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Meet freelance designer and illustrator Steve Simpson. Originally from Manchester and now based in Ireland, Steve works on packaging design, children’s books and illustration projects and has won several awards for his work. Accolades include winning Best of British Illustration Awards, gold and silver medals at the AOI Images, and a range of international awards also grace his walls and CV. Steve has regularly exhibited work in London and across the Atlantic in LA and New York, and recently hosted a solo show at the Copper House Gallery in Dublin.

He was also a speaker at the OFFSET creative conference in Dublin held at the Grand Canal Theatre earlier this year as well in 2000 and 2010. Steve’s projects blur the boundaries of design and illustration and combine handmade and digital techniques. We talked to Steve about his latest venture, working on a restaurant project called Fade Street Social in Dublin.

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Tell us about yourself and your work…

Basically I’m an illustrator who also takes on the design role on a project. I guess I’m what used to be called a ‘commercial artist’ before the ‘desktop publishing’ revolution took much of the illustration out of graphic design. I’m originally from Manchester but for most of the last 22 years I’ve been working in Ireland. I have a background in traditional TV animation (Danger Mouse & Ninja Turtles) & British comics (The Beano). I studied technical graphics in Portsmouth, UK, during the last days of Grant Enlargers, Letraset and Cow Gum. For the last 20 years I’ve been working as an illustrator for ad & design agencies, locally and internationally. I also work as a children’s book illustrator.

What is the concept behind Fade Street Social?

Fade Street Social is a huge 8000 sq ft project incorporating two restaurants under one roof; The Gastro (tapas) Bar and The Restaurant, along with a winter garden and bar area. It aims to celebrate Irish food and character. Its approach is a departure from the formality of fine dining, while trying to capture the unique sense of humor of the Irish.

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How did this design collaboration come about?

Last June I was contacted by Irish design agency, Neworld Associates, about designing the menu cover for a new restaurant they were branding. Neworld have been a regular client for the last 10 years and they know my work pretty well at this stage. Creative director, Gary Gleeson and restauranteur, Dylan McGrath and myself sat down in a city centre hotel bar and discussed the project one evening. To fully understand the size and vision of the project I was given a tour of the restaurant building which was mid restoration. Based on our conversation I produced the initial roughs which were well received with few amendments. The artwork was produced in Photoshop. I needed to work much larger than the actual menu size so the artwork could also be hung on the wall. The working file size was around 1.5gb with over 1,000 layers.

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Which elements of Irish life inspired your menu cover?

I think the most obvious inspiration comes from the Irish sense of humour. Putting a certain amount of Irishness into the design was an important requirement of the brief. Despite the lingering post ‘Celtic Tiger‘ recession, we haven’t lost the ability to laugh. There’s a lot of traditional Irish food on the menu and I wanted to use those ingredients to populate the cover. I thought a fun direction would be to turn the animals into the real heroes of the kitchen.

Do you feel that the end result will successfully capture the imagination of Fade Street Social customers?

The customer feedback has been fantastic. The venue itself has a real eclectic feel, lots of artwork on the walls and the attention to detail in the fittings is just as impressive. The triptych of the menu illustration, printed 4ft high across the reception as you enter the restaurant also works extremely well.

Check out more of Steve’s work on his website and on his Behance page. You can also follow him via Facebook and Twitter @SteveSimpson to interact with him and to see more of his work and news updates.

Fade Street Social can be visited at Fade Street, Dublin 2., Ireland.