(Warning: this post contains lots of Daves.)


Dave Dye was telling me about Dave Wakefield.

Dave Dye says Dave Wakefield is the best typographer there is.

But what fascinated him wasn’t his understanding of type design.

Dave Dye said Dave Wakefield told him he’d been in a band when he was young.

Okay, nothing surprising there, lots of people were in bands when they were young.

But Dave Wakefield says he was in a band with David Bowie (or David Jones as he was then).

This fascinated Dave Dye.

He asked Dave Wakefield what David Bowie was like as a youngster.

Dave Wakefield said they always knew he was going to be a star.

Just because he wasn’t anything like the rest of them.

Dave Wakefield said it was his music.

The rest of them just collected their favourite type of records: mainly rock and roll.

But David Bowie collected everything; really weird stuff they’d never heard of

Stuff they wouldn’t dream of listening to.

Show tunes from Broadway musicals, ‘oompah’ music from brass bands, country and western music, Japanese music, whale songs, men playing the spoons, opera.

Dave Wakefield said the rest of the group didn’t even know a lot of this music existed, much less where you’d buy it.

And it certainly wasn’t the sort of thing they wanted to listen to.

But you could tell David Bowie was taking it all in.

And he was going to use it one day.

And nobody else around was listening to anything like it.

So there wouldn’t be anyone around like him.

And Dave Wakefield said you could feel that unusual star quality.

Not wanting to look where everyone else was looking.

Knowing that it had all been done.

Knowing the real opportunity was where everyone else wasn’t looking.

There was an entire world of music out there just waiting.

And no one else was even looking at it.

He could have it all to himself.

And the different combinations he could make would be fresh and unusual because his influences were like no one else’s.

I loved it when Dave Dye told me that.

Because it was exactly what I’d heard, and watched, John Webster, Paul Arden, and Ron Collins doing.

Looking where no one else was looking.

Paul Arden looked in art galleries for unusual modern art.

John Webster looked in American comics and British propaganda from the 1940s and 1950s.

Ron Collins looked at Renaissance art, Botticelli in particular.

Like David Bowie, these guys started out with a huge advantage.

Everyone else was fishing in the same little advertising pond.

These guys were fishing in a huge ocean of two thousand years of creativity.

And that’s what star quality probably is.

It’s about confidence.

If you don’t have the confidence to be different, to stand out, you’ll want to be part of the herd.

The reassurance of looking in the same places as everyone else.


But then of course, your work will end up looking like everyone else’s.








  1. I think the point is John, the hipsters aren’t being far out.
    They’re following each other in tighter and tighter concentric circles until they inevitably disappear out of sight.
    What (particularly) John Webster was doing was the opposite.
    Looking at mass market media, just not from right here, right now.
    His ‘Humphries’ campaign came from WW2 propaganda.
    His Honey Monster came from Sesame Street.
    John Smiths came from Andy Capp.
    Tic Tac came from a US comic strip ‘Terry and the Pirates’.
    Hofmeister came from the Fonz in Happy Days.
    Cresta came from Jules Feiffer cartoons, his reaction from Easy Rider.
    Ron Collins won an award for Escalade, which he got from Boticelli’s ‘Venus Arising From The Sea’.
    Paul Arden won an award for a BA commercial, which came from a 1920s ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ animation.
    Point is, all of them were looking where everyone else wasn’t.

  2. Sorry Dave, that was my slight on the ‘in-crowd’ being wide of the mark in their narrow minded view of the world.
    Always great to hear where inspiration is drawn from.
    Thanks for that.

  3. Brings to mind part of a documentary I watched on a certain Mr Jobs. In it, one of his peers nailed the idea of innovation perfectly. It’s quite simply a matter of ‘joining the dots’ of things/ideas that are already out there. The geniuses out there just have the knack of seeing more dots. And giving the rest of us a bigger picture.

    Just like this particular Dave.

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