As we approach 2022, we at Creative Boom wanted to launch a new annual feature that looks back on the previous 12 months, exploring all the creativity, insight and popular stories that have graced our beloved platform since early January.
Called The Review, we've today released a whole bunch of content that brings together the most read, most clicked and most engaged articles that you've enjoyed in 2021 – starting with an indulgent pick of my own favourites as founding editor.
Below you'll find a curated list of my 25 most recommended stories. You'll find a wealth of inspiration here, from boundary-pushing art projects to the best in illustration and graphic design.
While many of us have been locked down and socially distanced, it's not stopped the best creatives from producing superlative work, and in some cases, it's inspired it. In particular, we've seen a lot of brilliant work around themes of diversity: work that doesn't just virtue-signal or pay lip service to the cause but provides genuinely authentic perspectives and helps push things forward.
Some of these articles you may have missed entirely the first time around (we won't hold it against you, everyone's busy!). Others you may have seen before but are also worth revisiting with the benefit of distance and hindsight. Either way, we hope you enjoy these 25 top stories from Creative Boom in 2021.
1. Heath Kane creates cover art for Penguin's final printed versions of George Orwell classics
Creating new cover art for a novel as iconic as George Orwell's 1984 is a very big deal indeed. On the 70th anniversary of the author's death this year, we revealed Penguin had passed the mantle from Shephard Fairey to Heath Kane, and we took a look back at how different artists had approached this monumental task.
2. Kate Isobel Scott on playfulness, plasticine and Pingu
Kate Isobel Scott is best known for her animations and illustrations, but she also loves the simplicity of making things. Here we chat with her one-to-one about the beauty behind her 'crude' work and the importance of being playful.
3. Tomesha Faxio's photographs celebrate the beauty of black hair in its most natural state
Wash Day, a series by photographer and mixed-media artist Tomesha Faxio, celebrates the beauty of black hair in its most natural state while also providing a glimpse into black culture. It's a thoughtful and ultimately inspiring celebration of pride and authenticity.
4. Character, clay and carpet: Cadi Lane on her warm and tactile practice
The pandemic may have an upturned normal life, but in the process, it's given some creatives a chance to go in a different direction. Among them is Cadi Lane, who started working with clay after Covid hit. See the stunning results and determine how they were made in this exclusive interview.
5. Rick Banks collaborates with Lance Wyman to digitise his 1976 USA Bicentennial font
Manchester creative Rick Banks was a big fan of graphic designer Lance Wyman and his 1976 USA Bicentennial font. So as he tells Creative Boom in this article, he reached out to Lance with the idea of digitising it. Read on to find out what happened next.
6. Justine Allenette Ross on black utopias, black trauma, and the power of visual language
American illustrator Justine Allenette Ross focuses on human interaction, blackness, and playful observation. Her most recent work, The Negro Series, is her reaction to black trauma without depicting it. In our exclusive interview, she discusses the thinking behind it.
7. Stoned in Melanchol: Photographs of small-town teenage boredom by Megan Doherty
Many creatives seek to escape the banality of small towns. Art photographer Megan Doherty, though, has flipped that on its head, transforming it into an alternate universe that celebrates youth, sub-culture, and freedom.
8. Collaboration, Character and Consideration: Marie Boulanger's mindful typographic practice
Marie Boulanger works the intersection between art direction, branding and bespoke letterform design. Here, she shares some of her best work and explains her approach in detail.
9. BBC unveils its Japanese-immersed trailer for the Tokyo Olympics 2020
We may have had to wait an extra year for the '2020' Tokyo Olympics, but it was well worth the wait. As creative geeks, we loved the BBC's branding for the event, too, expertly crafted by a triumvirate of BBC Creative, Nexus Studios and Factory Fifteen. Whether you missed it at the time or now fondly miss it, take a look back at this inspiringly creative work and the thinking behind it.
10. The truth about freelancing and 5 common myths that are wrong
One of Creative Boom's writers, Tom May, recently celebrated his fifth year as a freelancer. So we asked if he'd like to offer some helpful insight on what it's like to run your own business. Here he shares the ultimate truth of freelancing, busts some common myths and gives us loads of advice on making it a viable career path for the rest of us.
11. Use Hearing Protection: Take a much deeper look at the early years of Factory Records
Factory Records is a story of Manchester that we've become all too familiar with, along with the people, the art and design, and the music of this northern, post-industrial city we call home. We've come a long way since those glory days. But somehow, a landmark exhibition at Manchester's Science & Industry Museum put a fresh spin on the birth of the legendary label.
12. How to find your next creative direction after realising you and the world have changed forever
It's been another overwhelming year as we drag ourselves through the pandemic, with shifts being felt in every corner. What does this mean for the creative industries? We asked artists and designers for their insight into how we can navigate these unchartered choppy waters as we figure out how to adjust, hearing of their experiences and reassuring advice.
13. Abby Allen on why Disney's efforts to reimagine a more inclusive tomorrow represents meaningful change
Positive changes continued to push through 2021 following the events of last summer, including an epic initiative by Abby Allen of Neon Butterfly for Disney. Called Reimagine Tomorrow, it was created to amplify underrepresented voices and untold stories. In this exclusive interview with Abby, we learn more about the new platform and what Abby describes as "the greatest effort by any media and entertainment company ever, to amplify underrepresented voices and showcase fresh narratives that foster and fuel representation, understanding and a feeling of belonging for everyone".
14. 'I'm a bit obsessed with fruit and flowers': Alex Valentina on his metallic and bubbly 3D designs
Alex Valentina, a graphic designer and music producer currently based in Milan, has successfully managed to master an aesthetic, having built an entire portfolio abound with bubbly, metallic 3D writings and depictions of flora and animals. In these artworks, you'll see cherries picked to perfection, butterflies floating in the moon-lit sky, and punchy phrases stating things like "Trying to be strong for you" or "When all seasons change". It's hard to keep your eyes off it, really, like a magpie drawn to its shiny jewels.
15. A Profound Waste of Time: Caspian Whistler celebrates video games as an art form
There's always been some negativity around video games. That they're a distraction or perhaps only children should enjoy. London-based graphic designer and creative director Caspian Whistler hopes to smash this outdated misconception with the publication of A Profound Waste of Time, a beautifully designed print magazine that celebrates the gaming industry and all the people within it. We interviewed Caspian about his passion project.
16. Antti Kalevi builds structural worlds inspired by nature, fruit and travel
Antti Kalevi is a Helsinki-based illustrator who uses colour, shadow and shape to construct formulaic yet painterly depictions of his surroundings. It's a recognisable style and one that can be linked back to his upbringing with his father, who's "very talented at making things with his own hands," be it woodwork, furniture, houses, general fixings, plus the odd painting here and there.
17. The artists reappropriating 'feminine crafts' through a queer lens
Over the last couple of years, there's been a resurgence of artists using materials like textiles and ceramics in siting domestic settings as creative spaces, a nod to the influence of the 1970s Pattern and Decoration (P & D) art movement. Here, writer Emily Gosling takes a closer look at why that's happening.
18. Studio Output on four-day weeks and why design graduates need more confidence
Celebrating its 20th birthday next year, east London-based Studio Output has evolved over the decades into an agency renowned for its digital-focused brand-building across purpose-led organisations and future-facing companies alike.
In 2020, in the thick of the pandemic, the studio announced that two new partners and shareholders would take over running the business: managing director Gemma Ballinger and creative director Johanna Drewe. Both have been at the studio for a while - Ballinger since 2005; Drewe since 2010 - and they took over from founding partners Dan Moore and Rob Coke. Writer Emily Gosling chats with Ballinger and Drewe about the challenges of taking over a studio during lockdown, how the design industry has changed over the past decade and more.
19. Ananya Mohan on social purpose, avoiding stereotypes and her dazzling practice
Specialising in identity and editorial design, London-and-Hong-Kong-based designer Ananya Mohan is a force to be reckoned with, weaponising her expertise in rich typography and vibrant colour for the forces of civilisation and social purpose through her conceptual and human practice. Here, our writer Harry Bennett talks us through her recent projects.
20. Duairak Padungvichean's magical illustrations are a whimsical wonder
Set in fantastic worlds populated by a menagerie of strange creatures, Duairak Padungvichean's art is a quirky joy. Here, the Thai-born illustrator tells us what lies behind them.
21. A closer look at Stuart Semple's hip new gallery in Bournemouth
In 2021, we've started getting back to enjoying art in physical surroundings, and the seaside town of Bournemouth is emerging as an important hub of art and culture. In this article, we report on the opening of a huge new gallery by local artist Stuart Semple and share some of the best work on show.
22. Hey Studio turns the simple circle into an international design language
The best designs are often the simplest. And if you ever doubted that, check out this incredible work by Barcelona-based Hey Studio. They've taken the humble circle and turned it into an entire design language. This work must truly be seen to be believed!
23. Stanley Chow pays tribute to Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch by creating portraits of its fictional staff
We love it when one iconic creator inspires another. And here's a great example from 2021, when Manchester illustrator Stanley Chow paid homage to Wes Anderson's movie The French Dispatch by illustrating the lead cast of the fictional magazine it features. In this article, Stanley tells us what inspired this project and how he executed it in practice.
24. Photographs by Corin Jones of women bathing outside in nature in vintage bathtubs
Take one reclaimed vintage bathtub, various "kick-ass" women of different ages and backgrounds, and one curious photographer, and you have a beautiful series of female portraits taken at beauty spots around the UK. Bathing in Nature is the work of Corin Jones, who has worked as a lifestyle photographer for almost a decade, finding joy and job satisfaction in meeting new people and capturing precious moments in their lives.
But in recent years, the Oxfordshire creative had a burning desire to connect with women and tell their stories. "Women who are following their dreams, passions and desires," as Corin puts it. "There's something magical about getting to know each individual on a deeper level to truly capture their soul and sharing it with the world so all can see how brilliant they are."
25. Amber Day on the psychology of her work and the physicality of emotion
"Growing up in the Southwest with a preacher dad in a cowboy culture household," LA-based illustrator Amber Day recalls, "I spent most of my time either in the church planning sermons or fixing old cars with my grandpa, memorising every Johnny Cash song ever written," she adds, retelling her '90s upbringing that you wouldn't necessarily expect from the unfettered style of her exuberant illustrations – be it her professional practice or her personal exploratory endeavour, VISBII.