“I guess I’m just a bit of a geek. I just love listening to music.”
Interview: Dorothy

Dorothy-Electronic Stamp Album-1

Combining a love of music and graphic design, we spoke to Dorothy’s Jim Quail about his creative process, wordplay and “falling down holes of research”…

Coming together in 2010 after stints in the world of advertising, Dorothy – Ali, Phil, Jim and Tich – are a design studio based in Liverpool and specialise in “conceptual prints, products and artworks”. Their design work has been exhibited locally and internationally. Located in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, Dorothy’s studio doubles as a small gallery space. Their latest set of prints, the “Stamp Albums”, draws on Jim’s love of music.

The Double Negative: Hi Jim, tell us about how this latest idea came about.

Jim Quail: The stamp albums, if I look back on things, certain things come out of wordplay. So, stamp albums lead to the idea of reimagining albums in a stamp form. They’re kind of puns. But the genesis of the stamp albums, was, before doing this, I worked on something that was incredibly research heavy – the series of blueprints. It was the one for alternative rock. Through that it involves researching the bands, their relationships and connections, in a geographic, chronological flow kind of way. I spent months of falling down research holes of books, and Wikipedia, of course. Then relaying out, and it becomes so mentally intense that I need a sorbet after it. Something that was the opposite – pattern making, illustrative, a response to musical input.

I just wanted to listen to music and respond visually, in a small, graphic, bold kind of way. Again, it was wordplay, but the idea came along from listening to a load of albums, then reducing something complex into a graphic image. Then the idea of post came – post-punk, -rock, -hardcore. At the time I was listening to a lot of post-punk, so it was perfect. It was a case of taking my interests, enjoying them and then representing them.

What is your starting point?

With the first couple of blueprints, I was going through a very electronic phase. I was discovering things and that led to taking it further and further then putting them out there. With the stamp albums, it was stuff I like listening to then thinking what surrounds that. A lot of times it’s personal choice, so people always pull you up on what you left out! That’s fine, it gives people things to talk about.

“As I research, and people suggest people, it’ll open up a new kind of thing”

Do you find it hard to say “that’s enough now”?

It really is [hard to stop with the research]. Sometimes I have to stop when I realise I’ve been reading for three hours and it’s nothing to do with what I’m doing. I feel the guilt, have to stop and move on! The good thing with us, is that Ali will say, “this is done, you can stop now!” You can sometimes also get lost in things and miss key albums, of course! I love the kind of discovery thing. It’s happened for me and then onwards. As I research, and people suggest people, it’ll open up a new kind of thing. On the stamps, you can just draw a new picture – on the blueprints, you might have to move everything round because of the connections.

What kind of things inform your visual response?

Intentionally I try and avoid the [original] sleeves. I try and do something that’s in the music, lyrics or meaning. If there’s nothing in there, sometimes you’ll come back to responding to how it originally looked. With Kraftwerk, it’s hard. You can’t directly copy something, but I wanted it to be all kind of repetitive, slightly skewed, so that things feel like that motorik beat – a consistent, driving thing, then tweak it in to something that looks like it could be something from that album. Another cover-inspired one is the Gary Numan – even though it isn’t the cover, the cover image is indelibly in my mind of that weird triangle, pyramid, rather, that he sits with. Then you’ve got the Giorgio Moroder – I just wanted it to feel sun kissed – that expansive, sunny horizon – but bringing in the metaphors of glitch, and skewed lines.


The word curator, or curatorial, is incredibly overused nowadays, but to me, this seems to be how you work. It’s not just making lists.

I guess I’m just a bit of a geek. I just love listening to music. To me the joy is sitting and listening to stuff and then share. When we put out the blueprints, somebody got in touch to say they were using it as a game – them and their friends would get together, move it around and listen to the tracks together. That’s the kind of thing I get as I do it. I stick on whoever I’m thinking about and plot it out. If people are doing that in response, I felt super happy.

That must have been really satisfying?

I found it so incredibly flattering, because a lot of it is just stuff we all wanna do, and then it gets out there crazily! I’ve always done stuff outside of work, just because it was just fun. It’s just fun.

“It’s a weirdly emotional experience to map these things out”

Does the whole team feed in to the process? How?

It does just flow, That’s the nice thing of the three of us – one if us will start doing something and the others will say why don’t you put it with that. We’re all a little bit different and we like to keep doing slightly different things, but we all definitely feed in. Everything is a shared experience – especially with these. It’s a conversation that one of us will start.

It also seems incredibly personal – like a passion project.

Yeah – with these, the stamps and the blueprints, it felt like it’s portions of your life. You associate with times of your life, and places. I found it a really emotional experience – it’s sections of my life. You remember where you where, what you were doing. Certainly, with the indie one, it was very much my life. I could plot school days, college, then the bit you were a bit embarrassed about. You can place where you were. These are effectively people’s musical journeys. It’s a weirdly emotional experience to map these things out. You take personal knowledge then build upon it to make it more expansive and culturally significant.

Mike Pinnington

Stamp Album images, courtesy Dorothy; Dorothy Studio image (body), courtesy Pete Carr 

Posted on 27/11/2018 by thedoublenegative