How this legendary Wigan designer got his big break

Celebrated graphic artist Brian Cannon
Celebrated graphic artist Brian Cannon

A graffiti mural on the side of a Wigan warehouse is responsible for a graphic artist’s rise to fame, he has revealed.

Brian Cannon, designer and photographer from Pemberton, has had an esteemed career, photographing the likes of Oasis and The Verve, as well as designing covers for bands like Suede, Cast and Inspiral Carpets, via his own agency, Microdot.

Brian Cannon

Brian Cannon

In a recent interview with online blog Oi Polloi, the esteemed lensman spoke about his early foray into design and how his career took off after his graffiti was spotted by an industry giant.

“I specifically set out to design record sleeves, because I was a fan of punk rock. I was 11 in 1977, when I first got into it all,” Brian said.

He said: “Me and my mates thought, ‘We’ve got to get a band together.’ So we met up at my mum’s house in Wigan, and I realised instantly that I couldn’t play guitar. I just couldn’t get my head around chords.”

“But I’d always been good at drawing. My dad was a fantastic illustrator, far better than me, but the opportunities for illustrators in Wigan in the 1940s were zero – so he worked as a coal miner and never did anything with it. But he was very much in favour of me doing drawing, and he always encouraged me.”

The Oasis photo shoot in Wigan, orchestrated by Brian Cannon

The Oasis photo shoot in Wigan, orchestrated by Brian Cannon

He added: “So I married my love of the music with my talent for art, and thought that I’d become a sleeve designer instead.”

An art foundation course followed, with Brian spending any and all of his free times in a print shop in Library Street.

“I’d be there all day, with a scalpel and a tin of glue, putting these things together in the shop, and that’s how it all started,” he said.

His big break came in 1984, after influential DJ Greg Wilson spotted a mural he had painted on the side of a Wigan warehouse. Greg was so impressed that he invited Brian to meet him, and he was soon commissioned to design his first album sleeve for Ruthless Rap Assassins.

Brian captures the famous shot

Brian captures the famous shot

Fast forward several years, and a chance encounter with Richard Ashcroft at a petrol station, shortly after The Verve had been signed, led to Brian designing their first record sleeve.

He went on to capture iconic images for albums A Northern Soul, A Storm In Heaven and smash hit Urban Hymns, had a backstage pass when Richard Ashcroft and co. played to tens of thousands of fans in May 1998.

The whole thing was made all the more special as it was the day the Microdot founder turned 32.

Brian said: “It was the greatest day of my life. It was just an astonishing gig.”

On the back of working with the Wigan band, he went on to work with Suede, Inspiral Carpets, even designing the logo for the then-emerging group Oasis. He also designed their legendary Definitely Maybe cover.