Meet the brains behind Manchester-based design studio DR.ME

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DR.ME is the brainchild between Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards, who both decided to make their way into design from the bottom, rather than entering the field via working for a design agency.

It’s this independent spirit that sees the pair innovate by colouring outside of the lines. Working together as a much sought-after creative unit, the two produce abstract, offbeat designs from a multiplicity of mediums and retain an ethos of sourcing imagery from physical materials before transferring them to a digital format. This approach lend their designs a unique quality, with undiscovered images pulled from outside the limits of Google search engines.

In 2014, the duo garnered attention for their year-long collage project, a behemoth undertaking that saw the pair create a collage-based piece each day whilst balancing projects for clients. Other outstanding highlights from their wide-ranging portfolio include the design for Talaboman’s 2017 album Artwork for the Night Land, and their artwork for Milwaukee electronic artist Sd Laika’s That’s Harakiri.

One of their most recent projects was Crack Magazine’s annual report. Decorated with stickers of stars and rainbows, the extended spread appears as though it’s been scrawled with seemingly off-the-cuff doodles in the style of a school journal. Below, we catch up with the duo to discuss how DR.ME came to fruition, the annual report and how to stay innovative with their methods of practice.

How did you both get into design? And how did DR.ME begin as a design studio?

Ryan Doyle: I got into design whilst doing a foundation course at Manchester School of Art. I was always into art at school, I was the kid that could draw and people said I was good so decided to pursue it further but didn’t really know what kind of career you could do with art. I originally wanted to study Fine Art but realised that maybe a better move would be to study graphic design just ‘cause I thought I could maybe make some money from drawing and calling it graphic design one day.

Mark Edwards: My mum is a fine artist so I was exposed to the art world from quite a young age; she tried really hard to dissuade me from going into it as she knew how hard it is. I played in bands for a bit and put on gigs but always found making the CD sleeves and posters more interesting than the process of playing and putting on shows.

Ryan: DR.ME began, you could say, on day one of university. We were both paired together on the first day as part of an ice-breaker challenge due to our names being next to each other on the register. We instantly became friends and had very similar aspirations and inspirations, so around the end of second year we decided we were gonna set up or own studio and drunkenly came up with the name DR.ME and went from there.

I read that you two actively decided against starting in a big agency and wanted to start from the bottom yourselves. Why did you take this approach?

Ryan: One of the main reasons we decided to work together was because we both agreed that neither of us had any desire to work in a big graphic design agency. The idea of editing food menus wasn’t that appealing, of course you need to start at the bottom before you get them big jobs but they are never really yours. Why not just start at the bottom yourself, stay true to you, be your own boss and make work which matters and means something to you? It was this ideology we were really interested in and we had also seen it was possible by people like Mike Perry who was a huge inspiration to us and still is. We actually interned for him straight out of university which also cemented this idea that we were gonna go for this ourselves.

Can you recall any standout experiences that have shaped you as designers?

Mark: Probably just deciding to do it for ourselves and make a career out of DR.ME. The whole thing always just blows us away sometimes that we’ve managed to make it work and that people keep coming to us with these crazy interesting jobs from all over the world that are super exciting and keep us inspired to continue working on a day-to-day basis. Would it have been more straightforward to go and work for someone and get a pay packet each month? Totally. Would it have been so fulfilling? I highly doubt it.

Ryan: Also when we designed, curated and published our first book CUT THAT OUT in 2016. I feel that’s when we really felt like ‘designers’, like a seal of approval or something to see. Something you put so much time and work into in places all around the world, like Pompidou in Paris, Tate in London or the MoMA in New York.

Can you explain the thought process behind the design for Crack’s annual report?

Ryan: The thought process was to make it feel a little different to the rest of the issue and to make it feel like a end of year school report or a draft for report itself which is why there is a lot of quick annotations, sketches, drawings. Compiling an end of year report is a lot of work so we wanted to get this idea across which is what led us down the path we took. The elements of collage throughout are reactionary pieces to each essay and relate to the content.

Where did you source the imagery from?

Ryan: We normally source imagery from old books and magazines we pick up from little shops in Manchester, or if we travel to another city we tend to always keep our eyes open for anything we can cut up. Recently we have been using our own photography or friends’ photos. [We] tend to try and avoid Google image searches and we prefer the spontaneity and limitations presented by having to use found physical imagery – something we have always stuck to within our practice is that everything has a handmade quality to it rather than feeling digitally made.

How did you go about compiling the report? And how long did the process take?

Ryan: We printed out each page which was typeset by Crack’s design team, then laid tracing paper over the top and began sketching ideas onto the tracing paper which was then scanned in ready for print. I think for each page maybe we done five different versions before we got to something we liked, we tried various pens, charcoal, paint but in the end we decided on one particular pen. For the essays we also tried three to four different ideas before feeling we had the right one. The class of 2017 images were inverted digitally, printed out, drawn on, scanned back in, inverted, laid out with the type, printed back out, sketched on again and scanned back in. The turnaround had to be quite fast so I think all in all it took just over a week.

What projects have you got lined up for the future?

Ryan: Currently we’re releasing a free digital zine every month called FIN? It features around 20-35 original pieces of work which have been killed or unused on past projects. We released our first print version this year and sold it out so looking to release another two in 2018. Continue to just make good work and collaborate with like-minded brave people.

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