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“She Just Wanna” single cover for Jack LarsenCourtesy Benji Taylor

The 16-year-old designer shaking up the music industry

Benji Taylor’s minimalist designs have already attracted the attention of Ram Riddlz and the A$AP mob – and now he’s starting up his very own company

Benji Taylor is not your standard 16-year-old. After building up a shamefully impressive graphic portfolio, the London designer has sent sky-high shockwaves across the pond – with artists like Ram Riddlz and A$AP Ant among the many tapping his talents. On top of that, he’s also casually managed to find the time to build his own app, craft his own deck of cards, and start up his very own design company, Next Exit. “Honestly, I’m not that good at ‘art’,” he explains, nonchalantly. “I just have a lot of ideas that I decide to execute.”

Next Exit, which is only one of these ideas, was launched earlier this week, and is set to be Taylor’s first foray into the world of creative direction. Hoping to break the tired conventions of design, the project allows users to ask their own direct questions – hoping to inspire a new kind of interaction between client and designer. We spoke to Taylor about his plans for the future, his advice for young creatives and how why he thinks a top secret design company is the best way forward.

Can you tell me more about the Next Exit project?

Benji Taylor: Setting up Next Exit has been my life for the last year. It’s a design company with a goal to do things differently, and perfectly. We have a strong focus on visual content within the music industry, as that is where I feel there is a vast void of quality work. I’m not sure what happened or when, but people just stopped caring. We’re trying to make people care again, and we will. We specialise in illustration, web design, branding, animation and typography. Next Exit is all about going a better direction, a better route. We have big goals and we’re going to do everything we can to achieve them. Everything is moving, everything is good, we’re doing it right.

“There is a vast void of quality work. I’m not sure what happened or when, but people just stopped caring” – Benji Taylor

What inspired the secretive nature of the website? 

Benji Taylor: Almost every design company is the same. This really friendly look, displaying tons of corporate work, some good, some bad. I’m bored, why would I share that? More so, why would I hire a company like that? Where are the ideas? The idea behind this website is to let people interact, not just scroll aimlessly. People can learn more about us depending on how they interact with the site. Saying things like ‘What do you do?’ And ‘Who are you?’ will return immediate responses. Then there is also the shareable nature of the site. Someone might say something like ‘6’ and get a comical answer that they feel is worth sharing on Twitter. After that, other people will see it and inevitably find out more about us, and one of those people will be a client. I also hate giving people everything all at once and being obvious. If people want to see our portfolio, they have to reach out. We’ll send them a private link with a password in their name. It’s all part of the experience.  We don’t do things the conventional way. The people that make the effort to reach out and work with us are the kinds of people we want to work with. 

Considering you’re only 16-years-old, you’ve achieved a lot of very impressive things already. What does your daily work routine look like?

Benji Taylor: It depends on where I am. My 'daily routine' consists of a lot of back and forth with people, making a lot of decisions, completing to-do lists and creating new ones, spending way too much time in Photoshop and Illustrator etc. It’s so weird because somehow I manage to get things done when really, I have no daily routine. My life is a perfect mess, I keep organised and on top of my work.

What inspires you, creatively speaking?

Benji Taylor: So much inspires me. Everything and anything. Looking out the window at the right time can lead to the most inspiring moment. That sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I love saving things as well to compensate for the passing moments. Images, animations, good UI design, photos, websites, etc. I have a folder on my computer with thousands of things and every day I’ll look through it and find some forgotten gem. People are also super inspiring. I wish I could climb into someone's mind and take a look at their creative process and the way they think. Some people are amazing. 

You’ve also created your own app. Can you tell us a little about it?

Benji Taylor: It’s a simple iPhone game called Squares. The idea is to match oncoming singular coloured squares into a larger, rotating square that you control by tapping with your thumbs. It gets increasingly fast and starts to play tricks on your eyes. If you miss a colour, you game over. Your score is determined by how many you successfully match.

Why did you decide to create it?

Benji Taylor: When I was still at school my graphics teacher set a project to create a fake game for the App Store. I had the idea out of nowhere for Squares and I animated the concept. I then spent the next 3 months or so creating it and just forgot about the school project. I put it on the App Store for free with ads and it did really well. I failed the class though, which was pretty ironic.

What other kinds of multimedia would you like to experiment with, and why?

Benji Taylor: There’s so much I want to do. I’m making another app, but it’s not a game. It’s for the web. I also really want to do clothes and plan to this year. Not just random printed shirts, though. I want to do some detailed cut and sew garments. There are some smaller side projects I want to do as well, art experiments and such. I have this one idea for a website that I want to make right now, I’ll probably try and build it this week. I write down all my ideas and if I still like one after a few weeks I’ll try and make it a reality. In terms of why, there is just so much that interests me. This is why I’m not a fan of labels. There isn’t much correlation between a deck of cards and an iPhone game, so calling myself an artist just doesn’t seem right. I find that kind of limiting. I like making whatever I want. I have a habit of coming up with ideas that are all completely different, the only similarity is that I’m the one creating them. If you have a really great concept for a chair, but you’ve already labeled yourself a painter, you might struggle to break out of the shell you’ve created for yourself and make that chair. I like leaving the door open, so no idea or project is too crazy or different for me to attempt. 

What advice do you have for other young creatives?

Benji Taylor: Be more self-aware, realise that things don’t just happen for you. Going through school doesn’t guarantee you a job or a happy, secure life. You’re young, maybe you’re still living with your parents, you don’t have to pay rent yet, take advantage of that. Everything you make is profit, why are you waiting until real life hits you? Don’t underestimate the cost of living when you do finally leave home, it will make you miserable if you’re not prepared. Make as much money as you can now and save it, or reinvest in other creative projects. And don’t just make money now, make everything you can. What are you waiting for? Maybe your excuse is that you don’t have enough time, well, you will never have enough time. There is no perfect time; you have to start now. Why wait until life is really working against you? I know the classic quotes, ‘It’s never too late to start’ but don’t interpret that the wrong way and wait until later. Try ‘Now is the perfect time to start’, instead.

Visit Benji’s Next Exit project here