With an illustrative approach to typography and a typographical approach to illustration, Charles Williams, who works under the alias Made Up, is harder to pigeonhole than most. The illustrator, typographer, and designer has a unique portfolio of work that brings type and image so closely together it’s sometimes difficult to ascertain where one starts and the other stops.
Hailing from Manchester in the north of England, and based now in Stoke Newington, London, Williams started out as a graphic designer. “I was a bit frustrated with working at an agency and wanted to apply my stylistic nuances to my own work, which, of course, is not ideal for corporate graphic design. But it’s great for illustration. So, without hardly any planning or thought about things such as money, rent, or food, I went freelance.”
The Made Up alias was chosen thanks to his time in Liverpool, where he studied graphic arts at the same art school John Lennon attended. “In Liverpool, when people are happy about something, they say they’re ‘made up.’ I always liked the phrase, for the way it means both joy and something created from one’s imagination. It suggests a fantasy, which I suppose I like aesthetically; the idea of taking people somewhere different visually that feels strange, but positive.”
The origins of his slick, geometric, and orderly aesthetic emerged during Williams’ time as a branding designer, where he spent a vast amount of his downtime working on abstractions of the projects he’d been doing for corporate brands. “I started creating portraits using geometric shapes, using similar typographic principles I worked with on client work,” Williams explains. “This led to some interesting and slightly weird images, an approach I really liked and kept pushing in different directions, creating increasingly abstract and graphic pieces.”
Despite its highly commercial appeal—Williams has worked with Nike, Converse, Adobe, and Google—abstraction is key to why Made Up stands out. “I’m fascinated by the image created by the type, as opposed to the type itself. I’m not too concerned about reflecting literal meaning with illustrated type. I prefer to create semi-abstract, semi-conceptual pieces that invite you to impart your own meaning.”
That blend of commercial appeal and abstract thinking is clearly working. On top of illustrating the cover of the latest issue of Creative Review, Williams just wrapped up the visual identities for two festivals, Bestival in the UK and Bonnaroo in the U.S., both of which generated a great deal of public interest—something we fully expect Williams to garner more of as he continues to carve the path that’s got him to where he is now.