Beyond the Border

Beyond the Pale

27th August 2018
by Alex Synge

Cover image: Beyond the Border

‘What made me decide to set up shop in Belfast? Love! My wife is from Antrim. We met in college in Dublin, but only started going out a decade later. We did the long distance thing for a few years, but after a while, it felt like a logical next step for me to make the move. Working for myself, and in quite a solitary way (my “studio” is just me, a computer and an internet connection) meant I had the freedom to make a move like that.’ 

Dublin-born Alex Synge has been in Belfast for a few years now, working from a desk in Blick Studios. ‘Blick Studios are actually at the forefront of organising a lot of really great events. They are behind Belfast Design Week which only started here in 2015. They also run a lot of workshops, talks, host a podcast. They're great people, and it's nice to be under the same roof as them.’ Belfast is a small city, but Alex reckons it has a really strong creative community for its size. In terms of graphic design, he lists a host of designers and studios he admires: ‘Ciaran Hurson is a brilliant designer – he's behind the identities for Derek Wilson Ceramics, Maven and Envoy of Belfast among others. Rinky Design is great too – he does lots of work with Place NI, Open House Belfast, and Touch Sensitive Records. Tony Moore is fantastic – working between design, signpainting and skateboarding, he has a nice vantage point I think. There are too many to mention really – UsfolkTimothy Farrell, Two Digs and Sort Design are all doing great work...’

Selected spreads from the IMMA Explorer children's activity book, designed for IMMA | Irish Museum of Modern Art by Alex Synge

Although there’s plenty going on in Belfast, relative proximity to Dublin is an advantage. He hopes that sense of closeness doesn’t change in the coming years… ‘Right now the uncertainty of Brexit is casting a big shitty shadow over Belfast. It’s hard not to worry about it a little – I love that I can hop on a bus in Belfast and be in Dublin in two hours. As different as the two cities are, they are so close and so accessible, I really hope it can stay that way.’ 

Souvenir risograph poster designed by Alex Synge to mark the end of The Centre for Experiments With Truth / An tIonad Um Turgnamh le Fírinne, curated by Sara Greavu and the pupils of P6 and P7, Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin in Belfast, as part of the Catalyst at School initiative.

The dark Brexit cloud aside, there are some clear advantages to being in Belfast, Alex reckons. ‘Cost of living and studio rent in Belfast are so reasonable – while it’s not the reason I moved, the idea of trying to live and work in Dublin with current rent and house prices makes me feel weak. As I said, I’m only ever two hours from Dublin, so its closeness to Belfast is a major advantage. I do love Belfast though – it’s a totally different city, with a very different history – but it has lots going on; good people, good galleries, good restaurants and its close to the sea.’

Tote bags for Temple Bar Gallery + Studios Supporters Club designed by Alex Synge

In terms of work, Alex has a few local clients mixed in with more from both sides of the border and further afield. ‘I'm do a lot of print work at the moment – primarily in the arts and cultural sectors which I love, but also for commercial clients and non-profits too. It’s a nice mix, and I can stand behind the people I work with these days, which feels good to say. I’m excited by almost all the work I’m doing right now – while there will no doubt be more bread and butter work on the horizon, I feel like I’m in a good place with work now. That said, I have a drawer of shame like every other designer probably has…’

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