Anthony Burrill launches his graphic ephemera archive to inspire the design community

The website,, contains graphic ephemera that Burrill selected from his physical archive and sketchbooks. It was created in collaboration with designers/developers Neal Fletcher and Richard Nicholls.

There are 500 pieces in the archive, all of which can be filtered by various interesting categories including Ampersand, Arrow, Icon, Illustration, Letterform, Numeral, Stamp, Stencil, Ticket, and Woodtype. Each piece has been modified to appear in black and white, reflecting Burrill’s signature style of using bold, impactful shapes and lettering. “My work is mostly black and white, with maybe a little touch of yellow here and there. I think the power of black and white—the way it’s so strong and the contrast—is just amazing,” says Burrill.

Best known for his letterpress and typographic graphic work, Burrill has always retained physical references that catch his eye. He has made these available to everyone online to demonstrate what inspires him and other people as an open resource. “It’s good to share this material,” he says, “especially the quirky, weird little things that I find fascinating, for people to access. It showcases the kind of graphic language that has always fascinated me, the weird typefaces, and other things that have slipped through the cracks of design history, things so characterful that you probably wouldn’t design today, and also about old-fashioned forms of production : all analogue material, many examples of letterpress, stencils, stickers and Letraset.”

Delve into the collection and you’ll find everything from an illustration in a motion picture to VHS tape transfer advertisement to more personal ephemera like his train ticket from Leeds to London when he started his course at the Royal College of Art. “It’s just sheer luck that I still have this ticket because I put it in my sketchbook,” Burrill tells us. “I could have thrown it away so easily. That is what makes these fragments so important, as they provide a tangible connection to the past.”

What triggered the project? “Like everyone else, I’ve had a lot of free time during lockdown,” he says. “My studio and archive is at home, where I’ve spent days going through boxes of stuff I’ve collected over the years. I cataloged my print archive and organized it chronologically. Now that makes it really useful when I’m trying to find a specific piece of work. During this organizing phase, I returned to my collection of printed ephemera.”

But this is not Burrill’s first creation of such an online archive. “I had already created a website to catalog the collection, but it got lost due to an unforeseen internet glitch. I worked with Neal Fletcher on the original website, so it made sense to speak with him again to develop the new and improved version. The new website has many improvements and a much simpler design and navigation than the original. I intend to continue to add to the new site to create a comprehensive archive of graphic inspiration.”

Browsing the site, which contains no organizational hierarchy and deliberately no text explaining or labeling what each piece is or means, it’s easy to see how this collection of untold graphic design stories continues to influence Burrill’s work. “I’ve always been drawn to very strong, graphic, bold letters,” he continues. “With things like the letterpress patterns, there’s a real power and visual punch to the letterforms – the way they really take up space and the balance between positive and negative space.”

As many of us go through a similar period of reflection after a difficult few years, how does Burrill feel looking back on his career so far? “Oddly, it still feels like I’m just getting started,” he tells us. “Even though I’ve been doing what I do since the early 1990s, I still feel like I have to work at it every day. The moment you think, ‘I made it’, you’re in trouble. I’m always looking for new ways of working and finding interesting people to work with.

“You should constantly cultivate your sense of creativity by looking for new inspiration in unlikely places. It’s good sometimes to look back and see the things I was involved in with a sense of satisfaction. But I’m getting more and more interested in what’s next.”

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