Graham Charles Cannon Pankhurst had just flown 9,870 miles and he stepped into the office like a man on an expedition. He was dressed like a birder. Everything he was wearing was khaki, lightweight and covered with pockets. The agency was his namesake and he had come, like an observer in a wild habitat, to glimpse the offspring of a business he had started more than 30 years before.
The day he visited, Graham’s eyes were trained on the collateral on the shelves, the snow-filled photographic print of Verbier that hung across the meeting table. His silver hair, clear eyes, and air of discretion gave him the look of a man who could design materials for the Australian secret service, which in fact he once did. Spending his days painting and teaching art history he now has time to contemplate symmetry and space. This might be called ‘perspective,’ or, more simply, ‘retirement.’
Graham recalls how his son Ben started out running errands for his parent’s agency to earn pocket money and later honed his design skills in the agency while studying commerce.
This combination of skills would ultimately prove beneficial for Charlescannon’s wide-ranging clients when Ben launched the Swiss-based business in 2007.
Ben trained under someone who could look at a page full of text and know exactly how to lay it out to pagination. His father was religious about grids and fanatical about style. Ben heard things like, ‘the initial brief is absolute gospel’ and ‘push the creative relevance in the as far as you possibly can.’ Ben particularly recalls his father always asking young designers “did you read the copy?” Graham was after all, a natural-born lecturer.
Now enjoying his retirement Graham sat at the agency’s long wooden table, which is punctured with pencil jabs and has a surface that has seen sketches and laptops, coffees and workshops. He looked very pleased that the table, much like the agency he founded, seems to have taken on a life of its own. But like the table, he wouldn’t reveal all those secrets. He looked around; made a comment on an ill-placed word he had spotted on a layout, and took a sip of wine.