Simon Dixon co-founded DixonBaxi with Aporva Baxi twenty years ago and has been at the forefront of exceptional design from the start of his career. Like me he’s a Northerner and grew up in Yorkshire. This year DixonBaxi celebrated twenty years in business, and their team of forty work with clients such as WWE, MAX, Premier League, Channel 4 and Netflix.
I spoke to Simon about his influences, team and making a successful agency.
Your early influencers included Wolfgang Weingart, Vaughan Oliver and 8vo. All of which push the boundaries of graphic design and produced distinct, individually recognised pieces of work, is this something you emulate with, at DixonBaxi?
Those were formative influences for me, alongside people like Rauschenberg, Rothko and Albers. Artists and designers who showed you could create unconventional and highly crafted work. It was liberating. I love people who are maverick or have the confidence to create what they believe in. The contrast of 8vo with Oliver, for example, is inspiring. Two entirely different approaches but both magnificent because they are so pure.These influences were very early in my career, quite a while before we founded DixonBaxi, so the literal influence has faded, but the desire to be independent of mind and create work defined by what we love and care about remains. I like focusing on our approach to design and not worrying about trends or styles.
Do you think it’s important for young, emerging designers to be educated in both design and pop culture history?
It’s incredibly useful and inspiring to understand the context of where your work and the industry, in general, is relative to significant moments from the past. It can lift you and motivate you to be bold with your work. There is also a considerable amount of knowledge, craft, and insight to be gained. We can all see every new piece of work create instantly, and there is an incredible stream of in the moment influence. So homogenisation and trends are rife. Dipping into the past frees you of this for a time. You can skip through disciplines or periods and let them fuel new ways to look at your work. It also helps you build your critical eye to your armed with greater confidence when developing more original work.
Throughout your career, what books, both design and non-design related, have inspired your creative practice?
Wow. There’s a lot of choices! To narrow it down, I’ll pick three typography examples that I loved early on. They don’t specifically frame my work, but they frame my mindset. Experimentation with high craft. 8vo’s Octavo was a powerful and early inspiration. I bought them as they came out and at the time they were very expensive. They became treasures I kept in my early studios.[Octavo 86.1 – Hamish Muir](https://hamishmuir.com/8vo/work/octavo-86-1)
The journal Typographische Monatsblätter blew my mind. The sheer energy of how they approached typography and design. Ihttp://www.tm-research-archive.ch/ When Lars Muller published Weingart’s Typography: My Way to Typography, I treasured this as it pulled together some much incredible information and examples. [Typography | Lars Müller Publishers](https://www.lars-mueller-publishers.com/typography) Non-design, a recent book I enjoyed was Factfulness. Though flawed in some areas, the underlying positivity and desire to look at facts is powerful. [Factfulness (the book) | Gapminder](https://www.gapminder.org/factfulness-book/)
With more emerging technology and an increase in independent publishing, what do you think about the future of publishing?
It is becoming increasingly democratised, and there are so many more ways to reach your audience directly. This means you can build an audience quite quickly and bring people together around ideas and content. You’re also free to do that whenever and whoever you want. You don’t need a company or publisher to facilitate this. You can publish and be damned!
What tips can you give to agencies trying to push the limits and make a success in an international market?
Create work you love. If you start there, you’ll be happier. Don’t compromise this. As soon as you put off doing the work you want to create, the harder it gets to build a body of work. Define success on your terms. Titles, money, awards mean nothing if you’re not happy creating the work you want to. So work the way that suits you, do the things you feel excite you.Try to invent and be wary of being swept up in the tidal wave of influence and trends on social media. Use it as fuel but find your approach. Trends and styles come and go.
Great creativity and invention become timeless.In terms of success, the better your work, the better the clients. So hard work and time help. Try to craft the very best you can with every piece of work and build a portfolio that is developing and growing. Don’t settle. Keep pushing.Share your work with people. Be active and consistent in how you build connections. Talk to as many people as possible. If you want to progress your career, cultivating a broader range of people hugely increases your chance of success. However, doing so without an agenda or immediately needing something from people is more effective long term. Think about what you bring to the party before you ask for something.