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Martin Pyper / Designer

“Don’t take yourself so seriously, because no one else does”

Even before going to art school, Martin Pyper knew he wanted to become a graphic designer. Born in Bristol, Martin lived in France and is now based in Amsterdam. After a successful career at all the big agencies (VBAT, PPGH/JWT, FHV/BBDO) Martin decided to go about it alone, starting with a single client. "I felt I’d earned enough credits and knew enough people to make it." But real life isn't always that simple.

Were you born a designer? No, but I knew from an early age that I wasn’t going to be an academic. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years, but I’m still learning. There’s this thing about having 10,000 flying hours to become good at anything. Every job takes a lot of energy and mistakes and existential doubts … [chuckles].

You moved around quite a lot from an early age, to France, for instance, where your dad took up a job teaching English. What effect did this have on you? People often ask me how I manage to speak such good Dutch, and I think it’s because I learned to adapt quickly. It makes you a good observer of body language and how things work. It also gives you a broader horizon because you’re constantly seeing different types of people and places.

But I’m a bit of a loner and I work alone in my studio, and that’s probably partly due to that. You get used to your own company.

What did your mum do for a living, and what were your parents like? My mum was a geriatric nurse, a carer who also worked with AIDS patients for a while. She grew up on a farm as one of five children, so she was very practical but also very unassuming. My dad was the life and soul of the party – funny, entertaining, outgoing. He was into politics and history, and I was obviously emulating him when I wrote my two books about the Second World War at the age of ten. My parents shaped my morals and values. They weren’t hippies, but they were relaxed and very left wing. There was always music playing in the house – The Beatles, Dylan – and they encouraged us to read. I still discuss books with them.


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