Graphic designer, art director, surface designer, filmmaker, animator; Sam Coldy could be described as any or all of the above. “When people ask me what I do, I don’t really know what to say. I kind of try and do everything,” says the young Londoner of his practice. Whatever label you choose to give him, there’s no denying he can turn out a great image, manufacture an engaging gif, and put together some pretty compelling short films—all this in spite of an unorthodox route into the profession.
“I kind of quit art when I was 15,” says Coldy. “I just didn’t enjoy doing it, and switched to design and technology. Nobody ever told me at school that you needed to do an art foundation, so once I got to university I felt completely behind everyone else who had a proper art education and got to experiment with all sorts of different media.
“I went to Leeds but had a gap year in London, and got to know people that were in bands—that’s where I got my interest in music really. I hated being up north after spending a year in London.”
After trying and failing to transfer to both Brighton and Camberwell, Coldy was accepted to London Metropolitan University, where he threw himself into professional work, if not his academic studies. Close friends in bands started using his talents for their album art and gig posters, and as they got signed to bigger and better labels, Coldy came with them, eventually ending up with regular work for the talent at Columbia Records. “I did that for ages and then it came to the point where I wanted to branch out and do some different stuff, because you start getting pigeon-holed.”
Though Coldy found success thanks to the music industry, he’s clear it can be a complicated world to work in. “That whole industry is frustrating,” he says, “and after a couple of years you realise there’s no money. I was getting paid more money a couple of years ago for doing smaller projects than I am now for bigger ones. They just say they don’t have the budgets.
“There’s too many cooks in the kitchen a lot of the time: you’ve got the band, the managers, everyone in the art department, the head of label and then you. It can become quite a difficult environment. I definitely enjoy it though.”
The past couple of years have seen Coldy diversify his output, continuing to work with clients in the music industry—including a particularly visible collaboration with grime star Jammer—but taking on high-profile clients like Penguin and Nike in other sectors. All of them approach him for his extraordinary eye for texture, pattern and color, not to mention a desire to innovate with each new commission. Up next? “I definitely want to do more pattern and textile stuff, but it’s really just a case of getting the clients to do it.”