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In conversation with alumni Lyam Bewry, Design Director at Mucho, San Francisco

Lyam Bewry is a Graphic Designer living in San Francisco. Currently Design Director at Mucho, he moved to California in 2020 after working in London for studios including Magpie, Pentagram, Paul Belford Ltd, and GTF. 

His experience spans branding, publications, packaging, animation, type and digital design. Lyam’s work has been recognised across industry awards such as ADC, Creative Review, D&AD and TDC, and has been published in design books by Counter-print and Victionary.

Lyam graduated from BA (Hons) Graphic Design in 2015. In this blog, we catch up with him on his career, tips on staying creative, and what a typical week looks like in his job.

Lyam Bewry

Let’s go back to the beginning of your creative discovery – what sparked your interest in graphics? How did you know you wanted to become a graphic designer?

As a kid, I actually wanted to be a car designer. I was fairly set on that path until I met one who told me he spent his days drawing gear levers.

Whilst that dream was being shattered, I was simultaneously making a lot of music (8-bit music on old Nintendo Gameboys) and found myself on Myspace designing my musician page. I would then go on to design album artworks, gig posters, t-shirts, a website, and strange miniature Gameboy keyrings… and it was probably at that point I realised I was enjoying the graphic design part more and made the decision to pursue it instead.

Why did you choose to study graphics in Norwich?

When you’re young, people tell you to ‘spread your wings’ when you go to university. Therefore, as a Norwich local, the idea of staying in Norwich wasn’t too appealing. However, visiting the degree show quickly changed my mind. I remember looking at the graphic design course and found it unique in the way the work applied clever thinking to design.

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Above: Piedmont Art Walk branding, designed at Mucho.

Being creative can, at times, be draining and demanding, where do you look for creative inspiration?

I draw inspiration from anywhere really. It sounds cliche, but it’s true – as a graphic designer you can broaden your mind by looking outside of graphic design. I also try to maintain a healthy relationship with social media. It can be a great resource but it’s also responsible for a lot of copycat design trends and unnecessary self-comparison.

The creative industries move so fast these days. How have you seen the industry change since graduating?

Design tools are becoming more accessible which means graphic designers are increasingly applying their ideas to other disciplines like motion, 3D, type, and so on. Exciting stuff.

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Above: University of California annual report 2020, designed at Mucho.

Following on from the above, how do you keep on top of industry demands, skills-wise?

Learning a new skill is great as it gives you another string to your bow. It is impossible to learn everything, but by at least having a healthy curiosity about what is possible you can let your imagination run wild and collaborate with others who can make it happen.

Tell us a bit about your career journey and where you worked between leaving us and joining Mucho.

In my second year, I completed a few internships in London, then landed a full-time role after university at the branding and graphic design studio Paul Belford Ltd. Between then and now, I also worked at Magpie Studio and freelanced for Pentagram and MultiAdaptor amongst others. Then in 2020, I made the big move to California in the US to join Mucho’s San Francisco office.

I remember my first notable experience though was before NUA; at the Norwich firm Special Design Studio. I was around 16 and knocked on their office door clasping a letter that asked for work experience. Credit to Scott Poulson, the studio’s founder, I think he liked my gumption and allowed me to shadow and later intern with him. There I learnt invaluable lessons as a young designer, as well as the value of sometimes going out on a limb. 

“I’ve definitely continued to train my eye and ability since leaving Norwich. In no way does design education and development stop once you finish university.”

Lyam Bewry, Design Director, Mucho

Was moving to the USA always part of your plan? How did you come across the opportunity at Mucho?

I was actively pursuing the idea of living and working abroad but never had any concrete plans. After a few years of conversations, things seemed to align. I initially reached out to Mucho not knowing if anything would come of it — there was no advertised job vacancy — but we stayed in touch and managed to make the timing and US Visa situation work. 

Would you say there’s any difference working in the US compared to UK agencies?

It’s like the UK… without cups of tea.

Lyam Bewry

Above: Homeroom branding and campaign, designed at Mucho.

What does a typical week look like as a Design Director?

At Mucho in San Francisco, our team is actually quite small (just shy of 10 people), and with that, you have to wear many hats. 

As Design Director I regularly check in with other designers and their work, but I also spend time designing and thinking about projects myself, as well as talking with clients and presenting. Recently I’ve built a typeface from scratch and done a photo shoot on board a boat. This unpredictability is actually one of the joys of the job. 

A challenging part of the job is probably letting go of good ideas/work that clients simply don’t like. As a creative, sometimes you pour your heart into something you believe to be the right solution… then you present it and it just doesn’t land on the other side. 

You’ve worked on some fairly high-profile clients – have you had a “pinch yourself” project?

We recently completed the global rebrand of Visa, the 8th largest company in the world. Thinking about the scale and reach of our work blows my mind every time.

The rebrand consisted of a new brand symbol, colour palette, bespoke typeface, icon and illustration style, photography, motion, merchandise, stadium graphics, data visualisation – just about everything imaginable, and helped tell their story of being more than a credit card.

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Above: Visa rebranding, designed at Mucho.

How would you say you’ve grown as a designer since leaving NUA?

I’ve definitely continued to train my eye and ability since leaving Norwich. In no way does design education and development stop once you finish university.

Getting a job in the creative industry is notoriously competitive, and a tough obstacle for a lot of graduates to face. What advice would you give to anyone about to graduate and begin looking for a job in the creative industry – how can they stand out?

Get your work looking as good as possible. Then the work will stand out by itself. And then when you email people, make sure the email is personal and to the point. (Also don’t be afraid to follow up – sometimes people are just busy.)

I would also say for those not yet graduating, to make the most of the time and put your focus on doing good work rather than focusing solely on the grades. I’ve never been asked for my grade – people only want to see my portfolio. The sooner you shift your attention to trying to make your work as good as possible, the more ready you’ll be for the real world.

You can explore more of Lyam’s work on his website and Instagram.

Explore BA (Hons) Graphic Design