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  • July 1, 2013
  • By Isle
  • in Blog

A Chat With Tim Fowler

Tim Fowler is the designer responsible for the Isle logo. After we'd discussed a number of different ideas for what would become one of the most important parts of our brand, Tim was the man to make everything come together perfectly.

We went over to see Tim one lunchtime in East London to find out a bit more about his background and design process.

Tim Fowler
Photo by Tansy Drake

Could you tell everyone a little bit about your background? Where do you work and how did you get started in design?

My background is in graphic design and photography: I studied graphic design at Camberwell College of Arts. I was always interested in design and photography from an early age but it was skateboarding and the world that went with it that got me really excited. I'd spend hours pouring over any skateboard magazines that I could get my hands on – remember, this is pre-internet, so my obsession was limited to the monthly publishing cycles of R*A*D, Thrasher and Transworld with a bit of SK8 Action thrown in for good measure.

When I left art college, I did a short stint as the manager of a Snappy Snaps – which meant I pretty much developed everyone's photos for free. I remember going into Slam (City Skates) and Seth and Fos giving me bags of 35mm film from their holidays to get developed. During this time I was also teaching myself HTML and CSS and playing around with it. I can't remember what happened exactly but Tamsin (who was looking after the Slam site at the time) was going away for a bit so I took over from her and slowly became a full time Slam employee. Because of my graphics background, I quickly ended up doing all the adverts and web stuff and also started work on the Rough Trade website and design side of things. I've just finished the 3rd iteration of roughtrade.com which I designed and we had built by a really good dev guy called Al.

I still work for Rough Trade on a freelance basis, which means I'm coming up to 16 years of doing it which is pretty crazy and I've done a tiny bit of work for Slam in the last year.


After I left Rough Trade full time, I went and worked for the Evening Standard which was a massive change from being at the Slam warehouse or in the Rough Trade office in Brick Lane: it really opened my eyes to the horrible world of commercial design and marketing. Luckily for me, I had a really open manager and was left to get on with stuff and suggest loads of new ideas. I also got to work with Mark (Carroll) and together we slowly pushed stuff through, like suggesting they got a Twitter account and managing to re-design a ton of stuff. Working for a newspaper is a great place for any designer to learn to get faster at what they do, due to the crazy deadlines.

Is identity design and branding a specialism of yours?

In the last few years, I made a conscious decision to move away from coding and concentrate on the graphics side of things which makes it odd that for the last two and a half years I've been the digital manager at innocent drinks. The crossover of graphics and digital at innocent is huge and it was a great place to work and I met some amazing people. I left innocent two weeks ago and moved to a company called FutureGov to take up the role as Design Lead.

Our initial approach to Isle's aesthetic identity was to maintain an openness: instead of going down familiar or comfortable routes, we looked at a lot of contemporary art, fashion styling,  and interior design which helped us work out what Isle is and isn't. What were some of your inspirations while working on the identity for Isle – or did the design come naturally without any direct influence?

I think the whole process was made easier by us sitting down and just looking at stuff and chatting. If you went back over all the visual inspiration we pulled together and sent around at the time, I think you could probably see design cues in these and how we ended up where we did. More indirect inspiration than straight-up 'let's go down this route'.

Initially, I thought it was going to be really hard to come up with something but once we'd agreed straight-up type wasn't working and I began to play around with the letter forms a bit more, it slotted into place quickly. I remember sending you the first draft and you coming back with suggestions that made it even stronger. I enjoyed the collaborative nature of the process. I'm a huge fan of working out stuff in black and white first and then working on the colours afterwards. If it doesn't work in black and white, you're in trouble.

Did you sketch your ideas out first or do you prefer to develop on the computer straight away? How many versions of the Isle logo did you work on before coming up with the final page of designs?

Firstly, I just looked at tons of stuff – everything from book covers to buildings – trying to find as much visual stimulus as possible. When I was at art college, I used to get some much grief for not sketching stuff out on paper but for Isle I did a few roughs first. 95% of the time I will go straight into Illustrator or InDesign and start moving stuff around and see what happens – everyone has different processes. Most of the designers in the creative team at innocent would sketch stuff on paper first. I'm not a very good drawer. I think I did about eight versions of the initial design and then a further four after you guys had fed back. I'd have expected to do way more but it just worked and minor tweaks each time made it better and better.

I think we each see different things in the logo. We can see some of the time-based ideas that we initially explored (using elements from clocks and compasses) and a slightly nautical style, connecting nicely to Isle, a word that means 'land-mass surrounded by water'. Were these concepts intentional, or just happy accidents?

I'd like to say they were intentional but I think it was more subliminal than anything else. Obviously I had the whole compass, time stuff floating around in the back of my head so somehow this crept through and influenced the final design. When I showed it to my 6 year-old son he just saw a smiling face. I love that it's different things to different people. People read things differently and, like Rorschach tests, they mean different things. I think we've managed to create something that's robust enough to work across multiple touch points.

Did you – or do you – have any other ideas that you'd like to explore for Isle? How does it feel seeing your logo brought to life?

I've had tons of ideas none of which are fully formed. When I was designing the logo, I was getting excited about how it could be used in motion based material – someone could do some cool motion graphics with it. Equally, I think it would be cool to deconstruct it a bit more and see what you can do with the shapes and how you can weave these into other graphics. I'd love to work on this collaboratively with you both and see where we get to. Also I think it would be nice to spend some time creating a colour system for the logo.

What other projects are you particularly proud of?

I think the Isle logo is one of my proudest moments over the last few years – and also the amount of work and time that went into the new Rough Trade website which launched in February 2013. It's hard when you work for companies like the Evening Standard and innocent to push change and create design that you are super proud of. You find yourself making small incremental design changes across a long period of time. Sometimes you get to work on things that break the norm and look and feel slightly differently. I think the last thing I did at innocent that caused a mild stir and was quite different from all the other stuff was a campaign called 'Healthy Jan' in January 2013. Rough Trade is great as the parameters are quite wide and everyone is up for pushing them.

What are your favourite brand identities, both skate-related and not skate-related?

This changes on a daily basis but one brand that's consistently good is Monocle magazine: I've been a fan since day one and follow what they do very closely. People like to hate on this brand but it carries itself across everything they do really well. I'm also a big fan of the Tattly brand. They have cornered a market so well and the design is perfect: I'd never wear a temporary tattoo but my kids love them.

It would be remiss of me to not mention innocent in here. Before I started working for them I was a fan. Over the years, the design and tone of voice has been copied by so many companies that it's diluted the original. They are acutely aware of this and I know they'll be moving things forward over the next few years: it's an exciting time for them and Dan Germain is still at the helm design/creative wise and this is a good thing.

Skate company wise there are so many. M-Zone/Anarchic Adjustment were so groundbreaking at the time, along with Ged's stuff (Insane), and then pretty much anything out of the Girl/Chocolate camp. Look at how much of a tangent Diamond has gone off on and it's consistently good. Plus all the smaller offshoots from the people who work there, Andy's (The Quiet Life) stuff just gets better and better. I've always been a fan of Don Pendleton's work and Micheal Leon's stuff he did as Commonwealth Stacks and Rasa Libra. I've recently started looking at all the old Stussy adverts. They were so good and captured a period in time so well.

Who are some of your favourite designers or artists? Are there any people whose work you make a point of following?

I guess I've kind of answered this in some form above, but I tend to follow a whole heap of people and blogs to keep up to date with people's work and new stuff. It's not always designers but crosses various fields.

Over and above the people I've already mentioned I will always keep an eye on Steve Harrington, Jessica Hische and Evan Hecox for illustration and typography. Ben Williams for his ability to see everything so differently. Nicholas Felton for his skill in data visualisation and what he's doing at Facebook. Shawn Stussy and all the new stuff he's up to with S-Double. Mark Porter and Mario Garcia for editorial design. Dan Hill for his take on all things design. The list goes on. Recently I've been listening to these hybrid design/tech podcasts: I've currently got 43 queued up.

What advice would you give to someone who was interested in pursuing design for the skate industry?

The best piece of advice would be to spend a lot of time looking and reading. It sounds obvious but I think there's a desire to jump straight into your Adobe application of choice and start designing. Look at the same genre you are working in, eg: skateboarding, and then move on. Don't let this define the direction you're going to take from to early on – you'll find way more inspiration from looking at some great packaging design or architecture journals than flipping through the pages of skateboard magazines. I realise this is a complete contradiction from what I did (see first answer) but I didn't have the luxury of the internet.

Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimSimonFowler
You can find Tim's blog here: http://timsfowler.roon.io

  • June 3, 2013
  • By Isle
  • in Blog

Phil Evans: The Panoramic Series – London with Nick Jensen

We recently caught up with the filmmaker Phil Evans while he was in London to document Nick for a new section of The Panoramic Series. The resulting film, 'London with Nick Jensen', can be seen below. Phil's previous projects include the great Format Perspective film and accompanying book that released last year, chronicling the lives of six European skate photographers.

We had a chat with Phil about his background and his current projects.

Hi Phil – thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Tell us a bit about your background: where are you from originally and how long have you been making films?

I'm from Ireland – a town called Bray which is just south of Dublin. That's where I discovered skating and also got into making skate videos. I started skating about 16 years ago and started making skate videos around 10 years ago with my mates: my first skate vid I made was called 'True Guys', named after some cheap boxer shorts that I owned multiple pairs of at the time. I filmed it in and around Dublin and Bray and it contained lots of guys that were true.

Your technique of videography has a unique photographic feel to it. Can you tell us a little more about the Panoramic process?

Maybe hanging around photographers is finally rubbing off on me? I first got the idea for it when I was playing with a friend's little old compact 35mm still camera he had – I forget what brand it was, but it was some cheapo model that had a panoramic setting – so when I switched the camera to 'panoramic mode' all it did was crop the frame by a quarter on top and bottom and I thought, "I could do that!". So I tested it out with my digital SLR and I really liked how it looked. There were obvious restrictions to filming skating with this format, namely that I had to be really far away compared to shooting fisheye and when filming tracking lines the ground has to be really smooth and I can't push mid-shot. However, those restrictions seemed worth it to achieve something that looked a lot different for me.

I had a few other ideas that I wanted to put into the project, so I started storyboarding and making these filters for the lenses out of old variable contrast photo print filters. I painted a bunch of other ones and starting experimenting with different shots and colours I could get out of them - like when I was filming in Stockholm, the weather was really overcast so I'd add an orange filter and just change the colour of the clouds or the ground, or even the whole shot as it looked so unusual.

I also wanted to test out different audio filters that sometimes make the music feel like it's occurring within the shot or just not using music at all and using field recordings to create a certain type of atmosphere - I'm rattling on a bit, but basically the direction I wanted to go with the whole project was to really give you a good sense of what it is like to skate in a certain city. That's what I'm trying to do, hopefully without getting too lost in the technicalities!

It's a strange process as I almost have to put as much effort into shooting the non-skate stuff as the tricks themselves, but I really like seeing skating within a context. There's a lot more going on with skating, especially street skating, than just tricks and that's what I'm trying to document.

Format Perspective has been a successful project for you: how did that come about?

It kind of came about as a joke when I was really fed up filming a dude who was stressing out one day, full on hissy-fit style. It really bummed me out and was making me question why I was filming skating at all, so as a joke I started filming my photographer mate Stu Robinson - then it occurred to me that it might be an interesting thing to document! Stu is a rad skate photographer, but he was also documenting a lot of the ghetto estates and landscapes around Belfast for a personal project (which eventually turned into a really rad exhibition). He was really taking large risks going into these sectarian estates to document the grimness and he was also shooting skating within this gnarly context. He also had a kidney transplant at the time too, so I knew there was a really rad story to tell there, plus I liked the visual prospect of mixing footage and still photos of skating together.

I tested it out a little with some photos that Stu had taken where I had also filmed and it seemed to blend nicely. I asked Stu if he was down and he was, as was Rich Gilligan and Nils Svennson - then we got Alex Irvine involved. I just started shooting as much as I could until Carhartt eventually kindly stepped in to support the project which added both Bertrand Trichet and Sergej Vutuc to give a nice cross-section of different approaches to this one subject.

With your new Panoramic Series, we've seen your Stockholm part with Daniel Grönwall and now you've just filmed Nick here in London: where will the future instalments take you? Is there an end result planned or is it part of an ongoing project?

It's actually what I'm most stoked on filming at the moment. Having to work within the restrictions of the visual and audio formats seems to force me to come up with lots of new ideas. I have plenty of stuff I want to try out, and I want to do more, but I don't really have a plan with it. I'm just enjoying shooting it whenever I can afford to, with any skaters that might be open to putting some energy into it. I'd really like to do one in Copenhagen as I've been skating around there during the last few days and it's a really architecturally diverse city, not to mention that it's rad to skate in, but I'm keeping an open mind, so I'll see where I end up next.

You've just moved to Malmö in Sweden. What do you have planned next?

Quite a lot of stuff! I'm mad stoked I moved here. It's a really active scene with a huge variety of skaters, so I'm able to be as productive as possible - I'm going to be working on an experimental film about the scene here which I'm still developing. I'm also working on another mixed media project called 'Lightworks' with Daniel Grönwall and Jerome Campbell that I've been developing for quite a while. Daniel has moved down from Stockholm to Malmö so I've already been shooting with him a lot. He's possibly the most motivated dude I've ever shot with: he's open to let me try new things with how I'm filming and he kills it, so he's a dream to shoot with – plus he can cook! What a catch!

I've coincidentally also been trying to get Sylvain Tognelli involved in the 'Lightworks' project too – we just have to find a time when we're both free as he seems to be working on quite a lot of projects too.
Hopefully I can squeeze out a couple of more panoramic sections this summer too. I will see how it goes!

Thanks Phil!

You can read more about Phil and his Format Perspective project here: www.formatperspective.com

  • May 12, 2013
  • By Isle
  • in Blog

Save Southbank

The Save Southbank campaign is in full swing right now. Head over here and sign the petition to stop the area being commercialised.

Hold Tight Films released '40 Years Later – Long Live South Bank' yesterday: a great snapshot of the amazing talent that has been cultivated at South Bank recently.

Join the Facebook campaign here: www.facebook.com/SaveSouthbank

Keep up to date with developments here: www.longlivesouthbank.com

And check out the coverage from the Save Southbank event here on Caught in the Crossfire: www.caughtinthecrossfire.com/skate/save-southbank-weekend

Nick has been filming with our friend Phil Evans for a forthcoming project: the screengrab at the top comes from filming at South Bank yesterday. We'll check back with Phil shortly. You can find out more about his previous project here: www.formatperspective.com.

  • April 20, 2013
  • By Isle
  • in Blog

Sylvain Tognelli Turns Pro For Isle!

While some of us were punching keyboards trying to get the Isle site live at 9am on Friday 22nd March, Nick Jensen and our friend Jake Harris were heading over to Lyon to surprise Sylvain Tognelli with the news that he was going to be our new pro rider.

When we had the first thoughts of starting up Isle, Sylvain was the first person that I wanted to be a part of it. To me he personifies what has always interested me about skateboarding and that goes from his skill to his attitude. I am so stoked to have him part of Isle – and for us to be the company to give him his first pro model, I could not be happier.
Paul Shier

Keeping the news secret from Sylvain was difficult (we had to rename and edit artwork files when he was here in the studio so the surprise wasn't spoilt), but we managed it. Sylvain survived a celebratory dousing of champagne and his two debut pro models form a key part of our first season of board releases.

Surprise, Sylvain Tognelli! You're Pro!

Jake Harris caught up with Sylvain last week to get his thoughts on turning pro:
 
So Sylvain, how are you finding being a professional skateboarder? Has it changed the way you view your role and responsibilities?

I don't think about it too much. I make plans for trips, sections, all kind of projects. I know that I can bring something, but Isle has just started and what matters right now is what we bring as a group or as a company: I spend more time thinking about this. A lot of friends want to have my board though. It's gonna be a logistical nightmare!

Do you feel at all robbed of aspiration now or do you think the desire to progress will remain natural?

It's the contrary, I feel that I never allow myself to give all I have inside... I want to burn out! I started skateboarding quite late and the desire to progress is definitely still here.

The surprise came at the end of a steady month of travelling when you landed in your old haunt Lyon: what have you been up to?

We were with Nozbone skateshop in Portugal for a bit, filming for their video coming out at the end of 2013. Before this, I was surfing in Morocco with my girlfriend and getting lost in the mountains.

You’ve been roped into filming with me for the Grey video at the eleventh hour. Are you enjoying the cruelty of a post-winter deadline? Or do you not feel as much pressure because of the nature of this project?

I don't feel pressure because I started filming recently so I already have an excuse!

We’ve just been on two filming trips. Since you like to be more considered in your approach to spots, how do you deal with skating on trips given the time and pressure constraints?

On a trip, I look at the spot and I skate it for a bit, then I know if I can do something interesting or not. I try to not force myself to get a clip. With this approach, it's better to see as many spots as possible and to be with a small crew – it fits the VX1000 well. If there is someone trying a trick forever, I'll definitely try to skate, forget about filming and have fun. I trust the other skaters' opinions as well: sometimes it's worth filming something that I don't really feel like doing because I might learn to enjoy it in the process. If I'm really into something, it can take one hour, 2 days, I don't care anymore!

Any particularly fond memories from the past couple of trips we’ve been on?

In Valencia when we spray painted 'Isle' on the boards and feeling that everything was about to be released; in London when we discovered this Fire Brigade training spot and skated the cars with fake dead people on the ground; and in Lyon when you lost your phone, we were texting it and we could hear it was there but it still took you five days to find it!

Your skateboarding relies on precision yet you fall with an equal clumsiness: do you feel injury prone? How exactly did you break your hand recently?

I like to try all kind of tricks. I woke up after a night out in Portugal and we went straight skating without eating or anything. I was basically just standing on my board when I fell and my hand got trapped under my body in a carpark gutter.

To what degree do you feel you will contribute to Isle off of your skateboard?

Time will tell, I'm down for different things. I enjoy following Nick and Chris' work with the art direction and they listen to anybody involved's opinion. I feel that I would be better at marketing or sales though, as I know how most of it works. Shier and all the distributors are handling this perfectly now, so all I have to do is skate. I always thought I could be a good team manager but I don't have a driving licence, and this is a big problem in TMs' world.

Are you excited to be on a mission when we come to visit you this month in Berlin? Do you find it hard to be inspired skating familiar territory or the opposite?

It's harder to be satisfied at home, but there are a lot of interesting spots to skate in Berlin. I'm gonna be busy taking care of all you guys' needs anyway!

Sylvain Tognelli - Isle Skateboards
Sylvain Tognelli, hurricane. Photo courtesy of Henry Kingsford/Grey Magazine

  • April 9, 2013
  • By Isle
  • in Blog

Three Weeks on the Isle: a Brief Re-cap

This is the start of our third week of operations, so it's time to do a little update and re-cap on what's been going on behind the scenes here. Firstly, we have to thank everyone who's shown some support for Isle: your feedback and comments have been much appreciated by all of us. We've read your comments – shouts to the Sidewalk and Slap forums for providing much entertainment as well – and spoken to many of you across our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

Extra thanks go to Henry at Grey Skateboard Magazine and Jake Harris for their support in the lead up to our launch.

Product Availability

One of the main questions we've had since the launch has been 'When are the boards coming out – and how do I get one?'.

Both series of graphics will be here at the end of April and then our network of distributors will be getting them out to all of the stores that have ordered. Check with your local store to see if they've placed an order – and if not, drop us a line so we can connect them with our distributors.

Tees, stickers and other merchandise will be available at the same time.

Isle Team – Trips and Projects

Since we put the team together, we've had excursions to Valencia, Lyon and Berlin collecting footage for the upcoming Grey Magazine video, due out at the end of May.

We've also had some great media coverage online, including interviews with Nick, Paul and Sylvain:

Nick Jensen | Slam City Skates
Nick Jensen | Live Skateboard Media
Sylvain Tognelli | Live Skateboard Media
Paul Shier | Deaf Lens

And we heartily recommend reading the interview with our long-time friend and amazing photographer, Oliver Barton, here on Deaf Lens.

In next week's News update, we'll be catching up with one of the Isle team riders. Check back shortly.

  • March 22, 2013
  • By Isle
  • in Blog

Welcome to Isle

The time has come for us to introduce you to Isle Skateboards: a British-born brand brought to you by Paul Shier and Nick Jensen.

We are proud to announce Sylvain Tognelli as our new pro and welcome with open arms Jon Nguyen, Tom Knox and Chris Jones to the team. You can see our debut season of products on our Product page or by downloading our Spring/Summer 2013 lookbook here.

If you like what you see, please take a minute to 'like' our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Thank you for your support!

#WeAreIsle

Contact Isle

 


To purchase Isle products, please contact your local store or distributor. Download our Spring/Summer 2016 lookbook here.


For all other information, please contact us directly using the contact form on the left or by emailing us at: info@isleskateboards.com


We'll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks!