Bob Cosford (Titles Artist)

BOB COSFORD

TITLES DESIGNER

Bob Cosford and Lee Macdonald (Zammo)

Bob Cosford and Lee Macdonald (Zammo)

As well as many of the storylines and characters, one of the best remembered things about the early years of Grange Hill is it’s iconic title sequence and ‘flying sausage’. Grange Hill Gold tracks down Bob Cosford, the man behind this celebrated artwork.

Can you tell us about your history as an artist prior to your work on the Grange Hill titles? 

I left school at 16 and  went to Twickenham College of Art and Technology, did a 2 year foundation course followed by 2 year illustration course 1968-72. It was aIl CND (ban the bomb) and the Vietnam war then. I remember we went on a march through Twickenham against Maggie Thatcher the milk snatcher. The music was a lot of  Soul and Reggae, Jimi Hendrix, the Faces, the Band then a little later Marc Bolan, Free and Led Zeppelin. We lived off mashed potato and ketchup sandwiches for the first 2 years. A couple of part time lecturers at Twickenham were working in the Graphics Dept at the BBC at the time so very luckily when I left college I was offered the chance of a few months work at the BBC as holiday cover. After this I worked as a freelance illustrator for the next 7 years building contacts at the BBC and also working through illustrators agents.

How did the job designing the titles come about?

That’s how I met Liz Friedman the designer of the titles. I had just completed a big project for the Open University, illustrating for an animated version of the Officer Krupke song from West Side Story. I was doing quite a lot of comic art at the time.

What design brief were you given?

I had worked with Liz on a few projects and she was great at giving you a lot of creative leeway. As it was the first series I think it was a bit of a blank canvas. It was agreed that the titles should have the look of an animated comic. So after making a selection of school based situations I worked out some ideas and put them forward.

How did you produce the art work? Was it as a comic strip or individual panels?

The artwork was made up as a complete panel with extra panels created for the animation.

What medium did you use?

It’s a bit difficult to remember but I think the line work was drawn with black wax crayon onto acetate then the colour was applied as ink to art-board underneath the acetate.

Could you talk us through the creative process of how you would produce art like this?

Each frame would be sketched out and then discussed with the designer for any tweaks or changes. The overall layout was then created and agreed then the artwork was produced.

Were there any other ideas for ‘panels’ you couldn’t include?

I’m sure there was but to be honest I can’t remember.

The actual titles are almost animated. Did you design the artwork with this in mind?

Yes it was an effective and economical way of animating the artwork that suited the style of illustration.

How do the titles differ from your own vision?

Not at all really. I was very happy with the result.

Were there any aspects added or removed by the Grange Hill production team?

Not that I was aware of.

grangehilllogo1301_468x335Did you realise just how iconic the artwork would become (they are as well remembered as key events from the series itself)?

Not at all. I took it on as one of many jobs I was working on albeit a very enjoyable onen. I had no idea it would be so popular and iconic.

How do you feel about this?

Very flattered. When you work self employed for a lot of your career you really appreciate your work being so well received with such fantastic feedback.

Which part of the artwork are you most proud of?

I like it all equally as much, but especially the sausage!

Are there any parts you would change if you were to do it all again?

Maybe at the time but not now.

Tell us about the Grange Hill artwork you’re selling.

I was working last year as an animation director with some colleagues who run an animation studio in Birmingham. Somehow the conversation got around to Grange Hill. They were big fans of the ‘flying sausage’ but they had no idea that I had created the artwork. When I told them they asked me what had  happened to the artwork and asked why I hadn’t made a printed version as it had such an iconic status and if I did could they have a copy. So I dug around and found a copy of the original artwork that had survived after all these years and put it together with the panel of the ‘Flying Sausage’ and the rest is history as they say. I run my own online gallery and so it’s up for sale on there. I’ve also put it on ebay. In fact I had the very first print was stolen from the art shop in Boscombe where I have them printed. So if   anyone is offered or sees a copy for sale online numbered AP (artists proof) 1/5 please let me know.

What other things have you done since Grange Hill?kgrhqfime8lpbjfbpegv9gbw60_31.jpg

Wow! Well I started my career in 1972, I’m still working . . just. I’ve worked on many many title sequences for TV as an illustrator and since 1980 as a designer. One of  my earliest well known titles was for Match of the Day. It was filmed in a football stadium with large illustrated cards that were held up to form into faces (Jimmy Hill for example) and other football action. That won my first award. I also illustrated for the Dennis Potter series Pennies from Heaven, it’s been repeated in the US and around the world many times.  During my time as a designer at the BBC between1980-86 I made titles for Angels, Juliet Bravo, Match of the Day, K9 and Company, Nanny, A Very peculiar Practice, Bird of Prey and Top Gear. When I left the BBC in 1986 I started an Illustration agency with my wife and set up my own TV graphics company. In between then I have been partner and creative director in 2 other design companies. Rebranded the Champions League, the Bravo digital channel, Chinese State Television CCTV. and many others. More recently I’ve been working as an Animation Director and running my online gallery www.eyedreampictures.co.uk.

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