INTERVIEW: Kieron Lewis of The Profile Book

The Profile Book is a creative digital platform that is taking the web by storm. An artist profile site from which creatives can showcase their work, it has more recently has been transposed into a covetable printed publication by Kieron Lewis as part of his Final Major Project for university. With the importance of communication at its heart, the initiative began as a way for artists, designers and makers to connect with each other and to organise and share their work online.

The site is now run by a team of four talented creatives: Nicola Manuel, Sarah Benson, David Sinnet, The Profile Book’s original founder and Kieron, the project’s lead designer. In this dual set of interviews, YOUNG GOLD TEETH discovers how The Profile Book came into being, where it’s headed and a great deal more about the printed publication from Kieron Lewis. Read another YGT interview with Kieron here.

How did The Profile Book start?

It started up when a colleague of mine had the idea of creating a platform for students and artists to showcase their work from and it was very early days, very fresh. He told me to get on board and I thought, ‘cool, why not?’ Then I basically decided to make it into my FMP. Originally it was a case of creating the Profile site, redesigning the site and content. Then I realised, hang on, I want to make it more. It’s my FMP and you only get one shot at doing what you want to do. I had become quite interested in publications and editorial design, and thought it would be a shame to forget what i’d learnt with Plog, so I decided to create a publication.

Tell us more…

All it is is filtered down from the online version. I wanted to make it really personal so certain pages reflect artist’s styles. I knew also that consistency of typographic design and colour in the experimental stages of something is important, you don’t want to create something that’s too much for the reader. The book contains a selection of 27 submissions and obviously while this was coming together it was FMP time for the contributors too. It was insane trying to keep in contact with everyone via email and skype. It was fun but it was crazy.

Did you reach out to people you wanted to feature or did creatives approach you?

When this first started there were only four people submitting to the site. I never knew who they were and all it was was a profile explaining that the project was in its early stages that that it would build up and grow in time. Basically saying ‘if you want to get on board, now is your chance to’. I did have people in mind that I really wanted to feature and thought, ‘this is Profile’s first print. I really have to hit the ground running and make it the best it can be’. So in terms of people featured, there’s a list of people I do know but the majority I don’t, which is quite nice. As I started making the print I noticed a lot more people began submitting and it wasn’t just creatives from within the UK. I found myself adding more people to the print and thought I had better stop because it was getting pretty crazy.

Why did you interview 27 creatives in total?

It was going to be 15, so it nearly doubled in terms of what I had wanted. I kept finding more great content online and thought it would be a shame not to include it in the print. I had an excel spreadsheet, which grew ridiculously large, of all the different disciplines, names and addresses and it became a case of filtering it down to the best content that we could have in the print.

Obviously there’s so much great work online but I had to narrow it down in terms of what people would really want to read and make it fair by giving equal space to illustrators and graphic designers. The idea of print was also a bit of a surprise to the contributors – they thought it was all going to be online, but when I told them what I was planning to do they were more than willing to jump on board. I was quite adamant that everyone featured in the print would get a copy, it seemed only fair. That’s still my promise to everyone.

Printing it was tricky because you can’t do one copy and that’s it. You have to create mock-ups and obviously they cost money. I went to a printers in Eastleigh, really nice guys. It was expensive but you have to put money in to get money out. So I was driving back and forth to Eastleigh to work on mock-ups and had a ridiculous pile of possibles. It got to the stage where I had to just choose one because i’d be sat with a pile of paper around me thinking ‘Which one should I choose? What’s going to make the content stand out and look good?’ In terms of content there were a lot of crazy things happening in terms of colour, layout and design and it all had to work in harmony.

I had the book partially laminated because at the degree show everyone would be picking it up, which is all good, but you get little kids running around and it hurts you seeing it messed about with. A lot of time and effort has gone into it, but you get that with print. You can’t keep it wrapped in paper. It was wicked seeing the end product. I remember picking it up on the final day. It was the day before my hand-in so I was thinking, ‘If this doesn’t work, i’m buggered.’ I had about seven copies printed and the printers gave me an extra two so I was happy. I’d spent months on this and seeing the end product was great.

How long did it take to put the digital and printed versions together?

I had the idea in December of last year and finished it over May and June. Obviously during the first three months it was just a website and then I realised I wanted to take it to print. I’ve lost count of the sleepless nights I spent on it. I didn’t go out and socialise or do anything else. It was just me and InDesign, but it paid off.

Obviously the guys involved helped me along. Profile really started off with two people. We needed more help with social marketing and I knew Nicola Manuel, who runs an online platform called Soapbox. She had also interviewed me for Plog. I thought to myself, ‘who do I know that would be a great asset to the team?’ and she was the perfect person. It was myself, Nicola and and David working on Profile online, the print was my own project, while working full time at other jobs and projects.

Did you face any limitations when putting The Profile Book together?

I had experience of online design already but the print was tricky. I spent a lot more time on that side of things. It came to a stage when it was taking me a long time to make mock-ups. You have to make sure everything is perfect in terms of content and it took me a while to gather everything. When it came to presenting my work I never had the most to show which made it difficult for my lecturers to give me feedback.

Finance was also difficult. I can’t even tell you how much it cost but it was a lot. Also in our line of work you can get people who will always be negative about what you do but you just have to take it on the chin. Not everyone’s going to love it and you’ll get the odd comment but you just have to deal with it. For every negative person there are at least four positive people so it’s all good.

My lecturer told me that I had good ideas but that they were too ambitious and that I should stick with either just print or digital but I thought, ‘It’s my FMP, i’m going to go for it. If it fails, it fails but as cheesy as it sounds, you never know until you try.’ It paid off. I had people helping me as I went along. My mate Son, who helped me with Plog, has a fantastic knowledge of editorial design. He was doing something quite similar to what I was doing, utilising print, so we bounced ideas off each other. We lived together too, he was my housemate so we had many sleepless nights of talking about print and

What makes The Profile Book different from other creative platforms?

Myself, Nicola and David sat down and said, ‘we’re not doing something original, this has been done before, but how can we make it different?’ What I see with a lot of art and design blogs is that they focus on marketing and promo but don’t take time to really speak to people and acknowledge everyone that submits work. You’ve got to make that effort, people recognise that. We tried to talk to people to work out why they wanted to submit their work to us. Having that connection meant that contributors have been returning to the site and updating their profiles.

If you decide to move forward with Profile in print, will you change the design for future issues? 

I’m always thinking, ‘how can I make things better? You’re never happy with what you do, right?’ I don’t want to say too much but we like the idea that for each issue we do it could work on the basis of colour. So if you look at them on your bookcase, you can pick out the issues by the spines. As I said though, I can’t give too much away.


Find more here


Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth

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