North is Ace! Local graphic designer celebrates Preston with a range of striking products

Tim Bridges regularly sells their Secret Industries prints, cards, badges and t-shirts in local markets Photo: Tim Bridges

For those of you looking to shop locally this holiday season, we’ve focused on a selection of Preston-based manufacturers and designers who sell their products online and at local Christmas markets.


This week, we meet Tim Bridges, the graphic designer behind Secret Industries. You may already be familiar with Tim’s work; he creates striking graphic prints featuring some of our favorite places and sayings from Preston.

Secret Industries Cha print Pic Tim Bridges
Secret Industries Cha print Pic Tim Bridges

When did you create Secret Industries and what was the inspiration?

I started using the name Secret Industries in 2010 as a really joke. I wanted to be able to experiment with different artistic productions and not feel limited to illustration or graphic design, so I needed a name that was vague enough for that. I also liked the anonymity graffiti artists have when writing under a tag name. And finally, I liked the idea that certain logos or artwork can have so much meaning and recognition to some, and yet anyone outside of that scene, club or area would have absolutely no idea what those images were saying. or represented.

This combination of ideas seemed to suit a name like Secret Industries, and although my job has changed a lot since then, I chose to keep the name.

How has your style evolved over the past ten years?

My style and my production have evolved a lot since 2010, I am mainly the product of my creative failures! I tried to be an illustrator, start a clothing line and be an “artist” – after a few years I got bored and didn’t create anything for about 18 months.

About three or four years ago I decided to try out what I knew best, graphics. I’ve always been told that you can’t be a successful designer without being in London or working just for yourself; I decided it was a bad attitude. I finally started to think about what work I wanted to create and why.

I am not a proud Englishman, but I am proud to be from the North. However, a lot of people I spoke to had the opinion of “it’s dark in the North”. I decided to try to change that. Now I am trying to design good logos and branding for small businesses and organizations in the North. I also try to create prints and merchandise that celebrate the quirks of being from the North. I want people to be proud to be from the North. And if they’re not happy with that, I’d like to inspire them to try and change it for the better, rather than just raising sticks and moving to the bright lights of London or elsewhere. Home is what you make of it, so let’s create the ace of the North!

Tim Bridges has created prints representing a variety of places in Preston including Plug and Taps
Tim Bridges has created prints representing a variety of places in Preston including Plug and Taps. Pic Tim Bridges

Do you have a favorite print?

I would say it changes a lot – I always feel like I’m learning things and improving myself, so it’s usually something new. At the moment this is either my Plug and Taps illustration or my Lancashire Pattern Grid that I am waiting to be professionally printed.

Do you have a favorite Nordic saying?

I’m a huge fan of ‘It’s like the Blackpool lights in here’, ‘Mud or nettles’ and ‘It’s gonna be reet’. While the latter isn’t necessarily strictly Nordic, I think it carries more weight when spoken by someone in the northern tone or dialect.

Secret Industries proud of Preston pin announced Pic Tim Bridges
Secret Industries proudly pictured Preston pin: Tim Bridges

You also produce t-shirts and badges, tell me about some of the designs.

I would always choose a group t-shirt over a designer label. I believe the idea that what’s on your shirt or lapel reflects what you believe or support or are proud of. So, most of these designs subvert the famous brand, giving them a Nordic touch or simply expressing something about our Nordic identity. I love making t-shirts, but I think my favorite badge so far is my “PP” enamel badge. Any local person obviously knowing that PP is a nod to ‘Proud Preston’!

Secret Industries Cha print Pic Tim Bridges
Secret Industries Cha print Pic: Tim Bridges

Do you make custom pieces?

I take commissions, but I can be selective. In fact, some of my best prints are commissioned; especially my dictionary definition of ‘Cha’ and my recent piece ‘Northern and Proud’. I probably owe these two people some sort of commission to be honest, so if they read; keep an eye on your mailboxes!

Somethings Brewing brand created by Secret Industries Pic Tim Bridges
Somethings Brewing identity created by Secret Industries Pic: Tim Bridges

You are also a freelance graphic designer, tell me about some of the projects you have worked on.

Graphic design work actually started before making prints and shirts, however, I’m definitely more known for the latter. I started branding for my friends, like Aaron at 468 Barber Shop and Carly when she ran Little Vegan. Since then, I have worked with quite a few local organizations.

My biggest project of the last year was the identity of Something’s Brewing. It involved trying to create an identity for Preston’s 12-year cultural strategy. The goal of the strategy is to make Preston a hub of creativity and culture for the next 12 years, leading us to our Preston Guild celebration in 2032.

The idea was to create something that represents the four goals of the strategy, communicates hope and positivity, and gives the impression of the North without looking explicitly localized. I was inspired by the architectural elements around Preston and the colors of the Lancashire flag. It was a difficult project and I learned a lot, but I’m happy with the result. Hopefully the identity will start to see the light of day after the soft launch in September.

Where do you sell your work? Do you make deals?

I have an online store on NuMonday and love selling in small local markets! I currently only have one left this year, and that’s right before Christmas. I’ll be at Market Street Social on Sunday December 19th.

Follow Secret Industries on Instagram and Facebook. The Secret Industries website will be operational in early 2022.

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