movie poster designers, I love just about anything that Neil Kellerhouse makes. The Church of London and This Is Real Art do some incredible stuff. Intro, the studio home of Julian House & Mat Cook are responsible for some incredible work for Lynn Ramsey. Mark Gowing’s posters for Hopscotch are always beautiful, and I’m very fond of art directors Andrew Percival at Mojo and Sarah Habibi at Criterion.
I’m always drawn to designs that subverts convention or finds something new to say within a convention. I’m also drawn to design that has a unique point of view. I think all these people produce work built on strong concepts that manages to convey complex ideas simply and subtly.
7. What are some of your favorite movie posters of all time?
I’ll always have a soft spot for the early Star Wars posters by Tom Jung and Roger Kastel. Bill Gold’s A Clockwork Orange poster is another classic. Escape From New York. Rosemary’s Baby. Downhill Racer. Manhattan. The Bride Wore Black. There really are too many. One of my more recent favourites is Michael C. Place’s poster for Objectified.
8. Any advice for young designers out there?