David Beckitt Bio

Image: Chris McClean

David is a university lecturer, graphic artist, designer and typographer. He lives in Yorkshire with his partner Layla, and Molly the toothless cat. Born to a sea-faring family (his dad was a nationally-renowned helmsman), and with a childhood spent on or around boats, his introduction to surfing at 17 was a logical progression. His working practice is eclectic incorporating design, illustration, and typography. He was the writer of the surf/art blog Numbskulls, working with old friend and surfing ally Chris McClean on design elements for Beyond The Scars, and the award winning Uncommon Ideals.

What’s your connection to the sea? What drew you to the sea and why surfing?

My family are from Grimsby. Not the most picturesque seaside location admittedly, but it’s a place where the sea is cultured into society, and where there’s a proud maritime heritage. My grandad was a carpenter who built his own boats out of the locally landed timber, and my dad sailed for well over sixty years. I grew up listening to these amazing first-hand accounts of the unpredictable North Sea storms. A favourite involved a ‘quick dash to Holland’ which very nearly ended in disaster. A combination of unforeseen gale, 30 foot seas, and a 22ft wooden sailing boat. Commercial ships were sending out maydays, while my dad and his crew bravely made their way eastwards. Eventually they made it to land, but they were 75 miles off course. The locals lined the harbour to welcome their arrival. Heroes. My dad was just sixteen. One of the older crew members was to never sail again. So, I spent most of my childhood either on or near boats. Every weekend a sailing weekend. Every holiday a sailing holiday. (Sound familiar?) My dad would prevent me from getting caught up in heavy conditions, but that just made me want it even more, and you always want what you can’t have. So, when I met a bunch of kids from Cleethorpes who used to surf down near Mablethorpe, I made the transition – and it felt like the most natural thing ever. Ironically, these days I really miss the sailing.

When and why did you get into design and illustration?

Uncommon Ideals

Uncommon Ideals

I’ve had an unorthodox career path I guess. When I left school, the only realistic option was to go into the building trade. So I served an apprenticeship, and worked as a joiner for a few years, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to be a photographer, or so I thought, and I was inspired by the skate scene and the stuff I was seeing in the American mags. Spike Jonze’s early stuff and work by Glen E. Friedman. Surfing was very much my #1 passion, but the skating always seemed so much more experimental and progressive. Anyway, I eventually threw the towel in on joinery and enrolled at art school. It was there where I began to fully understand what it was all about. It was an exciting time. Apple Macs were still relatively new, and it was around the time that David Carson re-designed Surfer Magazine – a radical gesture in itself, but it was an interesting time to be involved with graphic design in general. When I’d finished at art school I went to uni, and now I teach on the exact same course that I studied on fifteen years ago.

What piece of your work are you most proud of?

It changes all the time. I try not to look back if I’m honest. Usually it’s the thing I’ve worked on most recently – which at the moment would be a systemised stencil-font I designed – the one that appears in Chris McClean’s ‘Beyond The Scars’. I’ve done much grander things of course – stuff that would probably seem more ‘impressive’ – but I know what went into it’s creation, the system that made it look the way it does, and I know it has integrity. So, I’m happy to say that that is what I’m most proud of… for now at least.

Who do you most admire?

In terms of surfing, it has to be Kelly – predictable perhaps, and not necessarily my favourite surfer in terms of style, but the man can do it all… with bells on. With regards to design – you’ve got me. I can’t pick a singular individual. I’ve tried, and it can’t be done. But if there was a way of morphing El Lissitzky and Piet Zwart with Karel Martens and Wim Crouwel, then I’d probably find it possible to choose just one.

What would be your dream session?

I’m not overly intrepid, and we have some great spots up here, so I’d be happy for it to simply be a session at a certain Yorkshire reef. But if we’re talking total fantasy-land stuff, the water would of course be bath-warm and gin-clear, and myself and a couple of mates would have it all to ourselves. A fantasy indeed! In terms of size, it’d just be a couple of foot overhead, so still in the ‘fun’ range, and I’d be riding something short, flat and performance-oriented. I’d be the one power-hacking and throwing the tail of course, but then we are in fantasy land, right?