Charlotte Audrey Owen-Meehan is an independent artist working in the UK. Her ‘One Direction Album Cover Typography’ caught my eye recently but since having been a fan of her playful and colourful photo-illustration work for quite a while, I thought it was time to ask her a bit more about what she does and how she creates…
Charlotte, what’s your story? How did you get to where you are today? I was born and raised in Birmingham, which is actually a really great place, especially for the creative industry at the moment. Growing up I always had a fascination with popular culture, so I suppose it is sort of natural that I’m doing what I’m doing today!
Which is your favourite creative project to date? Creatively it is really hard to say, but most recently I designed the sets for Pfeffer’s AW14 Press Day, which was really the first time I’d ever approached a set design project of that scale, so I think the challenge was really refreshing. It was totally amazing to be able to design an entire physical space and see it all being installed, which makes such a dramatic change from working on smaller sets for photography based projects. I subtly included the hallmarks of my style into this different environment. I was proud to work for an awesome client that represents some visually exciting designers.
What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? When I was 10 I basically wanted to be Charlotte Uhlenbroek after watching her program where she hangs out with loads of different monkeys in the jungle, she actually communicated with them, Fascinating! But I began to realise I wasn’t a particularly outdoorsy child, so I’m probably better off with my current profession. Although animals do still feature quite heavily in my work and also occasionally on my desk in the form of two cats.
Which UNI did you go to and what did you study? I went to Birmingham City University to study Fine Art, but I transferred after one year to study Graphic Design. I think my current practice occupies the weird space between both disciplines.
What’s the proudest moment of your career to date? As entirely corny as it probably sounds, I feel super proud every time a project is finished and I can look through the printed materials sitting in the real world or in the case of sets see everything finished and built etc, but one of the first times I saw my work printed in a book was definitely a great memory. The book was Lonely Planet’s ‘travel infographic’ collection and the piece I did for it perfectly encapsulated my style and ideal pop culture subject matter.
Which project has been your career highlight? My 3 year career highlight, so far, has probably been designing the last One Direction album campaign, mainly because it is such an incredible phenomena of pop culture to be directly involved with, yet also the overall aesthetic of the album pushed the boundaries creatively of what anyone would expect from a huge pop album, which was awesome to be a part of. There were also so many hand-crafted elements to the campaign which made it unique. It was great to work with Sony and frequent collaborator, Jonny Costello on both this album and the last one. As an Art Director his style is more elegant, refined and slightly darker than mine but we both love actually physically making things and working on music projects, so it’s great to see our two styles meet.
How do you promote yourself? In terms of self-promotion, I’m actually terrible at it and this includes website updates! I’ve been really fortunate in that a lot of great opportunities have landed in my inbox without me having to get in contact with a lot of people, but I have a few exciting things planned for during the summer along with a new website, so hopefully I’ll actually get around to it then!
Do you love or loathe social media? I totally love social media for the instantaneous nature of it, you can really receive great feedback on projects straight away and even make work on a cool instant level, using things like Vine. I find really awesome people to collaborate with and also discover tons of amazing new work. Also on a basic human interaction level, working independently can get sort of lonely, so it’s good to feel like you can talk to people in a similar situation. Plus everyone loves a good cat meme.
Can you tell me about your inspiration for the Elton John - Bennie And The Jets - Secret 7” cover sleeve design? How did you make this composition? This piece of work pretty much combines everything that people have come to see as the hallmarks of my style, metallic stuff, bright colours and weird objects. Essentially I kind of liked the surreal, made up glam rock band who are the subject of the song, so for the cover, I kind of wanted to imagine what one of their record sleeves would look like, and designed this. I photographed everything, and re-touched a little bit afterwards, I think photo-illustration is definitely an ideal way of working for me, as there’s a good mixture of brought elements and made objects, which I really love.
Which tools do you use to create stuff? As far as possible, I really love to physically make things, especially when creating sets or making photo-illustrations and especially when it comes to typography I will always prefer hand drawing type over using existing typefaces. I think it just adds a really nice idiosyncratic element to work, which makes that project just feel like something entirely unique. After making things in the realms of the physical I use a lot of the usual Adobe suspects to finish artwork. Although I do really like to use Illustrator to plot out photo-illustrations and also to draw type and the occasional vector illustration. The ease of having everything so instantly at our disposal and being able to combine it with more traditional methods just makes ‘right now’ a super exciting time to be working.
Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration in everything, being a firm believer that there shouldn’t be such a thing as ‘high’ or ‘low’ culture. I take in everything from pop videos and great visual merchandising in stores to the diaries of Andy Warhol and a lot of artists who’s work is mostly rooted in appropriation, such as Claes Oldenburg and Richard Prince, and more surreal work such as that of Rene Magritte. I don’t really believe that design should inform other design; I think you just have to be inspired by anything and everything you see and hear.
What’s your favourite music to work to? It ranges from The Talking Heads to Wiley. Literally. I’ll always love most things DFA release, but then there’s actually a lot of Taylor Swift in the mix too recently. Basically all people that I really, really want to design covers for…
What do you spread on your toast in the morning? Bonne Maman’s Berries and Cherries is the ultimate toast accompaniment, or a mandarin marmalade that I’ve got super into recently. The toast has to be specifically almost like warm bread, and there is usually a green tea happening somewhere.
What are you working on at the moment? Currently I'm working on a few really exciting projects for an ‘up and coming’ clothes and accessories designers, and also a couple of great album covers that I'm looking forward to being released, alongside a video project for the first time! There's also a book project I'm working on which involves a lot of fruit, so watch this space!