DR. ME is the moniker of Manchester, UK based design duo Ryan Doyle (DR) and Mark Edwards (ME): “Two friends who collectively decided not to go and start from the bottom in some big agency, deciding instead to start from the bottom by themselves.”
After both getting into the design program at the Manchester School of Art & Design, the pair were thrown together during that most mundane of introductory events: “On the first day the tutors put people into pairs to work on an ‘icebreaker’ brief, our names were next to each other so we were paired”. While their beginnings were serendipitous, building a successful career and working relationship wasn’t quite so simple—“There’s been a lot of hard work in-between then and now, and much more still to come.”
Working together presents some very practical benefits for Doyle and Edwards, from simply sharing the workload to offering a fresh creative eye on each other’s work. That kind of open working relationship requires a lot of trust and honesty between the two, but DR. ME find the benefits are worth that little bit of effort: “There’s always someone there to talk to when you hit a wall, [whether that’s] testing something out, adding a different color or taking something away. These things can give a piece a real unusual twist or something you may not of necessarily thought about when working alone.” Working together also means bringing together two unique sets of skills, helping DR. ME work in a wide range of fields. “[Our medium] varies from project to project—at the moment we have work that varies from collage, to painting, to typographic, to straight up design layout.” This approach helps keep things fresh, as they admit “I’d hate for us to be 10 years down the line and still churning out the same kind of stuff.”
Always have fresh scalpel blades, and don’t let the spray mount jam.
One of DR.ME’s latest undertakings is the 365 Days of Collage series, which is pretty much what it sounds like. Every day for an entire year Doyle and Edwards create playful, often bizarre, images from a variety of sources: “Over the years we’ve collected drawers and drawers of found imagery—anything from basketball books that we picked up whilst living in Brooklyn, or an entire collection of National Geographics.” Creating an original piece every day has been excellent practice for the duo. Doyle and Edwards were open about the challenges the 365 days project presents, from finding time to post the creation online (“We’ve been away to Miami and Paris in the last few months, so it’s been a bit of a challenge”) to pushing through creative lulls: “When you’re not feeling inspired it’s a struggle to create. This is good, as it forces you to think through your slump as you have to get it done.” DR. ME hope to have a book collecting all of the images published and a gallery retrospective once the project is complete, noting that the response has been great, if not a little surprising: “It’s pretty fun to see how many likes each piece gets on Instagram. Sometimes you think you made the best one yet and it gets very little likes, then one that you threw together in a couple of hours gets a shitload.”
On a more practical level, 365 Days of Collage taught Doyle and Edwards to “always have fresh scalpel blades and don’t let the spray mount jam!” That kind of hands-on work, rifling through books, magazines and photos, is exactly what DR. ME loves: “We’re down with cutting, sticking, painting, drawing—like what kids do. We like the tactile quality; it has a personality.” Whereas a great deal of design work is rendered entirely on computers, DR. ME prefers the a more tangible approach; “neither of us have ever been very successful with a project when it’s started out just on a computer.”
The idea for 365 Days of Collage came from a visit to London, where DR. ME stayed with artist Paolo Giardi whose work lit a fire under Doyle and Edwards; “The walls were just covered in his work which was stunning, it got us thinking about how much physical work we put out.” Being open and receptive to each other and the artists operating around them is a huge source of creative energy for DR. ME: “First and foremost, we’re fans of art and design. Getting to exhibit our work alongside our peers’ is always a thrill and always pushes us to create new pieces that live outside of the more typical client-led design briefs.” They emphasize both the intangible burst of creativity and the physical ability to learn new skills. A week long residency with Berlin studio Palefroi, SJ Hockett and John Powell-Jones was just such an opportunity. “It was an amazing week where we created screen prints, mono prints, experimented with a risograph, and generally just pushed each other’s creative boundaries, that all ended in a group show at the amazing Islington Mill gallery.”
The Islington Mill is DR. ME’s hub, a part studio-part gallery-part music venue that they describe as an “ever-evolving place which always has interesting characters in it passing through—musicians, artists, printers, designers, music promoters, you name it.” It’s central to a creative community that makes Manchester a great place for DR. ME to call home: “with lots of great new art institutes opening recently and the amazing Manchester International Festival continuing to bring the wonders of the world to our doorstep.” As for resisting the pull of the UK’s largest city, the duo told us; “the London thing is funny, we’re always asked about it and people are always surprised that we’ve never been tempted [to work there]. It is a great place but it kind of is what it is—this is something that’s never really interested us. Why be somewhere when you can’t really make a difference or have your voice heard?” Weather aside, Manchester has a little bit of everything, more than enough to keep this creative partnership busy. And, if all else fails, “there’s always the internet.”