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The North is Ace! Local graphic designer celebrates Preston with a range of striking products

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Tim Bridges regularly sells his Secret Industries prints, cards, badges and t-shirts at local markets.
Tim Bridges regularly sells his Secret Industries prints, cards, badges, and t-shirts at local markets Pic: Tim Bridges

For those of you looking to shop local this festive season, I have been focussing on a selection of Preston based makers and creatives who sell their wares online and at local Christmas markets.

This week we meet Tim Bridges, the graphic designer behind Secret Industries. You may already be familiar with Tim’s work; he creates striking, graphic prints featuring some of our favourite Preston places and sayings.

Secret Industries Cha print Pic Tim Bridges
Secret Industries Cha print Pic Tim Bridges

When did you set up Secret Industries and what was the inspiration behind it?

I started using the name Secret Industries in 2010 as a bit of a joke really. I wanted to be able to experiment with different artistic outputs and not feel restricted to just illustration or just graphic design, so I needed a name vague enough for that. I also liked the anonymity that graffiti artists have by writing under a tag name. And finally, I liked the idea that certain logos or illustrations can carry so much meaning and recognition to some, and yet anyone outside of that scene, club, or area would have absolutely no idea what that imagery indicated or stood for.

That combination of ideas seemed to suit a name like Secret Industries, and despite my work changing a lot since then, I chose to carry the name over.

How has your style evolved over the past ten years?

My style and output have evolved a lot since 2010, I am basically a product of my creative failures! I tried being an illustrator, starting a clothing line, and being an ‘artist’ – after a few years, I got fed up and didn’t create anything for about 18 months.

About three or four years ago I decided to try the thing I knew best, graphic design. I was always told you couldn’t be a successful designer without being in London or by purely working for yourself; I decided that was a rubbish attitude. I finally started thinking about the work I wanted to create and why.

I’m not a proud Englishman, but I am proud of being Northern. However, a lot of people I spoke to had the opinion of ‘it’s grim up North’. I decided to try and change that. Now I try to design good logos and branding for small Northern businesses and organisations. I also try to create prints and merchandise that celebrate the quirks of being Northern. I want people to take pride in being Northern. And if they’re not happy with that I would love to inspire them to try and change it for the better, rather than to simply up sticks and move to the bright lights of London or somewhere else. Home is what you make it, so let’s make the North ace!

Tim Bridges has created prints featuring a variety of places in Preston including Plug and Taps
Tim Bridges has created prints featuring a variety of places in Preston including Plug and Taps. Pic Tim Bridges

 Do you have a favourite print?

I would say this changes quite a lot – I still feel like I’m learning things and getting better, so it’s usually something recent. At the moment it’s either my illustration of Plug and Taps or my Lancashire ‘Pattern Grid’ which I’m waiting to get professionally printed.

Do you have a favourite Northern saying?

I’m a big fan of ‘It’s like Blackpool illuminations in here’, ‘Muck or nettles’, and ‘It’ll be reet’. Despite that last one not necessarily being strictly Northern, I think it carries more weight when it’s spoken by someone in Northern tone or dialect.

Secret Industries Proud Preston pin bade Pic Tim Bridges
Secret Industries Proud Preston pin bade Pic: Tim Bridges

You also produce t-shirts and pin badges, tell me about some of the designs.

I would always choose a band t-shirt over a designer label. I believe the idea of what is on your shirt or lapel being reflective of what you believe or support or have pride in. So, most of those designs either subvert famous branding, giving them a Northern twist or simply express something about our Northern identity. I love designing t-shirts but I think my favourite so far is my ‘PP’ enamel pin badge. Anyone local obviously knowing that PP is a nod to ‘Proud Preston’!

Secret Industries Cha print Pic Tim Bridges
Secret Industries Cha print Pic: Tim Bridges

Do you do personalised pieces?

I do take commissions, but I can be selective. In fact, some of my best prints evolved from commissions; particularly my dictionary definition of ‘Cha’ and my recent ‘Northern and Proud’ piece. I probably owe those two people some sort of commission to be honest so if they’re reading; keep an eye on your post boxes!

Somethings Brewing branding created by Secret Industries Pic Tim Bridges
Somethings Brewing identity created by Secret Industries Pic: Tim Bridges

You are also a freelance graphic designer, tell me about some of the projects you’ve worked on.

The graphic design work actually started before making prints and shirts, however, I’m definitely more known for the latter. I started doing branding for my friends, such as Aaron at 468 Barber Shop and Carly when she operated Little Vegan. Since then, I’ve worked with quite a lot of local organisations.

My biggest project over the past year has been the Something’s Brewing identity. This involved trying to create an identity for Preston’s 12 year cultural strategy. The aim of the strategy is to make Preston a hub for creativity and culture over the next 12 years, taking us to our Preston Guild celebration in 2032.

The idea was to create something that represented the four aims of the strategy, communicated hope and positivity, and felt Northern without explicitly looking localised. I took inspiration from architectural elements around Preston and the colours in the Lancashire flag. It was a tough project and I learned a lot, but I’m happy with the result. Hopefully, the identity will start seeing the light of day after the soft launch back in September.

Where do you sell your work? Are you doing any markets?

I have a web store on NuMonday and I love selling at local, small markets! I currently only have one left this year, and it’s right before Christmas. I will be at Market Street Social on Sunday 19 December.

Follow Secret Industries on Instagram and FacebookThe Secret Industries website will be up and running at the beginning of 2022.


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