Ben Freeman is the Founder and Creative Director of Future Artefacts, Ditto Press and Art Director for Mushpit magazine amongst many other titles and projects. He recently confirmed he will be joining London College of Fashion as a Practitioner-in-residence for the spring and summer terms, where he will be working with Fashion Communication students. We spoke to him to hear what he hopes to bring to LCF.
Ben started his career in the late 1980s, making satirical fanzines before creating flyers for squat raves during the 90s. Visual arts have always been Ben’s passion. He previously worked for Vice Media and other publications before going his own way and co-founding Ditto in 2009. He is one of the UK’s frontmen when it comes to balancing how companies manage publishing and objectivity in the digital age, taking printing into new territory.
Many might already be familiar with his psychedelic art or his work on James Unsworth’s Ninja Turtle Sex Museum. He is a leading voice and household name in the publishing business after working on some of the industry’s most exciting prints by Pigs’ Disco by Stuart Griffiths to Liam Hodges Locked On.
Ben will be working with BA (Hons) Creative Direction for Fashion, BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism, MA Media Practice and Criticism and BA (Hons) Public Relations & Communication. We spoke to him ahead of the summer term.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you became a Publisher, Art Director, and Creative Director?
I started self-publishing zines in 1990 when I was 12, and then throughout the 90s when I was heavily involved with the illegal rave scene. My zine was called The Recovery Position and featured collages and interviews with musicians like Nasenbluten. I left school when I was 16 and went back to college when I was 25, studied communications at Camberwell and the RCA and started publishing FUN magazine and working for Vice in its early days. I then started Ditto as a print publishing company, and throughout all of that time worked on art direction projects having always had a strong interest in photography, archives and image making. I am also the art director for Mushpit magazine, and I share a love of satire and chaos with its editors, Bertie Brandes and Charlotte Roberts.
What’s a normal day like for you…
I spend all of my time working with different people, on various projects, mostly in London but sometimes in other parts of the world. I prefer working collaboratively and I currently have my own photo studio and gallery. In between group working I try to get time to catch up on admin and do my own research. Typically at one time I will be art directing a magazine, working on a larger scale commercial job and working with fashion designers on shows, lookbooks, campaigns and so forth, along with any Ditto publishing projects or Future Artefacts events that might be happening.
What’s been the driving force for Future Artefacts and Ditto Press?
Both Ditto and Future Artefacts are about physicality, Ditto reflects my personal tastes and aesthetic, Future Artefacts is about our interest in the future of the object. The driving force behind all of it is really my curiosity about human nature and visual culture, whether that’s fashion or politics or any other area. I have quite specific tastes and interests and these are reflected in our output.
Both businesses celebrate physical media: Has the digital revolution created a new vacuum to champion physical manifestations of contemporary media?
I think that the digital revolution and the post-digital space we are in now did not cause attraction to physical media, they just highlighted a part of human nature that we perhaps didn’t need to pay attention to in the past, namely our attachment to tangible objects.
What do you hope to bring to LCF?
I’d like to think that I would bring a new perspective on creative thinking and production, and that I would be able to challenge students I get the chance to work with in the way they approach any project, not solely with regards to publishing. I have very diverse interests outside of the mainstream of academic thought and opinion, and I enjoy hearing students ideas and perspectives.
Have you come across or been impressed by any LCF student or alumni work recently?
Robyn Fitzsimons is really great.
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