Spotlight on Leigh Bagley: Blending Tradition with Digital Innovation
Leigh Bagley, the creative force behind The Graphic Pattern Studio, is redefining design traditions with his fresh and dynamic design aesthetic. With a background as a knitted textile designer, Leigh graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and went on to establish his print studio in 2012, initially selling Limited Edition artwork. Leigh’s collaboration with us brings his fun, graphic style to a collection of commercial wallcoverings.
Blending traditional design methodologies with cutting-edge digital technology, Leigh creates surface patterns that are brimming with geometric motifs, captivating forms, and an explosion of colour. His work is driven by a strong sense of contemporary graphic aesthetics, drawing inspiration from everyday surroundings and his deep appreciation for the modernist movement. Leigh’s print work has garnered acclaim from leading architecture and interior design companies, as well as private clients and collectors worldwide.
Newmor sat down with Leigh to delve deeper into his design journey, gain insights into his life beyond work, and discover the inspirations that fuel his creative endeavours. Get ready to uncover the story behind Leigh Bagley’s artistic evolution and the passion that drives his designs.
How did you get into Design?
I specialised as a knitted textile designer graduating from the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London in 2000. I fondly look back at this period in my life, the opportunity to be creative without restrictions was so important and enjoyable. Being able to take creative risks and working collaboratively across disciplines was creatively grounding and challenging. The knowledge gained at this time has given me a solid foundation to work from. I still use processes, methods and techniques of working which aid my creative journey to this day. I set up my textile design studio in 2012 following a freelance design career and prioritising my part-time lecturing job at The Glasgow School of Art, I missed having a creative output designing for myself. The decision to set up a studio and design initially under my own name was something I’d wanted to achieve since graduation. My practice now dovetails with my lecturing at The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) enabling me to enjoy all aspects of design practice and education.
Pictured above: Leigh’s work, left, and Leigh’s wallcovering, KEF Grey.
What inspires your work?
I’m hugely inspired by modernism, the Bauhaus, minimal ceramics, architecture, and interiors. But really I’m inspired by everything! There’s a great quote from Paul Smith which really resonates: Paul Smith: “You Can Find Inspiration in Everything – And If You Can’t, You’re Not Looking Properly”
I love design in all its guises but I’m inspired mostly by mid century design over the past 20 years. Icons such as Dieter Rams, Alessi, Marc Newson and Phillipps Stark, brutalist architecture, Bridgit Riley, Eames, I could go on and on. Hella Jongerius is also a huge influence on my work. She’s taken a look at the way colour behaves, exploring shapes, materials, shadows and reflections which I find incredibly fascinating.
Shadows, the built environment, a skyline, technology, archives, permanently having a camera with me on my phone enables me to capture anything I see that inspires me. Being an educator is also incredibly inspirational and rewarding, seeing a new designers development is enriching.
Alongside my colour obsession and when looking for design motifs I tend to start with a quick sketch or drawing, taking inspiration from research or photographs I’ve collected on my travels. My last collection of wallpaper designs are all inspired by the work of Jean-Pierre Vitrac exploring imbroglio shapes adding rhythm and colour to interior spaces. Each design is based around a square tile format made up of 8 individual shapes mirroring the lunar cycle. The contemporary colour palettes hail the Summer of 1951 and the festival of Britain 70 years ago. Vitrac’s iconic design aesthetics are echoed throughout this collection, playful shapes and sweeping curves are juxtaposed and offset by the tile format with architectural forms and repeating shapes throughout. The collection includes five chromatic families where neutral colour backgrounds sit amongst warmer, brighter shades. Within each of these families, there are four complimentary palettes.
The digital drawing process offers endless possibilities so simplifying forms down to basic shapes has its challenges. I draw in adobe Illustrator creating images that are vector based. This software uses mathematic equations and geometric primitives (points, lines, and shapes) to create art that is clean, and can be scaled infinitely, without any loss of quality. This is incredibly important as what might be a small detail in a drawing might become a defining form in a large scale wallpaper design.
You’re a lecturer and designer. How do you balance work and life?
Working digitally and working remotely allows me the flexibility to grab chucks of time when I can. Having three fixed days through in Glasgow at GSA helps and I make the most of the 4hr a day commute running my studio on a laptop, answering emails, completing tax returns, book keeping and trying to carve out the ever diminishing creative design time. That being said, the two days in my studio at home on the East Coast of Scotland is great and a very creative place to work.
You work with design students every day. What advice would you give for a young designer starting out in the industry?
Firstly, cherish everyday at art school being creative without boundaries, and secondly, if you’re not making mistakes you’re not trying hard enough. When you graduate your creativity, originality and passions remain but you’ve now got to work within certain parameters which can seem frustrating at first. I always say to our graduates: no matter what academic grade you have on a piece of paper, it’s your portfolio and you that will get you a job, or your first commission or licensing job. If the employer likes your work and has a connection with you then they will want to work with you.
Pictured Above: Leighs 3D work.
Are there any projects have you worked on that have pushed you outside of your comfort zone?
Creatively every project has it challenges and working on my own can trigger imposter syndrome symptoms where you begin to question everything! I really enjoy being pushed creatively and providing clients with creative outcomes that they wouldn’t have considered but absolutely love. I guess what really pushes me outside of my comfort zone is sometimes the scale of the commission or project I take on. I’m currently working on a wayfinding commission for a new large corporate head quarters in Edinburgh adding pattern and colour to the interior scheme across 8 floors and 280,000square feet of beautiful office space, it’s quite daunting but I’m loving it.
Could you talk about your work in colour consultancy and how it influences your practice as a designer? What do you think is most important: Great colour or great design?
For me the two go hand in hand but I would say colour has the edge on importance. Whether it’s a two dimensional printed wallpaper or everyday object like a car or item of clothing we all have an emotional connection with colour, great designs follows and is enhanced by appropriate use of colour. Clients generally lack confidence with colour and think that it is just because they don’t like a certain colour then they can’t use it. It is so important to choose colour carefully. Whilst I don’t believe there isn’t a single colour that can’t be used the proportion of any one colour should be carefully considered.
My creative process starts with colour – I’m slightly obsessed! I’ve always been interested in how other people perceive colour and use it in their own environments. My prints explore interactions of colour through geometric composition, each one meticulously planned, every hue, proportion, saturation and opacity of colour is considered. I’m constantly capturing colour references on my phone from nature to architecture, food to packaging. Surrounding yourself with unusual and unexpected colour proportions and compositions is very inspiring. I don’t however look at colour trends, or buy into the notion of ‘colour of the year’! I believe colour is a personal, emotional connection with an object, surface or product and should reflect your aesthetic taste and emote feeling and expression. Covering your walls for instance with ‘today’s must have colour’ to me seems pointless and lack integrity. Quite a lot of the work I do as a textile designer has evolved over the past 10 years and clients are increasingly looking for creative input on Colour, Material & Finish (CMF). So I guess the term textile designer should be re-contextualised as a CMF designer to better reflect the range of design elements covered in contemporary projects.
Pictured Above: Leighs work.
Place – A beach, preferably a deserted Greek one or here in East Lothian where we have miles of beautiful coast line perfect for a wind swept dog walk.
Food – I’m a chocoholic, do I need to say anymore!
Drink – I love trying new cocktails especially whisky based ones.
Music – Electro Pop / Acoustic Chill 80’s/90/s classics, I’ve got quite an eclectic mix of listening genres.
See Leigh’s work in our Digital design Studio Brochure here