My Breakthrough Moment: Doug John Miller

The architecturally trained artist discusses how his first commercial commission gave him the chance to explore an obsession with the futuristic cityscape of Chicago

This was my first proper bit of commercial work, commissioned by Pitchfork to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Radiohead’s OK Computer album in 2017. I was studying architecture at the time, and was in my first year back into my masters degree after two years at an architectural practice – which is the way you get your chartership. I never got it in the end, because I was drawing too much.

I’d done some illustration work, mostly architectural pieces, but it was mainly while working in offices or as bits and bobs on the side. It was never paid. Lucy Bourton, who worked at It’s Nice That, featured some risograph prints I’d made for the East London Comic Arts Festival on their Instagram, and my account gained a load of followers overnight.

The next day Pitchfork emailed me, wanting to feature me as one of 12 different artists producing artwork for the 20th anniversary. It was my first experience of being commissioned for something, and I remember this huge rush I had answering that email and thinking, ‘Oh my god, it’s happening’. I think most creatives remember the first time someone wants to pay you to do something. It’s so thrilling. But you look back on when you thought you’d made it and think, ‘Oh, I was so far from ‘making it’, I had no idea.’

All my previous work had this architectural focus, and this song was, essentially, a commentary on corporate structures and modern city living

The piece was for the website, but I think Pitchfork also had a party in New York and showed the artworks at a gallery there, and produced a zine that they sent to people. Although I can’t remember the exact wording of the brief, the idea was that the illustrations were like alternate album covers. I was given a song – Let Down – from the album, and told to listen to it and produce something based on that track. OK Computer was very down on the world and depressed, so it was quite easy to pick out the themes. All my previous work had this architectural focus, and this song was, essentially, a commentary on corporate structures and modern city living.

SENIOR DESIGNER

MANCHESTER