Creative Lancs X SOURCE: Holidays 2020

17 December 2020

For this year’s festive creative project, Creative Lancashire has collaborated with Source to produce an animated message with a difference. Based on the Creative Lancashire identity, the illustration features 10 cultural and iconic landmarks. Can you spot what they are?

Creative Lancs X SOURCE: Holidays 2020

An illustration to celebrate creativity, connection and collaboration in the county.

Michelle Bondesio spoke with Ed Matthews-Gentle FRSA (Programme Leader - Creative Lancashire) and Stephen Caton (founder and designer - Source) to find out more about this collaboration. 

In this interview, Ed and Stephen talk about the origins of the collaboration and the motivations behind the elements that were selected for the final version. Check out the animation and read more about this enlightening discussion below.

Holidays 2020 animation by Stephen Caton of Source for Creative Lancashire.

During this conversation, Ed explains why it is essential for Creative Lancashire to connect with and engage in collaborations with local creative professionals and businesses. Stephen also shares more about the philosophy behind Source’s creative practice and how collaboration and connection tie in.

Stephen, tell us about Source?


Source is a small design company with a multi-skilled team of three in operation for 19 years. Although small we are graphic designers, web developers, illustrators, animators, photographers, musicians and more. 

We used to have a team of seven but over time we’ve reduced our size and become a much closer, tighter knit team. It has also helped us find our ‘right type of clients’ and personally put me in a much happier position than I was before. 


As an organisation, I’d say you actively seek those opportunities to be creative as well, and to upskill yourselves in other art forms and creative disciplines too.


Yes, we’ve always tried. We look at other ways of producing work, that perhaps don’t follow what the trends are at the time. We find the right kind of output for the client, whatever skill that might be and whether we can produce it. If we can’t, we will collaborate with somebody that can.

Stephen Caton - founder and designer at Source

Both Creative Lancashire and Source have a history of producing your own artefacts to publicly mark or celebrate the festive season.

Ed, tell us more about your Creative Lancashire projects?


For about the last five or six years, Creative Lancashire has been doing what we call the ‘Advent Project’. Essentially, we directly invite organisations and key partners in the county to produce a festive or seasonal message, that we can then share with the wider networks and creative community. 

It's part of our remit to showcase the best of the talent in the county. And, that was often expressed through the personal messages they were producing around this time of the year. And we just thought, what can we do to amplify that through our newsletter and our social media channels. 

The first year was really interesting, because we invited not just people who made 2D visual arts, we invited filmmakers, and animators and musicians... people did respond to the brief in a variety of ways. From there the idea expanded and became a chance for people to self-initiate projects. Over the years it grew and became something that the community began to embrace and look forward to. 

At this time of year we would normally be doing our POWWOW events too. These are regular happenings that move around the county with the aim of creating the kind of environments where creative people would want to socialise and connect. They are a chance to have anecdotal conversations with like-minded people that may lead to new connections, collaborations and work opportunities. 

For obvious reasons they are not happening right now, but typically at our annual POWWOW Festive, we’d actually show these Advent Project’ creations on large monitors. The advent submissions became a chance for creatives and designers to share their identities or make a statement along with their peers.

This year, however, it didn’t feel right or appropriate to go to our partners, friends and networks with an additional ask. We are still sharing people’s Christmas messages on Twitter (tag us with the hashtag #XmasLancs), but we also decided to keep it a bit low key and to do something different.

Ed Matthews-Gentle is Programme Leader, Creative Lancashire.

Source have also released self-initiated projects at this time of year. Stephen, tell us more about your calendars?


We liked the idea of giving an end of year thanks for all our clients, suppliers, collaborators and friends, something which sometimes took months and a lot of effort to produce. Plus I guess it’s a way to challenge ourselves by setting our own brief. It allows us to do something to utilise skills or techniques that we wouldn’t always get a chance to use during our day-to-day work along with pushing our personal development.

With 12 sections we would split it through the company so everyone got a chance to contribute. A few years in we realised that people didn’t need an actual calendar,  but they were appreciating it as a piece of design, so we focussed more on that side of the project. 

This year it didn’t feel right to do a full calendar, so instead we’ve been doing a 12 day Instagram review of the various Source calendars and cards we’ve produced over the past 19 years.

So, to end off 2020, you are collaborating together to produce something a little different. How did it come about? And what are the ideas behind the elements included in the animation?


I wanted to work with Stephen this year as we hadn’t done a direct collaboration with Source for Christmas before. So we had a conversation earlier in the year about doing something.


Creative Lancashire is all about connecting creatives from different parts of the county and I’ve also liked how their identity visually represents this idea of connections.

We both agreed it would be right to use that visual identity, but do something else with it. I think last year there was a short animation where the pattern became a Christmas tree. I felt that we could expand on that.

One of Stephen's sketches for the illustration

A lot of my illustration work has a very technical edge and I tend to work to a grid system with strict rules. That preciseness is something you’ll probably see in a lot of my work. With this visual identity, I could see how a grid system would work with that. We discussed landmarks and both agreed that we didn’t want to put in traditional or obvious elements such as Blackpool Tower. 


There are iconic cultural landmarks and places with a significance to the creative ecology of the county. Stephen created others that we didn’t include this time. We settled on ten that had the right mix of meaning and relevance to us both and what we do.


We could have carried on, but had to stop there as it was starting to become too detailed and losing the essence of the Creative Lancashire identity.

Ed, how does this collaboration, and your past collaborations, tie in with Creative Lancashire's larger role as a sector support organisation?


As a support organisation for the creative sector in the county, we always seek opportunities to highlight and showcase the talent we have here. So, where possible, when it comes to producing design ourselves, it has to be of a certain level and quality. We have to be advocates of good design. We also want to incorporate those opportunities to showcase others as much as possible. 

We work with Wash Studio as our key designer. They produce a lot of our designed content, output and our literature. So the original treatments that Stephen has now interpreted for this collaboration came from a piece of work that Wash originally did to develop our brand. It has become a key part of our visual identity. And now Stephen has used the treatment to create something magical in this animation.

A report depicting Creative Lancashire's visual identity Wash Studio

Examples of past festive collaborations include working with artists such as Daniel Davidson. He was exhibiting his Colour of Music collection, focused on synaesthesia, at Prism Contemporary Gallery in Blackburn at the time. Daniel produced a work especially for us inspired by the band ‘Bright Eyes’ version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. Northern Heart Films then produced a film about the piece and our collaboration with Daniel, and that became our Festive Project for 2018.

Lancashire certainly is a place with many hubs in which creativity flows and grows. Creative Lancashire is very much about connecting those different locations.


Well, Creative Lancashire was established as a sector-specific business support service, but we have moved beyond that. Now, it's also about people who have an interest in the creativity of the county. And there's multiple ways that people access that creativity, or connect to it. 

I think, probably in a subconscious way, what Stephen has created speaks to what we do and how we do it. 


Although it started off as just a flat illustration with connection being core to the concept, once we started animating the piece, the motion graphics really enhanced the idea of connections.

What's your favourite part of the animation?


My favourite part of the project was reducing the individual landmarks and elements down to their basic forms and then finding a way to connect each of them together while still being a cohesive piece. I guess that’s all of it then!


We both enjoyed the little roller coaster so much. When I first saw that, I just kept playing the animation, just to wait for it to appear. The whole animation evokes a sense of joy and curiosity. Something we need at this time of year, after what has been a tough year.

The landmarks taking shape for the animation

On a more general note, any thoughts you want to share about the impact this year has had for you?


I think Source has been in a very fortunate position as things didn’t really stop for us. We carried on servicing clients, maybe just in a slightly different way. Maybe that’s because of the variety of skills we have or the types of clients, I’m not really sure.

But what we've tried to do, because we've been in that fortunate position, is to share the work with other creatives. So, wherever we can, and where we think this could be a chance for collaboration, that's what we've done and will continue to do. 

For example, we have an ongoing project where we could have produced the illustrations, but we felt this was a perfect opportunity to share the work. We found two illustrators on the Creative Lancashire Directory whose work we really like and thought would be appropriate. We’ve put them forward and the client likes their work and we’re hoping this could be yet another great collaboration.

This year especially, I want to share where I can and help to unleash talent. And also be generous with my time with clients as well. The way we work together has changed because of the pandemic, in some ways it’s become simpler.


Yes, some people are clearly going through really tough times, but there is a resilience in the sector too. And at the start of the pandemic, there were many people responding quickly, putting out quick commissions and so forth to support people. This was really important, but at the same time the ground was also moving very quickly. Situations and contexts were changing rapidly.

So early on, myself and Jenny Rutter, Creative Lancashire’s new chair, made the decision to respond in a more considered way. Our message has always been that organisations still need to go ahead with projects that mean commissioned work for creatives. 

So when Stephen talks about finding those opportunities, there are people at all stages of their creative careers that really rely on the supply and demand of creative service. Our message continues to be, where possible, for other industries to please keep working with creatives to help solve problems, add value to services and products, and keep the sector itself alive. 

This year, with all its uncertainty and constant changes to how we deliver services and adapt plans, has been challenging and tiring for us all. Personally, I have really appreciated just how much the creative community of the county has contributed to keeping us all healthy in our minds and providing creative relief and happiness in trying times. 

It's been an inspiration, so thank you to everyone who has helped us get through it in some way or another. These are people who've made great films, told inspirational and imaginative stories, written posts, shared images, all the things that have made a real difference to my days. 

It’s a reminder to me that it is an absolute honour to do the work that I get to do with incredibly talented individuals and organisations.Thank you to you all.

The final illustration prior to animation.

Seasons Greetings from Creative Lancashire. We're back on 6th January 2021.  

About Source

Source is a design company founded and run by Stephen Caton with the help of his wife Catherine. The small team are based across Lancashire and West Yorkshire but their clients span the UK. They have worked with several prominent arts and culture organisations in the region, including SuperSlowWay, The National Festival of Making and the British Textile Biennial.

In Source’s own words: “We design stuff. We especially like designing stuff for people that like well-designed stuff. If you need your stuff designed well, well you’ll probably like us. Small, but we feel, perfectly formed. We combine our multidisciplinary skills with other talented local companies to deliver great work with great service.”

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