The recent release of the lavish Regeneration boxset heralds the BBCs first serious DVD release of the 50th anniversary celebrations. Here we chat to the very talented designer of this work, Stuart Crouch…
How did you get your first big break into design work?
I’d worked for other design agencies before Peacock but this was my dream job – working on album and DVD covers was something I’d always wanted to do. BBC Worldwide was already a client of Peacock so when Doctor Who came back I pestered the poor product manager until she gave in and let us pitch some ideas.
How do you approach a project like Regeneration?
This was a great opportunity to do something a bit different and my first chance to work with the classic Doctors. The marketing people usually want something quick visually to add to their sales page – this doesn’t have to be the final cover but if you can get it right and it’s liked it’s likely to stick so worth putting in the hours early on. Having all 11 Doctors somehow on the front was pretty much the brief but that was just a suggestion and they were open to ideas.
What was the remit given to you?
Make it something the fans can love and treasure – and I think the word ‘classy’ was used.
Was it a straight forward project or did you encounter lots of problems?
The cover was quite straight forward – it’s a great photo of Matt and beautifully lit (original above) – so that’s most of the work done already. The rest of the package was more tricky – finding the right shot for each Doctor was the main issue. Since the series has come back we have all this great high-end digital photography but the older stuff tended to be shot on grainy 35mm film and the best shots have been seen hundreds of times. We trawled the photo libraries and came up with some rarities for Tom Baker and William Hartnell and also DWM put me onto Steven Cook who had some great rare pics he’d taken of Sylvester McCoy.
Did you have any ideas that were rejected for the book?
Nothing that got as far as the client but ideally I would have liked each spread to be an image from the relevant story – but there just weren’t strong enough pics – I don’t think there’s a single shot of Hartnell from The Tenth Planet. Justin Richards, who wrote the text, also included a brief profile of each Doctor so I felt that gave us free reign to use any image of that incarnation and it not look out of place.
How long did it take to get from original plan to finished product?
What tips do you have for budding designers?
Grow a very thick skin and be prepared to put the hours in.[/pullquote]
(Checks back through emails) 15th January of this year was the initial meeting with the BBC and the last part (the cover sticker) was sent off to print on 31st May. So about 5 months in total, but that’s not continual – there’ll be an intense few days and then nothing may happen for weeks. There’s an approval process and various parties have to give the nod so that can delay things. The book and slipcase went to print at the end of April.
Do you have a favourite regeneration story?
Logopolis - I’ve always loved that story, bonkers though it is. I was 10 when Tom Baker changed, I hadn’t seen any other Doctor on TV as this was before the videos and DVDs. I was gutted – and he underplays it beautifully.
As design has become more and more essential in standing out in an ever increasing media market, what stresses does that bring?
In the current climate more often than not you’ll be invited to pitch ideas for a project along with other designers and design agencies – so it’s a bit of a bun fight. On the plus side it’s an opportunity to get your foot in the door on a job you may not have been considered for as a straight commission and the best man wins. On the down side it’s basically free work so too many projects like that a month can be crippling financially.
How do you view past work? Do you look back with eyes closed or do you feel older work carries personal merit?
It varies – sometimes you remember your artwork being better than it actually was – and it’s a bit of a shock when you come across it again – and visa versa. You discover new ways of doing things all the time so hopefully your technique is improving with experience.
What tips do you have for budding designers?
Grow a very thick skin and be prepared to put the hours in.
Do you feel there are any aspects of design lost in the schooling of new designers?
I don’t think so, no. The process has changed but that’s a good thing. I used to work for a company designing video sleeves and this was pre photoshop – we would blow-up 35mm transparencies onto a colour photocopier with a little projecter, cut out the images with a scalpel and airbrush around it, masking off areas with acetate. It took hours to do the most basic composition – now we have photoshop. I don’t think new designers would get any benefit from going through that, except high blood pressure.
Are there any aspects of design history you feel needs to make a comeback in design in general?
Well, that’s the real trick isn’t it. Everything good does the rounds and that’s true of music and fashion too. Our Doctor Who illustrator, Anthony Dry [co-founder of this very website - Ed], nailed it with his style which pays homage to those Who paintings of the 70s by Frank Bellamy and Chris Achilleos – but contemporises that look.
So what are you working on at the moment?
If I told you I’d have to… you know. Some more top secret Who projects for the 50th – but my lips are sealed!
Stuart Crouch, thank you very much.