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Contents

Editorial

Angharad Lewis

Derek Birdsall tells an amusing anecdote with an earnest undertone in this month’s Special Report, Meeting of Minds. We asked him to get together with his former assistant John Morgan to revisit the time they spent working together from 1995 to 2000. It is one of three conversations in the magazine, each hingeing on a key relationship in graphic design. A lot of what comes out of Birdsall and Morgan’s talk is about developing and sharing a culture of working. In their case, it is born of an independent attitude where work and life have a fluid relationship (sometimes oiled by the fluids in a wine bottle). Long lunches, Sundays, friends: these, as well as hard work, are important, productive ingredients of working life, not just of ‘spare time’. Birdsall’s funny/serious story begins with meeting the Queen (a winning start to any anecdote) at a Buckingham Palace function. He and Terry Jones are happily conversing with her Majesty when an unnamed head honcho from the Design Council butts in to inform her that the “design industry” is worth somany-millions of pounds. “Your Majesty,” Birdsall retorts, “it is not an industry.” Someone of Birdsall’s standing, of course, has the experience and confidence to define what he does however he pleases, and with heads of state as witnesses to boot. Taking such pleasure in work as Birdsall does, and executing it with care and craft, on one’s own terms, removes it from the domain of ‘industry’ with its connotations of mass production, manufacture, standardisation and large-scale, organised commercial activity. You may be thinking that’s all well and good for him, but what about people who aren’t lucky enough to be in such a position? The key to getting to such a position, perhaps, is pulling up your Happy Socks, having some good reasons for doing what you do and finding a ‘culture’ of work, whatever it may be. What comes through in all the conversations we recorded for this issue was that designers enjoy an informal way of working together, and that that is one of the most inviting and rewarding characteristics of being a designer. A crucial part of being successful and productive comes from what you share with the people you work with, and the rapport you create, whether it’s over a cerebral conversation, a game of fussball or a few sherries. This extends to clients as well. As Birdsall says, if they’re not someone you can enjoy a good lunch with, then you probably shouldn’t be working with them at all. In Wim Crouwel’s conversation with Hamish Muir, he recalls his time working for the Stedelijk Museum. “I worked with two assistants on a constant stream of catalogues and posters. It was a heavy workload for three people, but that pressure is part of the game; it keeps you going.” This will sound familiar to many readers — the small team, the stress (and succeeding despite it). When, as director of the Boijmans van Beuningen, Wim Crouwel played client and commissioned the maverick London studio 8vo to take charge of all the museum’s graphic design, he acted with generosity, trust and a designer’s empathy. Commissioning 8vo was proof of Crouwel’s eagle eye for spotting a talented design studio and during the early part of this year he’ll be turning his attention to British graphic design studios once more — this time to judge the Best Studio Award for our Grafik Design Awards. If you haven’t already entered, don’t worry — you still have until 12 February to enter, impress Mr C and our other judges with your talents and show us your culture. www.awards.grafikmag.com

06 74 Things to Logoform See and Do YSL by Essential design Wladimir events and Marnich exhibitions for February 76 Letterform 13 Plakat Grotesk Talent ‘R’ by Philipp Photographer Herrmann Tyrone le Bon 78 19 Bookshelf Talent Essentials Illustrator Eoin Ryan From resident book expert 24 HUGO Showcase This month’s 80 best new graphic Viewpoint design work How did you fall in love with design? 36 Profile 83 Project Projects by Review Kerry William Critiques of new Purcell books, exhibitions and events 48 Special Report 84 Meeting of Minds Exhibition Decode: 50 Digital Design Wim Crouwel Sensations and Hamish Muir reviewed by In conversation David about working for Crookes the Boijmans van Beuningen 88 Museum, 1989–94 Six Books The latest 56 design books Derek Birdsall under fire and John Morgan In conversation 90 about collaborating Book together as Subway: Helvetica mentor and protégé and the New York 1995–2000 City Subway System reviewed 62 by David Quay Rachel Thomas and Dan 92 Tobin Smith Book In conversation Graphic Design: about their ongoing A User’s Manual relationship as reviewed by art director and Richard Hogg photographer 94 71 Exhibition View Stuart Haygarth Opinions, advice, reviewed by perspectives Richard Bucht

72 How to Be Green The eighth instalment of your eco design guide

98 Apartamento magazine By resident mag man Michael Bojkowski


Contents

06 74 Things to Logoform See and Do YSL by Essential design Wladimir events and Marnich exhibitions for February 76 Letterform 13 Plakat Grotesk Talent ‘R’ by Philipp Photographer Herrmann Tyrone le Bon 78 19 Bookshelf Talent Essentials Illustrator Eoin Ryan From resident book expert 24 HUGO Showcase This month’s 80 best new graphic Viewpoint design work How did you fall in love with design? 36 Profile 83 Project Projects by Review Kerry William Critiques of new Purcell books, exhibitions and events 48 Special Report 84 Meeting of Minds Exhibition Decode: 50 Digital Design Wim Crouwel Sensations and Hamish Muir reviewed by In conversation David about working for Crookes the Boijmans van Beuningen 88 Museum, 1989–94 Six Books The latest 56 design books Derek Birdsall under fire and John Morgan In conversation 90 about collaborating Book together as Subway: Helvetica mentor and protégé and the New York 1995–2000 City Subway System reviewed 62 by David Quay Rachel Thomas and Dan 92 Tobin Smith Book In conversation Graphic Design: about their ongoing A User’s Manual relationship as reviewed by art director and Richard Hogg photographer 94 71 Exhibition View Stuart Haygarth Opinions, advice, reviewed by perspectives Richard Bucht

72 How to Be Green The eighth instalment of your eco design guide

98 Apartamento magazine By resident mag man Michael Bojkowski


Designed by Anthony Burrill

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Contributors

Who’s your most memorable teacher? What’s your favourite meeting venue? Dirty Dozen or Lone Ranger?

Steven Bateman is a wordsmith.

David Crookes is a journalist and exhibition curator.

Mrs Cole, in my last year at primary school: a cracking teacher and a massive Bruce Springsteen fan.

My English teacher John Our music teacher, Keating. He Mr Bennett, used modelled himself to keep a bottle on his namesake of scotch under in Dead the piano lid. He Poets Society. was renowned for Inspirational and his impromptu creative. Pink Floyd recitals. Urbis in A good pub Manchester – it’s —preferably of the where everything old fashioned, has come together.  real-ale-and-horsebrasses variety.

I don’t have a favourite meeting venue as such, but as far as Grafik’s concerned my favourite ‘interview’ venues to date have been, in no particular order, Derek Birdsall’s basement atelier, Wim Crouwel’s apartment, and the home/studio of Niessen & de Vries.

Dirty Dozen. S’all about the team, yeah?

Philipp Herrmann is a graphic/type designer.

I’m a bit of a Lone Ranger but I always enjoy collaboration (and I’m a sucker for an old school war movie).

David Quay is a typographic designer and teacher. Ralph Beyer. Café Lokaal 't Loosje (Amsterdam), La Cirio (Brussels), Babas Café (Barcelona) and Café Bistro (Antwerp) are all my equal favourites. Half and half.

Anna Lisa Reynolds is a design writer and illustrator.

Kurt Eckert. Kronenhalle Bar, Zurich.

Dirty Dozen. Mischief’s more easily made with a few accomplices in tow.

Wladimir Marnich is never sure. Cookie monster from Sesame Street.

The mystery masked man was smart. He got A cafe in Barcelona. himself a Tonto ‘cause Tonto Chief Inspector did the dirty Jacques Clouseau. work for free. But Tonto, he was Richard Hogg smarter and is a designer and one day said qui illustrator. mo sabe Kiss my ass I bought a Mrs Taylor, who boat I’m going taught the out to sea. remedial group

at Grove Road Junior School, Burbage. The middle of Waterloo Bridge, 2.15 am. Seven Samurai.


Things to See and Do

Act Now 12 february

The deadline for the first ever Grafik Design Awards is fast approaching. If you’d like to put your work before our esteemed panel of judges (Phil Baines, Sara De Bondt, Emily King, Kate Moross, Ben Parker, Nick Roope, Eva Rucki, Marina Willer and Angharad Lewis) or think you could impress Wim Crouwel enough to win Best Studio, then go to www.awards.grafikmag.com, where you can find full details of how to enter. It’s easy and affordable — just £50 for the first entry and £25 for every entry thereafter, with a free three-month subscription to Grafik included. And if you’re a young design whippersnapper, then why not put yourself forward for the Best Newcomer Award, which will be judged by none other than Peter Saville and costs just £20 to enter. The deadline for entries is 31 January, so you’d better get your skates on.

February www.awards.grafikmag.com

Tiger Aspect 14 February

Yippee. 2010 is the year of the Tiger (2009 definitely was the year of the rat), and to celebrate, Tiger Beer has asked hot-shot curator Josef Valentino (he of the Worthless Woolworthsbased project) to commission a series of artworks from a bunch of young artists to represent the five elements of the Chinese Zodiac: earth, wood, metal, water and fire. Each of these elements will be brought to life in engaging, interactive installations dotted around the UK. There will also be a series of exhibitions (complete with an afterparty), created by the lovely folks at Dazed. You might also like to check out Tiger Beer’s iPhone app, which incorporates an augmented reality bar and restaurant finder, which points you to the best restaurants and bars in the UK and also includes a completely addictive game. www.tigerbeer.co.uk/yearofthetiger

Things to See and Do

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Paper Craft

Light Fantastic

22—23 February

04—07 February

Paper company GF Smith is taking its heritage exhibition (which celebrates the company’s 111 years of making top-quality paper) to Nottingham Trent University on 22 and 23 February. GF Smith has grown from being a small family-run business to a company employing 150 people and has always seen the value of commissioning some of the best designers around to help promote its products. The exhibition features work from designers such as Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, Paul Rand, Bill McKay and of course SEA Design, which has worked closely with the company for over ten years. During the day visitors are invited to explore the archive — there will be people from GF Smith there to chat to about the exhibition and any other paper-related questions that you might have — and in the evening there will be a knees-up for the industry movers and shakers.

Where can you find robots drawing humans, sculptures made of light and a giant orchestral milk float, all under one roof? The second annual Kinetica Art Fair, of course. Head down to Marylebone’s cavernous P3 exhibition space this month for a celebration of electronic, robotic, kinetic and interdisciplinary art forms. Building on the success of last year’s event, over 150 artists will be showing (and selling) work that combines the scientific with the artistic. Prices range from £50 to £40,000, but whether you take your pocket money or not, Kinetica promises to be a real treat. There’s a feature exhibition focusing on pioneering kinetic art, original installations from the seminal 1968 exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity, and a whole host of talks, video screenings and workshops running alongside the installations. Go on — get down there and indulge your inner geek.

www.gfsmith.com www.kinetica-artfair.com

Things to See and Do

February

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Space Oddity

Strict Geometry

13 February—17 April

04 February—16 March

Zip up your space suits, and strap in — Nottingham Contemporary has got a treat in store this month for those of us who dreamt of cosmonauts and rocket ships in our youth. Star City will showcase artworks and artefacts inspired by the space race and science fiction under communism as part of Polska! Year, the Year of Polish Culture. Curated by Alex Farquharson, the exhibition features work from artists who grew up in the Eastern Bloc, including Aleksandra Mir, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and Pawel Althamer — the latter will be donning lamé overalls again to bring his Common Task work to the Midlands. If the promise of gold-suited spacemen isn’t enough to tempt you, there’s also a life-sized Sputnik replica, a giant female cosmonaut statue and an innovative glass cinema showing the iconic sci-fi film Solaris — complete with alternative ending courtesy of Deimantas Naarkevicius.

Tate Modern’s ongoing exploration of Modernism continues in February with the unveiling of its latest exhibition, Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde: Constructing a New World. It’s the first major UK exhibition to focus on the Dutch maestro, famed as the founding father of De Stijl and the ambassador of both the magazine and the movement as a whole. Alongside paintings, furniture and typography from Van Doesburg himself, there are works on display from the likes of Gerrit Rietveld, Piet Mondrian and Jean Arp. Many of the pieces chosen for the show haven’t been seen before in the UK, so this is a rare opportunity to get up-close and personal with some legendary twentieth-century art and design. www.tate.org.uk/modern

www.nottinghamcontemporary.org

Things to See and Do

February

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Variety Performance

Micro Trend

17 February—18 April

16 February—03 July

Poet, painter, musician, filmmaker, author, photographer — Billy Childish has got more strings to his bow than (former girlfriend) Tracey Emin’s got names on the inside of her tent. Proving that fourteen years on the dole won’t hinder an art career, he’s produced a staggering amount of work over the last three decades, and this month the ICA has cherrypicked from this extensive archive to present Billy Childish: Unknowable But Certain. From paintings to poetry to pamphlets, it’s an attempt to encompass the entire breadth of work generated by this multi-talented art maverick, with the addition of performances, screenings and recitals to bring the show to life. For fans across the pond, there’s also a corresponding exhibition of Childish’s painting at White Columns in New York.

There’s a bit of a scientific theme running through February’s events, and the trend continues at London’s morbidly fascinating Hunterian Museum with artist and designer Susanna Edwards’s exhibition Curious — The Craft of Microscopy. Alongside the surgical artefacts and specimens in jars, Curious explores the development of microscopy as both craft and science. It’s been a six-year labour of love for Edwards, which began with a set of Victorian microscope slides that she found in a charity shop. Her research sheds light on the impact that technological developments have had upon the way we see the world, and it’s all documented through a series of gorgeously delicate photographs of the slides. The photos were taken using microscopes on loan from the Science Museum — some dating back to the eighteenth century — that are also displayed in the exhibition.

www.ica.org.uk

www.rcseng.ac.uk/museums

Things to See and Do

February

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Things to See and Do

January

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Things to See and Do

January

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Tyrone LeBon

Talent

Inspired by anything and everything, Tyrone LeBon gets his biggest kicks out of photographing interesting people. He talks to us about camera fetishes, the work-life balance, and ponders the merits of filmmaking vs. photography.

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01 Coco, Island Records, 2008 02 Jack, 2007

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01 Sid, i-D magazine, 2009 02 Jack and Naima, 2007 03 Othello Wolf, Young & Lost Club Records, 2009 04 Izzy, Nike, 2009

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What is in your work bag?

Digital or analogue? What makes for a good subject? Where is the most unlikely place that you’ve found inspiration? What’s been the best and the worst reaction to your work? What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

What has been the defining moment of your career so far?

How do you approach personal work as opposed to paid work?

I take photos and make films and have a bit of a camera fetish, so it changes all the time depending on what I’m doing. I used to like to bring all my cameras and try to shoot as many different cameras, film types, lighting as I could. I get a lot of pleasure out of the actual processes involved in different methods of photography. My urge to make every shoot a camera orgy seems to be calming down now, and the main camera that I have in my workbag is a Mamiya mediumformat camera. I use both. For photographs I mostly shoot film and get handprints. And for movies I shoot mostly digital. I like photographing people, and photography has always been an excuse for me to spend time and talk to people who interest me, so anyone interesting is a good subject. I don’t know. I think I’m pretty open to everything being a possible inspiration so nothing ever really seems like an unlikely surprise. Wooooow. Yawn. Just before Christmas I interviewed Nigel Shafran, who’s a great photographer, and at some point he was talking about “the subject being the work”. It struck a chord and I put it up on the wall by my desk. It feels like a reminder to not get too bogged down in the details of lighting and technical stuff. His images are beautiful but very simple—you think about his subjects, not about how he took the image. I like that. I was part of a group exhibition last summer called Know Your Place in London, which went really well, and I hope to put on lots more exhibitions in the future, so maybe that is the start of something that I hope will define me more than the work I do in magazines. I think this division, and understanding it, have taken a lot of my thought over the last few years. Taking pictures has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember but earning a living from it is a new thing that has developed over the last three years. It’s a great way to earn a living but I’ve definitely struggled to work out a balance I’m comfortable with. At first I approached them in exactly the same way but at times this made it quite painful—putting lots of energy and care into creating work which was often (in my eyes) compromised when taken out of my hands. And I was also very naïve to think that a commercial job has the same priorities as my work even if I’ve been commissioned off the back of something personal.

Does photography aid filmmaking or is there a different set of rules?

Yeah for sure, they help each other but obviously filmmaking is far more complex. You can steal a photo, get the image that you want even if it isn’t true to what is going on, but to get a sequence on film you have to have so much more knowledge and control and time. I think film is a far more powerful medium but photos are faster, simpler and direct. That’s why I like them both as tools.

What are your future plans?

My main aim for this year is to make a documentary about photographers. If I manage that I’ll be really happy. www.tyronelebon.com

Talent

Tyrone LeBon

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Hello@wearemustard.com Tel: 020 7357 9333

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Until 31 March 2010 Brought to you in association with

Warmly accepted throughout London


Talent

Eoin Ryan London-based illustrator and Camberwell graduate Eoin Ryan hangs out in the “Land of the Possible�, fantasises over album art, shares some advice on failure and gives us a peek inside his llama bag.

01 Untitled, 2009 02 We Are Makers, 2009

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01 Alsatian, 2009 02 Gift, 2009 03 Koi, 2009 04 Pattern, 2008

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Describe your style in three words. What is on your work bag/tool kit/ pencil case? What is in your work bag/tool kit/ pencil case? What’s better: working with a team or going it alone?

Where do you find inspiration?

What’s been the best and the worst reaction to your work?

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? What has been the defining moment of your career so far? What would be your fantasy commission?

What’s the best creative facility near to where you live?

What are you going to do next?

Folk Wave Geometry. I think they’re llamas. It’s a woven textile thing I got in Bolivia. The usual stuff really, pencils, charcoal, putty rubber, scalpel, black ink and brushes, felt-tip pens, compass, ruler. I also have some nibs for ink drawing pens which I’ve been messing around with recently. Really nice to draw with. I like to be in control of whatever it is I’m working on but that isn’t always possible in a commercial environment. There’s always some degree of collaboration between commissioner and illustrator. Sometimes this can produce great results, sometimes it’s frustrating, but I definitely believe it can force you into interesting new ways of working, which you might not have discovered alone. That also applies to working with other artists in my experience. I like Japanese woodblock art, old Chinese maps, charts and acupuncture diagrams, information graphics, old poster adverts. Haida Indian art is some of the most amazing folk art I’ve seen. When I was young we had a Haida print of an Orca hanging in our hall, which my parents brought back from Canada. I think that was one of the earliest images that made me want to draw. The best, or most interesting, reaction was from Nick Talbot from the band Gravenhurst. He called it “pastoral Soviet bloc presumably?”, which I quite liked. My brother once described an image I was working on as a “sea chicken”. Wasn’t too impressed with that. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Getting my first big commission a few months ago for Wallpaper* magazine. After that I started to believe I might actually be able to get away with doing this for a living. An illustrated adaptation of Borges’s short stories, or maybe album art for some of my favourite bands. I think books and albums are things that resonate with people as objects. I’ve bought lots of them just because I liked their covers and artwork. They can be quite beautiful things. Area 10, behind the library in Peckham. There’s usually some interesting events going on there. I have friends who use it for practising acrobatic performances. There are a few artists using bits of it as studio space as well. It seems to be in a constant state of change, which I like. A French artist I knew who was working there over the summer said it felt like “the Land of the Possible”. I have a couple of potentially interesting commissions coming up and I’m going to restart my animation/moving-image work, which has had a bit of a break while I focused on my illustration. I’m also talking with friends about organising some kind of show/event in London early next year. www.eoinryanart.com

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SOHI

Martin Frostner and Jonas Williamson

Iaspis Forum on Design and Critical Practice

Maud

Showcase Studio Laucke

Farrow

Moore

BCAD

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Rob Ryan


Onomatopee

Construct

Activism Doubt

Maybourne Papers

Magic Show

Susanna Edwards and Joseph Harries

The Form of the Book Book

Fraser Muggeridge and Sara De Bondt

Typeface as a Program

David Keshavjee and Julien Tavelli


Maud

SOHI

SOHI is on the up. The magazine is only on its second issue and already the editor’s letter boasts of a readership far beyond its geographical base and core audience of the Southern Highlands region of Sydney. Originally based on a blog and with a small print run of 2,000 copies, SOHI the print edition is flourishing: no surprise as the parents of the publication are top Australian design entrepreneurs Rebecca Wolkenstein and Sarah King. Hampus Jageland of studio Maud was enlisted to provide the magazine with a design worthy of the content. “The brief was pretty much to create something that could reflect the beauty of the Southern Highlands as well as communicate a good and well-edited read,” explains Jageland. Part of the design communiqué was to reflect the high quality and green credentials ingrained in the ethos of the magazine. “It would be a way of collecting all the most creative and interesting people in the Southern Highlands,” Jageland says of SOHI, “so we created a logo to communicate Showcase February

this. It’s designed to be a mix of a leaf structure and a diamond. Just as a diamond reflects what’s surrounding it, SOHI does too.” SOHI’s designers have made use of recycled, uncoated stock to further underpin the mag’s eco credentials while simultaneously hinting at the “crafty, yet minimal and modern” vibe of the neighbourhood and its inhabitants. Choosing not to worry about losing the richness of colours and blacks printed on uncoated stock, the approach seems to have worked out well, demonstrated by the fact that New South Wales-based printers Immij received both gold and silver excellence awards for the printing of SOHI in November. With such an auspicious start, SOHI seems destined to follow the diktat of Jageland’s logo: that diamonds are forever. www.maud.com.au www.sohimagazine.com.au

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Fraser Muggeridge and Sara De Bondt

The Form of the Book Book The inner sleeve of The Form of the Book Book beckons the reader to ponder the ten common mistakes in the production of books. The copy, taken from Jan Tschichold’s The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Good Design, opens the debate on which this book is based. De Bondt and Muggeridge have relit the fire, offering up the book as “a material space for critical self-reflection and exchange”. It features a collection of essays by Catherine de Smet, James Goggin, Jenny Eneqvist, Roland Früh and Corina Neuenschwander, Richard Hollis, Sarah Gottlieb, Chrissie Charlton and Armand Mevis that were first discussed at The Form of the Book conference at St Bride Library in London back in January 2009. When asked whether they were conscious of trying not to break any Tschichold commandments in the design and layout of the book, De Bondt is coy. “Some of them I agree with, others I’m not so sure about,”

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February

she says. “It’s been a really enjoyable experience. We wanted to give a feeling that this was a conference, a series of ideas from practitioners all at different stages of their careers. We kept the format of the book the same as the original, for example keeping illustrations next to the text, but for the chapter headers we used photographs from the conference in 2009.” Whichever way you look at it, the story always returns to Tschichold’s obsession: text and image. De Bondt and Muggeridge are keen to draw our attention away from the gloss and dross and reflect on the mechanics of graphic design: “We want to make affordable books on art and design, to get away from ‘coffee table’ to concentrate on process rather than finished product.” You could say it’s a good book book. www.occasionalpapers.org

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Construct

Maybourne Papers

and bring to life the copy. The Claridge’s paper Construct has been busy putting together a quarterly is printed in black with a foil cover and features mini-tabloid-format series of three papers for the Maybourne Group, which holds a great hand in Monopoly a bold typographic style using a combination of Bryant and Perpetua. The Berkeley paper is printed with two five-star hotels in Mayfair (Claridge’s one-colour and features a short cover and inserts and The Connaught) and one in Knightsbridge (The Berkeley). Essentially a tactical marketing document, in a contrasting stock. It is innovative and confident in format and design, and, according to the three papers excel in selling the individual Fendley, reinforces the hotel’s passion for design personalities of the upmarket inns, while making and innovation. The typographic style is bold, with the whole exercise a graphic design tour de force. contrasts in scale and layout in a combination of “We came up with the idea of a newspaper Freight and Trade Gothic. for each hotel,” enthuses Georgia Fendley, creative The Connaught paper is printed in two colours director of Construct. Her team works on every with a vertical short cover in contrasting stock. aspect, “and the client’s organisation is not Typography here is in Goudy Old Style, with an management-heavy, which means that if a story illustrative use of enlarged free-drawn handwriting. requires it we can chat straight to the chef.” Being “It’s a cost-effective exercise, and it’s gone down involved with the content is a key concern for very well with the client,” says Fendley. Move Fendley. As she states, “The best graphic design is straight to Go. about playing with words, and it pays to be involved in content.” Each of the papers uses a simple one-colour www.constructlondon.com approach and relies heavily on type to illustrate www.maybourne.com

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Rob Ryan

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park — not the first place you’d expect to find the delicate, intricate work of the paper cut-out king Rob Ryan, who only works in two dimensions. He didn’t think so either: he’s much more used to the cosy world of his eponymous shop RyanTown in Spitalfields, East London. “[The Yorkshire Sculpture Park] rang me last April and I invited myself up,” chuckles the affable Ryan. “It’s so outside of what I do I needed to see it. That place makes you realise how brilliant nature is,” he continues. “I mean, people just go for a walk and see art along the way. You don’t go for a stroll in the Tate Modern, do you?” Ryan turned down the first location offered for his installation but had his eye on somewhere a little unexpected: “I elbowed my way in. I don’t really do monumental pieces but there was this 88 square foot window that looked great. I wanted to tell a simple story of outside observers — birds looking at humans — and this was the perfect location.”

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The west-facing aspect of the windows in the visitors’ centre, and the fact that the work was to be read from the inside, gave Ryan the opportunity to work with the eleven window decals in a slightly more controlled environment. As each panel measures 4.5 metres high by 1.9 metres wide, scale was also a big consideration. “The work was drawn on paper, scanned actual size, cut down on A3-size paper,” Ryan explains. As well as producing the site-specific work (entitled You Can Still Do a Lot with a Small Brain), Ryan was keen to have a longer-lasting impact on the site and so stuck a deal to have a book published on the work. The project is a fascinating probe into Ryan’s nest. www.misterrob.co.uk www.ysp.co.uk

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Iaspis Forum on Design and Critical Practice

Martin Frostner and Jonas Williamson

London, 2007: Forms of Inquiry: The Architecture of Critical Graphic Design is an exhibition, seminar and also a book edited by Zak Kyes and Mark Owens. The enterprise gathers momentum and, in 2008 and 2009, offshoots appear as exhibitions in Stockholm, Utrecht, Valence, Zurich and Lausanne. Then Stockholm-based Martin Frostner and Jonas Williamson decided that their country needed more than an exhibition; they needed a version of the original book focusing on critical thinking, uniting Swedish with other European designers. “Around fifteen years ago there were no real design studios here [in Sweden], our jobs were done by people working in the world of advertising. Jonas Williamson and I felt that bringing the Forms of Inquiry exhibition to Sweden would be an important step to vitalise the Swedish design debate.” This new publication sees Frostner and Williamson not only handling the editing and production but also the design of the book.

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As Frostner notes, it was no easy task: “Since our role was more as initiators and editors in this twoyear-long process, and the fact that the content is a critique on graphic design, actual design decisions were a bit tricky. Our inspiration for designing the graphic material came from the Iaspis gallery space and the fact that they quite recently moved to a new address. We wanted to make graphic material that could work as signage and as a guidance tool within the space and its surroundings.” Together Frostner and Williamson have done an admirable job of not only translating the original concept into a relevant and neat contemporary overview of Swedish graphic design practice, but also of creating a visually arresting piece of design in its own right. www.martinfrostner.se www.sternberg-press.com

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Susanna Edwards and Joseph Harries

Magic Show

You only have to take a look at Derren Brown’s ticket sales to realise that, even in the twenty-first century, we still enjoy a good magic trick. It’s a fascination that Hayward Touring hopes to tap into with its new travelling exhibition, Magic Show, which displays work from twenty-four artists alongside live performances, film screenings and an archive of magical ephemera. It’s enlisted the collaborative power of Susanna Edwards and Joseph Harries to create a 116-page catalogue to accompany the show. Faced with a complex brief, the pair were keen to create something a bit different. As Edwards explains, “We wanted to take the reader on a journey that was similar to the experience of the exhibition, in terms of very varied content around one theme.” Their starting point was the creation of the show’s identity, using Hoefler & Frere-Jones’s Archer typeface for a contemporary feel with a little added flair. They’ve expanded the catalogue format to include essays, artists’ works, archive objects and printed ephemera, dividing the book into four sections through the use of different paper stocks. “The paper

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choices were made to change the tactile and visual experience of each section of content,” explains Edwards. “We used Revive Gloss, Reviva Offset, Cocoon and a coloured Dutch paper called Butterfly for the fold-out — all chosen for their contrast to each other.” The result is a wonderfully touchy-feely book that attains a cohesion in spite of its diverse content, using only subtle references to the subject matter. “Magic as a theme is ridden with clichés and obvious visuals,” says Edwards. “We wanted to avoid rabbits, red velvet and magic wands.” Instead, they’ve used understated flourishes like the concertinastyle middle section, which pulls out like scarves from a magician’s hat. It’s clear that Magic Show was a real labour of love for Edwards and Harries. And the highlight of the project? “The photoshoot for the archive objects — we got to touch Tommy Cooper’s card-grabbing duck.” www.susannaedwards.com www.josephharries.com

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Studio Laucke

BCAD

A mighty undertaking for Dirk Laucke and Johanna Siebein of Studio Lauke — bcad, a book charting 1979–2009 of Benthem Crouwel Architects (the mighty successful architects, one founding partner of which has a dad whose name won’t be unfamiliar to Grafik readers). “During the first meeting with Jan Benthem and Mels Crouwel,” recalls Laucke, “it was clear that there would be no briefing. Except for a list of projects that had to be in the book there was nothing. One of my first decisions was not to use Frutiger type, which Benthem Crouwel use. I wanted to avoid a corporate brochure feel.” The layout of the book was based on the fact that it was necessary to be flexible and have the ability to add in or leave out sections of content at the very last moment. “It’s based on a grid where the text has no relation to the images,” Laucke continues. “By using this trick we were free to change a page in a very short time without taking any design decisions. During the eighteen months we worked on the book, there were many moments when I called and said ‘everything will be different’.” This free-thinking approach led to one of the most interesting aspects of the book. “As far as Showcase February

I could see,” says Laucke, “most monographs are full of glossy photography from realised buildings, often in front of a sunrise or sunset. I didn’t want this, so aspired towards a playful, very busy book full of sketches and snapshots.” Laucke took the clichéd sunset snaps and upended them: “I asked the photographer Johannes Schwarz to take pictures of all the damaged mockups and created a chapter called Sunset Ruins.” This section at the centre of the book, printed fullpage on high-gloss paper, is a testament to dreams fallen by the wayside and hints at projects that either became part of something else or died where they stood. The freedom demonstrated by Studio Laucke’s ability to include such a section reveals the confidence and disciplined approach of Benthem Crouwel and creates an end result as stunning as the architecture itself. www.studio-laucke.com www.benthemcrouwel.nl

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Calligraphie





=HHECN=LDU

1AILH=PA

Gabarit

David Keshavjee and Julien Tavelli

Typeface as a Program Straight to top of the class for ex-Ecal students David Keshavjee and Julien Tavelli who took inspiration from a workshop focusing on the development of tools for digital type run by Frederick Berlaen that they attended in 2007. A spark was triggered in the two students and they continued the research, furthering it for their diploma project and then, on graduating, François Rappo (head of graphic design at the school) asked them to publish a book along with extra texts from JĂźrg Lehni among others. A+. In realising the project, the main constraints came from the limitations of the technology, Keshavjee explains. “From design to production we worked with different kinds of techniques — digital tools to design type and layout and mechanical tools to make woodcut and print with letterpress. The technology has an impact on the final result.â€? Keshavjee and Tavelli felt it was important to use typefaces that they had created exclusively

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for the book, directly linked to the content. With the scripting they discovered shapes that they used to create the woodcut display font. “We wanted to transcribe and test those shapes into a text font,â€? explains Keshavjee. “In the book we showed up this difference by using only one size for the text and one size for the display woodcut font.â€? Keshavjee states that the printing was an exciting step to undertake. “The design of the book took a long time and in the end we were tired of working on computers, we wanted to materialise it. For the print process we had the opportunity to work with a printer. We spent two weeks learning and printing with a Heidelberg Platine Typo. We had a close interaction with the details of production. That was good for the karma of the book.â€? What goes around comes around. www.cornerhouse.org/books Â

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Onomatopee

Activism Doubt

Dutch artists Jonas Staal and Harmen de Hoop are a feisty pair. Staal was arrested in 2005 for anonymously distributing portraits of right-wing MP Geert Wilders and charged with the crime of threatening assault on parliament, whilst de Hoop intervenes in society by scattering soil on pavements and sticking up a sign saying: “Grow your own vegetables.” The book Activism Doubt is the result of a collaboration — a game of sorts — between the two cultural antagonists. Published by Freek Lomme’s Onomatopee, it’s been designed by the small publishing venture’s designer Remco van Bladel. The grand finale of the collaboration was shelved, as it became too political for even these fringe idealists, as Lomme reveals: “The final part of the project — the real doubt part — consists of a collaborative project where they wrote letters to a variety of activists — ‘green’, ‘red’, fascist, whatever, stating they would offer their services since they consider their role as artists to be to voice the marginal, no matter the colour.

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We wanted to put these letters poster-size onto the streets, but as these groups were involved it might have become tricky.” Instead, the focal point in the design of the book became the need to pull the ideas and views of the two cultural antagonists together, as Van Bladel explains. “There were a few conversations but it took me a while to even understand the project. There were all these ‘actions’, re-enactments and reinterpretations and I didn’t really get who did did what. But after some first drafts and some discussions everything became clear — also, I think, for the artists.” Using one-sided coated paper alternated with uncoated paper to indicate the difference between the new and historical actions, a colour scheme of red and blue to reinforce the political nature of the content and the Lydian calligraphy font to give the book an edge, Van Bladel has forged a graphic link between extremes. www.onomatopee.net

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Farrow

Moore

In the hustle and bustle of London, transit vans don’t usually attract a second glance; they’re plastered with dodgy clipart and generic decals. Soon, though, there’ll be at least one nipping around that breaks the mould, thanks to Farrow Design’s rebranding of London-based printers Moore. Farrow has created a simple and precise logo for the company that forms the basis for the entire identity, with everything from the stationery and the website to the white van getting a facelift. The two companies have built a strong working relationship over the years, so when the time came for a branding revamp, Farrow Design was Moore’s obvious choice. After sticking with the same identity for ten years, the logo looked dated, and with its recent acquisition of a new HP Indigo digital press, John Arnold at Moore decided it was time for a change. The new identity needed to demonstrate the printers’ technical prowess while avoiding the clichéd printing-industry logos (colourful parrots

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and tropical fish, anyone?) and hinge on a logo that could be adaptable. As Gary Stillwell at Farrow explains, “John Arnold has a good eye for design, so he gave us plenty of freedom. The keyword for this project was ‘multifaceted’. Moore has a lot of strings to its bow, and we had to reflect that in the design.” The logo that Farrow arrived at combines clean, geometric shapes with deceptively complex production techniques. “It was really difficult to print,” says Arnold, “but the logo shows off our technical capabilities, especially in variable data printing.” Stillwell echoes this by remarking that he deliberately bunched up colours to stretch the print limits. The good rapport between Farrow and Moore eased the design process. “We let them get on with it,” says Arnold. “Is there any other way?” www.farrowdesign.com www.mooreprint.co.uk

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project projects Portrait of Prem Krishnamurthy (left) and Adam Michaels (right) of Project Projects, photographed by Noah Sheldon www.noahsheldon.com

Born out of frustration, Prem Krishnamurthy and Adam Michaels formed studio Project Projects as a way of connecting their personal interests in cultural production. KERRY WILLIAM PURCELL visited their studio in New York to discuss graphic design and its context in culture and to found out that it’s not about generating cash for a client or sitting on the fence as a passive communicator of information.

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“I thought I would operate more on the periphery, but after graduating I didn’t last a year. There were no comissions.”

Just over fifty years ago, the critic and novelist Raymond Williams took a bus journey from the market town of Hereford to his home town of Llanvihangel Crucorney in South Wales. Seeing the mountains and mines, churches and castles, shops and pubs, he famously observed that “culture is ordinary” and that “every human society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own meanings”, which encapsulate “a whole way of life”. Williams went on to distinguish between two elements of culture, one being “the known meanings and directions, which its members are trained to”, and the other “the new observations and meanings, which are offered and tested”. Customarily, as Williams then argued, it has been this second sense of culture, that of literature, classical music and the arts, that has defined what is widely understood by the term. At the time, it was a groundbreaking distinction that, in a single moment, legitimised the examination of cultural and artistic activities that functioned beyond the rarefied world of these traditional aesthetic forms. What has this to do with graphic design? What Williams did was sanction the study of those areas of cultural production that were perceived as operating outside of the artistic canon. Initially, the cultural life of working-class communities became the subject of detailed study. Then, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the areas of study expanded to include other groups, processes and materials. In the analysis of visual culture, forgotten or neglected areas of film production, literature or art received fresh consideration. Over the past twenty years, the study of graphic design has slowly taken on a significance that, if not yet equal to these other forms, means it is becoming an established field of enquiry. From posters to stamps, books to magazines, the objects, practices and individuals occupied in the production of these materials have come under intense critical scrutiny. Ultimately, it is less about some abstract value one may attribute to a practice as a whole and more about the content of the individual objects examined. It’s a long way from Llanvihangel Crucorney to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Yet, when meeting with Prem Krishnamurthy and Adam Michaels, the design team that make up the studio Project Projects, I was struck by how their choice of projects and the way they approached them recalled this

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01, 02 Exhibition graphics by Project Projects for Actions: What You Can Do With the City, installation views at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2008. © CCA Montreal Photography by Michel Legendre 03, 04 Exhibition graphics and catalogue by Project Projects for Berlin-New York Dialogues: Building in Context, Center for Architecture, New York, Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, Berlin, 2007/2008

earlier struggle over the definition of culture. In many ways, in both their attention to the details of a subject and their desire to broaden participation in cultural production, they forgo any general aesthetic or fixed philosophical approach in favour of a serious engagement with content. As with Williams’s relationship to culture, their connection to design is one shaped by “deep personal meanings”. Krishnamurthy studied graphic design and photography at Yale. Following this, he received a grant to work in Germany. On returning to New York, he worked at the New York Times Magazine. It was around this time that he met Adam Michaels. Michaels had studied graphic design at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and, after completing his degree, was actively opposed to the idea of moving to New York. “I thought I would operate more on the periphery,” Michaels recalled, “but after graduating I didn’t even last a year. There were just no commissions.” He took up an internship in Michael Worthington’s Los Angeles design studio, and it was Worthington who recommended Michaels move to New York, especially if he wanted to work in the area that most interested him, which was book design. Both Michaels and Krishnamurthy had mutual friends in New York and it was through these contacts that they met in 2003. Frustrated with the kind of design work being offered to them, they quickly realised they had a shared vision of what design could and should be. They knew they would stand more chance of doing this kind of work if they formed a studio. “On a basic level,” Krishnamurthy recalled, “we were interested in a conceptual approach to design. We were thinking about content in a really serious way, not one focused on a specific visual style, but more about the specifics of things.” “To my mind,” Michaels concurs, “we both have an interest in culture, and it made sense to do design work in this area, rather than design work that was purely in the service of commerce. We wanted our work to connect to our personal interests.” Krishnamurthy continues: “We barely knew each other, but we showed each other our work and talked about it. At some point we thought we would just tell people we were a studio.” Born of this desire to work with material (and people) they were enthusiastic about, Project Projects was formed in 2004.

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06 Cover, Personal Protocols and Other Preferences, published by Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, designed by Project Projects, 2008

04, 05 Exhibition design and graphics by Project Projects for OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding, The Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, 2008

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”I didn’t want to follow the path of alienation, I wanted my day-to-day labour to be the thing I cared about rather than do the thing I care about at night.” 04

01–04 Cover and spreads, MATRIX/BERKELEY: A Changing Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive, coedited and designed by Project Projects, 2009

From the outset, both Michaels’s and Krishmurthy’s desire to do work that connected with their “personal interests” drew them to museums and galleries. Yet, in an age when major artistic institutions are using techniques of branding not so dissimilar from those employed by global corporations, how does designing for a museum differ from a bank or fast-food chain? “Personally,” Michaels replies, “my attitude [towards designing for museums] is very different now. Because of precisely what you’re describing… I think it’s important to make clear that we don’t put one sphere here (the cultural) and another here (the corporate) because, especially in New York, the two are deeply linked. When I was young, in Minneapolis, there wasn’t that connection between the corporate sphere and art. For example, many artists would work as waiters or in low-paid jobs and do their art as a hobby. So I always saw ‘culture’ in that sense as more laudable. However, I didn’t want to follow the path of alienation (i.e., working in one sphere while doing your art in another), I wanted my day-to-day labour to be the thing I cared about rather than do the thing I care about at night. I think that is how both of us came to design as a means of sidestepping that struggle.” Yet this sense of your art being alienated from your life is increasingly mirrored in the way many institutions design their exhibitions. “I came to design through writing and reading,” Krishnamurthy notes, “and when we started the studio, my thinking was very much about curatorial models and organising events. I had been living in Berlin and there wasn’t really an art economy. There were lots of artists living there and lots of interesting people, but there wasn’t any money in it. So I thought being involved with culture was having shows in your kitchen, or doing small-scale random things that were interesting. But as we have become involved in more institutions, it has been interesting to see how museums and galleries have shifted from being focused on exhibition designs that connect with the content, ideas and programming of a show towards a more top-down model.

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Like the New Museum, where they decided they are going to brand every show they do in a particular way and the institutional identity becomes so much more important than any specific context of the work.” These frustrations with the imperious identities of major museums shaped the way Michaels and Krishnamurthy approached the book they did for the Matrix Program at the Berkeley Art Museum. In existence since 1978, the Matrix Program is a room within the museum that offers a dedicated space for the presentation of new works by contemporary artists. Indicative of their desire to allow the content of a project to dictate their formal approach, both designers spent over two years going through the archive of past exhibitions in the Matrix room. Such a commitment to the design of a book is rare, but the result more than merits the effort. “That was a really direct involvement,” says Krishnamurthy. “Overall, there are some things that come out of it, as in an arc of curatorial practice and art making—the way things are organised and the way institutions function. But on a specific level, it was about looking at these materials and understanding through a set of correspondences how a particular exhibition was made and what decisions went into it and trying to make those histories visible.” On a practical level, Michaels notes: “It was convenient that each one of the [more than 220] Matrix shows were numbered, so there is this serial logic in place. From the beginning, each of the shows had a brochure, so we used those as a thumbnail, an organising thread throughout the book. In the visual material it’s interesting to see how technology changes, so you can see how they have moved from using a typewriter and typesetting through to desk-top publishing and the hiring of a 1990s graphic designer to make a 1990s logo for the programme.” By focusing on the ephemeral material that encircles each exhibition, Krishnamurthy and Michaels were able to present qualitative experience of the exhibit, situating it in its own context. As Michaels explains, “Some of the new art in the book could

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Exhibition design and graphics by Project Projects with Saylor + Sirola, Into the Open: Positioning Practice, Slought Foundation, Parsons The New School for Design, 2009. Photography by Whitney Cox, Matthew Sussman, and Prem Krishnamurthy

be art from decades ago, some of the old art could be contemporary art. There would not have been so much that was locative if we just focused on the objects alone; the ephemeral material was often far more evocative of the period.” Looking through the book is to experience the thrill of a researcher or historian when stumbling upon an object from the period, such as a signed letter or scrawled note. Continuing to forgo, in Michaels’s words, “any work that is about nothing more than generating capital for a company”, one of the areas Project Projects has sought to engage with is the increasing commodification of our public spheres. Unlike many designers who continue to hide behind a fictitious belief in their own neutrality, presenting themselves as nothing more than mediators of information, Project Projects has examined its role in the construction of designs for the built environment. In fact, one of the pair’s earliest works saw them take their studio’s name on a board into various urban spaces and have their photograph taken holding the sign. Even going about this seemingly innocent activity, they were made aware of what the Dutch designer Jan van Toorn called “the onedimensional quality of our symbolic environment” when they were challenged and told they could not take pictures in this ‘public space’. It is an experience that has informed their desire to create designed environments where visitors can participate equally, in which the only determining factor is the validity and strength of an argument and not the wish to consume. This approach was evident in Project Projects’ design of the Venice Biennale Architecture pavilion when it came to New York in 2008. “The show, entitled Into the Open: Positioning Practice, was at the Parsons The New School for Design, at which I taught for two years,” Krishnamurthy explains. “It was in this beautiful building, but when I was there the students were unhappy about the fact that they were not allowed to have bolt-in boards on the walls, they were not allowed to have a visual presence because of various fire codes and institutional reasons. The show we designed featured the work of sixteen different architectural practices and also grassroots-activist practices looking at the built environment. It had to be really cheap—we designed it in a month and a half—and we used

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these large text banners that are legible throughout the room, alongside models, images and type. But the big gesture was that all the walls were painted with chalkboard paint and throughout the show students were encouraged to write on the walls. Some people wrote things that were really topical and responded to the pieces; others just wrote things like ‘penis club’ or other such things. For us it was interesting to see how you could have that level of interactivity, which is basic and isn’t high-tech.” It is a theme, as Michaels explains, “that runs throughout many of the exhibitions we have done—that is, the idea of providing the opportunity for multiple voices and different participants”. While Michaels and Krishnamurthy appear to adopt a clear stance in the examples discussed, the way they approach each individual project is not hidebound by any fixed ideological agenda. Rather, each book, website, poster or exhibition emerges from an exchange of ideas with the client. “I would say the thing that has become more and more apparent to me,” Krishnamurthy explains, “is that, for example, there are certain artists whose work I really love and want to work with because there is something in their ideas or something that comes out of a certain dialogue that is exciting. It always comes down to the specific question of: what is the actual thing we are doing? What is the actual book? What is the context? What is the exhibition we are doing? And less the question of how it functions in some abstract way.” As Michaels concludes, “It’s about people we like. It’s about personal connections that are important to us.” Although in existence for only six years, Project Projects has quickly established a reputation for thoughtful and visually engaging work. Like the best design, it does not seek validation from other artistic forms, but exists within a world that is uniquely its own. Maybe it is because Michaels and Krishnamurthy came to design as readers that they are sensitive to the relationship between form and context. In a profession where an obsession with visual gimmickry frequently overwhelms the essence of a design, the work of Project Projects displays that rare quality among designers: an informed humility towards the substance of a design.

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01–03 Cover and spreads, Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State, designed by Project Projects, published by Phaidon, 2008

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Special Report

This month’s Special Report unpicks aspects of the key relationships in graphic design, as recounted by some of the most admired people in our industry.

Steven Bateman made a date with our three pairs to talk about their

relationships as client and designer (Wim Crouwel and Hamish Muir), mentor and protégé (Derek Birdsall and John Morgan) and art director and photographer (Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith). Over wine, tea, cake and material from respective archives, conversations flowed and we found out that great rapport leads to personal trust, generosity and, ultimately, great work.

Meeting of Minds


It came as little surprise when graphic design giant Wim Crouwel succeeded Wim Beeren in 1985 as director of Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. With his colleagues at Total Design, Crouwel had created a body of highly influential, era-defining work for the Stedelijk Museum throughout the 60s and 70s, designing posters, catalogues and exhibitions. However, as director of the Boijmans he decided against the Herculean task of designing all the museum’s graphic material as well as being its director. Instead he hired some young guns from London…

It probably raised a few eyebrows when Crouwel appointed 8vo, but from 1989 to 1994 the studio answered Crouwel’s briefs with sensitivity and erudition, experimenting with Futura to develop a recognisable ‘face’ for the museum that was both engaging and accessible. Founded in 1984 by Mark Holt, Simon Johnston and Hamish Muir, 8vo earned a reputation as an exciting young studio thanks to a groundbreaking magazine, Octavo, and elegant, typography-led projects that generally went against the grain of contemporary British graphics. Steven

Bateman met Wim Crouwel and Hamish Muir at Crouwel’s home

in Minervalaan, just south of central Amsterdam to find out more.

Client and Designer

Wim Crouwel and Hamish Muir in Conversation  Wim Crouwel: I had been on the supervision board [of Boijmans van Beuningen] for five years; we met every two or three months to discuss all sorts of problems... Then Wim Beeren [Boijmans director 1978–85, Stedelijk director 1985–93], a very good friend of mine, became director of the Stedelijk. So the Boijmans were looking for a new director; the first candidates didn’t work out so they phoned me and said, “You know the museum— will you think about it?” I was a full-time professor in Delft, a consultant to my old design company [Total Design, now Total Identity], and I was at an age where I thought I didn’t want to change any more. I was Dean of the Faculty so I had enough to do, but my wife said, “You should do it. It’s one more chance to do something else.” Eventually I accepted. I had a good example in the past, [William] Sandberg [Stedelijk director 1945–63]— a designer AND a museum director. He did it very well so I thought, “Maybe I can do it too.”

Hamish Muir: Didn’t you work for Sandberg?

I did. Designing catalogues and posters for the Stedelijk, I was his follower but I fought against his influence. He had certain ideas about typography and I have my own, but we had a very good relationship. When I became director at the Boijmans, an old colleague of mine from Total Design was designing the catalogues and posters. I asked her to continue, but she went with Wim Beeren to the Stedelijk. So I tried two young guys who started an office; I thought, “Give them a chance; they’re young and bright.” But during the one and a half years I worked with them, one of them would design one catalogue and the other would design the next, so they were always different. I said, “I can’t see a unity. They’re very good, but they’re not recognisable as coming from the Boijmans.” They were too different. In the meantime, I wrote an article for Octavo, so that’s how I knew 8vo. I was impressed with their magazine and I thought, “Let’s ask them to do it.”

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You thought we were a publishing company, didn’t you?



Yes, because you did Octavo. Then I visited them…

Our tiny hovel in Endell Street. It was quite a traumatic day, making it tidy enough for  such an important visitor. When we started Octavo, Michael Burke was one of the co-editors; he had a photocopy of an AGI members’ list that we used as our mailing list. Wim’s name was on there so we sent him a subscription card; I think you were the first person to sign up for all eight issues.

I still think it’s a fantastic magazine, especially for that period; it was a good decision to make it only eight.



We had read an interview with you and Rick Poynor, with a photograph of you in the museum.  In the interview Rick showed Wim a copy of Octavo and asked, “What do you think of this work coming out of London?” And Wim said, “I’m a subscriber.” We couldn’t believe it. It was really nice.

That’s how things happen…

So we invited Wim to contribute to our ‘lower case’ issue. I mean, when we started 8vo in  1984 or ’85, typography was very much... a ‘backroom’ activity; it was very serious. At the time, advertising heavily influenced British graphic design; the visual came first and the type second. But Simon and I had studied in Basel and Mark Holt spent four years in San Francisco, so we all had these different influences. We looked to Europe as our spiritual home, so working for a museum in Rotterdam was like a dream come true.

Hamish Muir (left) and Wim Crouwel (right) at Crouwel’s apartment in Amsterdam, October 2009 All location shots by Christoffer Rudquist www.c-h-r-i-s-t-o-f-f-e-r.com

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At the same time it must have been a shock. The circumstances you had to work with were quite different.

I’m really glad you wanted to keep Futura — it made us do something very different. 

It made everything so recognisable; what you did with Futura was great. Breaking the surface…

It was a challenge to use in catalogues. We used Akzidenz, Univers and Unica, but we’d never  used Futura. We wanted to work with neutral sans serifs. Suddenly we were presented with this awkward, ugly typeface. How do you make it readable? How do you make it beautiful? It was used for everything. There was no concession.

No. Absolutely not… 

At the start Wim said, “Use any fonts in the Futura family, apart from Extra Bold: that’s  illegal.” And I can see why. It’s incredibly ugly.

It’s a very strange typeface.

 think that’s what gave the whole project its cohesion. It was a response to using Futura. I We enjoyed the energy it took to work with this typeface and we always looked at the things we were making, asking whether they were going to communicate properly to the audience.

 At the same time you must have experienced the difficulty of working with several curators. That’s the experience I had at the Stedelijk. My biggest fights were always with curators. They were my friends, but at the same time they had very strong ideas. You experienced this in Rotterdam? 

To a degree... The interaction with curators did help to shape and expand the range of  things we did; [they] were very open and supportive. I don’t think we ever came to you to say, “We’re having problems...”

Never.

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 And remember how you did it? Without computers or PDFs. Just faxes and photocopies.

We had to make sure our fax roll always had plenty of paper on it...

 Cost-wise, we often worked with a printer in Belgium; that made it more complicated.

The way of working was certainly different. Octavo was crafted. The printer had a lot of  influence on the design; we’d talk to them, working out ways to use different printing techniques. Using the print process as a large part of the design process. For the Boijmans we had to produce — in quite a short amount of time — large catalogues to be printed fourcolour process only, by a good commercial printer in Ghent. Their in-house typesetting was an American newspaper system and their version of Futura was horrendous. I think Wim asked them to dust down their old Linotron 303. So the working process was different and that had to influence the design. The first few things we did were overworked, but we began to realise that it wasn’t about individual things: it was about a ‘whole’. You asked us to build a ‘face’ for the museum, evolving over time through strong typography and images. Not a rigid identity...

 That’s right. When I started my work for the Stedelijk, I fought against Sandberg’s influence. It’s always good to fight against something; it’s good for your development. I wanted to work with a rigid system: one grid and one typeface, Univers. I put myself in a straitjacket. When I started at the Boijmans, I thought it should have unity but without the straitjacket. Giving the designers more freedom. That’s why I only asked for the size and Futura to be consistent.

Every job was like starting again; I don’t think we ever used the same grid twice.

You were very flexible.

An analysis of the content always provided the starting point. The more we got to know  Futura — and also through experience — the work became better. The first few we did were a bit fiddly and overworked.

They certainly became better, but I still like the old ones.

01 Van der Vaart: 35 Jaar Ceramiek, exhibition poster for the Boijmans van Beuningen by 8vo, 1991 02 1928: Schoonheid en Transparantie, Logica en Vernuft, exhibition poster for the Boijmans van Beuningen by 8vo, 1993 03 Hardware: Collectie Hedendaagse Sculptuur, exhibition poster for the Boijmans van Beuningen by 8vo, 1989

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01 Forms of Colour, exhibition poster for the Stedelijk Museum by Wim Crouwel, 1966 02 Vormgevers, poster for the Stedelijk Museum by Wim Crouwel, 1968 03 Poster for general purposes for the Stedelijk Museum, by Wim Crouwel, 1971

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We had to produce more robust designs, which would survive that process. It’s difficult  to let go but it was really good for us; it had a huge influence on what we did later. Our work changed from being about crafting individual artefacts to thinking more about systems for design.

When I look back at the work, there is a unity.

You can tell it’s all done by the same people. I think the physical distance built a good  sense of trust. We felt we had to be responsible, respectful. It was a good balance between distance and contact. When we showed you things it was often by fax, so posters had to go down to a faxable size.

 I did see the work, if I had time… It’s a crazy job, being a museum director. I never understood how Sandberg designed his own catalogues while being director. Steven Bateman: Did the distance help you overcome your concerns about intervening? In the beginning I was unsure. I wanted to give them freedom but at the same time I wanted to get a handle on it. It’s difficult. Over the years I pulled back a little. Hamish, you once described Wim as a model client.

h, absolutely. I was thinking on my way here this morning, now that I’m more experienced O and I teach and I’ve worked with younger designers. There’s something about the energy of young people. At the time, 8vo was only four or five years old; we were full of energy. Sometimes it got misdirected... I don’t know how I would have coped in Wim’s position. I think I would have found it difficult to respect the energy and allow things to go slightly wrong sometimes. Finding that balance between intervening or not intervening must have been difficult... I still don’t know how you did it.

I don’t know myself.

It was great for us, though, because we didn’t feel under pressure.

And I liked the work. I didn’t have to intervene.

We felt we were working for the curators; they were our clients.

That’s the feeling I had at the Stedelijk. They’re the ones you deal with.

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We knew Wim would take an interest. I remember we talked about the Forbidden City poster  a lot.

That’s true. I designed the exhibition; one of the nicest jobs I have ever done. I didn’t have time to do design work for the museum, but now and then I did an exhibition and this exhibition was so important because it was so expensive; we worked for three years with our contacts in China.

The publicity campaign was different. We did larger posters...

An advertising agency was involved because it was so important. It was very successful; the biggest crowd we ever had—about 400,000.

With the posters, we could be more expressive, but they always related to the catalogue. The  great thing about working for a Dutch museum was that in Holland most people understand that a poster is a poster and a catalogue cover is just a catalogue cover. It’s not a painting so you can intervene, crop, involve the typography with the image... In the UK — less so now, but if you looked at Royal Academy posters for example, they were more respectful of the original image. It was important for us to be professional as well; the workload was quite a lot for two or three people.

At the Stedelijk I worked with two assistants on a constant stream of catalogues and posters. It was a heavy workload for three people, but that pressure is part of the game; it keeps you going.

t the time, we didn’t realise. It was an important job but we weren’t looking to posterity. A We’d do the job, because that’s what design is about: doing real work for real people. The process, the job, was the important thing. It’s about doing a good job. It’s not necessarily about creating beautiful things.

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Steven Bateman paid a visit to the Omnific studio (an apt name for the awe-inspiring atelier in the basement of a magnificent house), where he met its founder (and god father of the British graphic design world) Derek Birdsall and his former assistant John Morgan, now a wellrespected designer in his own right.

Morgan first met Birdsall in 1995—shortly before he started working at Omnific, where he stayed for five years. Having graduated from the University of Reading’s Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, Morgan assisted Birdsall on some landmark book projects, before establishing his own studio in 2000. Profiled in Grafik four years ago, he’s enjoying a rich and varied life as a designer, building a fine reputation on strong foundations. Here the pair discusses their former relationship as mentor and protégé and how creating a ‘culture’ of work is fundamental to both their practices. With biscuits, wine and anecdotes on the agenda, it turned out to be an enlightening afternoon.

Mentor and Protégé

Derek Birdsall and John Morgan in Conversation John Morgan: I’d just graduated and I was a fan of Derek’s, because a tutor of mine had shown me Shaker Design [designed by Birdsall, the book received a gold award from the New York Art Directors Club in 1987]. I was a big fan of this tutor and I knew whatever he showed me was good, so I found out more about Derek and when I graduated I rang him, to see if I could come in and speak to him. I wasn’t thinking about a job, but happily there was a space. Martin Lee [Derek’s then partner at Omnific] made me have a trial day, though… Derek Birdsall: Did he? He never told me that.

We were in the pub and Derek said, “Yes, you can start.” Whereas Martin Lee said, “Hold on…” It was good timing, though. Nearly every assistant I’ve had, it’s been like that. I’ve had plenty of work on or somebody’s leaving...

It means I’ve never had an interview in my life. I’m now completely unemployable. How long did we work together?

Five years? It was my first job effectively. It was a great continuation and antidote to Reading. You get a good grounding there but it was quite stiff. There’s more warmth to Derek’s work. I don’t want to eulogise Derek too much, but there’s so much intelligence in his work. That’s rare. Catching Derek when he had some time was great, because I’m sure if I’d worked with him in his thirties he’d have been a completely different creature.

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John was young and enthusiastic. He was and is very good. The culmination of our joint careers was the ‘prayer book’ [the Church of England’s Common Worship prayer book, published by Church House Publishing in 2000], a terrific job.

I was very much a part of Omnific when we did that; it was the last big job I worked on with Derek. I still think about the work that went into it. It went on and on... They’d been working on it for some years before we got it and they were still working out the text. They had fifteen proofreaders. It was a big job.

Dealing with continuous type and images, like Derek does… That’s when you get down to the nuts and bolts of typography: not on a poster. I didn’t know how to set text well at Reading—it’s something you get through time, but looking over Derek’s shoulder helped; there’s no better test than setting a simple column. There’s so little feeling in so much ‘typographers’’ work; in a lot of design work, actually. You’ve got to feel it.

And do lots of it. I was Derek’s assistant but occasionally there’d be a smaller job, an invitation or something, and he allowed me the time to play around with it. I remember being quite impressed with John because I’d give him a couple of jobs to do and I’d not seen any sign of them. A week would go by and I’d think, “He’s forgotten about it.” And he’d say, “No, it’s here,” or “It’s my next job.” We definitely evolved a manner of working together. He was very good at detail and quite critical of me at times. Thing is, I fondly remember a phrase I invented for you. I’d look over your shoulder and say, “A bridge too far, John.”

John Morgan (left) and Derek Birdsall (right), at Birdsall’s studio in North London, November 2009 All location shots by Christoffer Rudquist www.c-h-r-i-s-t-o-f-f-e-r.com

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01, 02 Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, designed by Derek Birdsall with John Morgan, published by Church House Publishing, 2000 03, 04, 05 Front cover, back cover and interior spread, The Jet Age Compendium: Paolozzi at Ambit, designed by John Morgan studio, published by Four Corners Books, 2009

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Knowing when to stop. Another important thing I learnt from Derek is that more difficult ‘whole’. I think I’m starting to get that. Now I get corrected on the detail in my studio. I want them to do that, because I want to care about that bigger ‘whole’. You know, each time you set a bit of type, it’s not a question of perfection at all, it’s a question of trying to improve. I’m not happy until I’ve got what I think is a pretty damned good answer, and I know when it’s not — that’s important. I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve had... about a dozen jobs where I’ve done it. That’s as good as it gets. I remember Parkinson interviewing Nureyev, the dancer, and asking, “Do you ever do a bad performance?” Nureyev said, “Never.” Parkinson said, “Do you ever dance badly?” Nureyev replied, “Often.” So Parkinson said, “But you said you never give a bad performance.” And, rising about a foot in his chair, he said, “Nureyev knows it, the audience doesn’t.”

It’s about ways of living and working. Derek is a great model of that. The fact that you can wander down and work whenever you fancy… Or walk away from it when I don’t.

I remember that pattern of work and those long lunches, of course. It was very civilised, but work was going on at those lunches as well. That was very important.

You’re talking about work and getting distance from it too. Also, Derek’s hours, working to suit him. If he surfaced at 6pm, ready to go again, I’d need a second wind. There was usually one of Shirley’s dinners to help get me through that... We looked after him.

The people Derek surrounded himself with… Walking into the studio on a Sunday and there’s Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud, discussing the layout of Freud’s book with Bruce Bernard. Great discussions, great culture… There is a culture about the way Derek works. Trying to create that culture in any studio is important.

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Steven Bateman: What do you remember about the first jobs you worked on with Derek? I was trying to think about that on the way here. The thing about jobs is, the work on them is exciting, but when you’ve done a proof you leave them again, don’t you? There’s hardly any ceremony. Yes. It’s almost superfluous when the job comes back, because if you’re busy — as we usually were — it’s not the bated breath thing. I think it’s only if you’re worried about the result that you care that much. If you’re fairly confident that it’s going to be okay...

The jobs I have fond memories of, other than big jobs like the huge Rothko and Lucian Freud books… smaller jobs like the British Journalism Review. They used to meet in the studio, and Ambit was like that too. It’s how to live and work as a graphic designer, how to marry the two. I was lucky with Derek, but I think it’s invaluable to find a model for how that can work. Working in such a way that clients always respect what you’re doing. Oh, you must have a convivial relationship with clients. I used to love taking clients out to lunch, but I would never take a client out for lunch that I wouldn’t have taken out for lunch anyway. Some clients you steer clear of, at which point they shouldn’t really be clients...

There’s an assumption that designers like Derek have a huge ego; that they don’t work with the client… But Derek’s approach with clients is very much about collaboration. Sometimes, clients know more about the content, so if you want a fresh solution you need to listen to them; it is collaboration in that sense. They’re entitled to be pleased. You never win by persuading a client to take a job they really don’t like. They’ll never like it. But there’s always a way and clients often have good ideas. Clients can give you very good clues that you’re missing. I can’t get a moment’s satisfaction out of seeing a client out of the door knowing he’s not completely happy.

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01, 02 Spreads from Lucian Freud, edited by Bruce Bernard and Derek Birdsall, designed by Derek Birdsall with John Morgan, published by Jonathan Cape, 1996 03 Cover, Someone Like You by Roald Dahl, designed by Omnific, published by Penguin Books, 1970. The illustration was reused for the Travis album Ode to J. Smith, 2008 04 Cover, Notes of book Design by Derek Birdsall, designed by Derek Birdsall, published by Yale University Press, 2004

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With some projects, I often think I could do it the opposite way and it could be just as good. But with book design there can be a self-evident way to do it… An optimum solution. It’s worth showing you the Rothko catalogue raisonné [by David Anfam, published by Yale University Press in 1998]. I’m proud of it, because Rothko has been badly served by reproductions. They nearly always show his paintings as if they’re the same size. This book is sequential through his oeuvre; at the end of his career you can see the paintings are large. You’d never know that from most magazine articles.

The material does the work. The typography is brought about by the work.

Rather than forcing variation, like lots of designers would, Derek allows the material to do it. I remember queuing in Waterstone’s with Derek, and the lady in front was buying two copies. Derek went over and said, “I designed that. Why are you buying two?” She said, “I’m going to cut the other one up!” It’s like looking at a Rothko exhibition. As John said, having done the preparatory work, the book designs itself and this has a double delight: the client has less to object to. I had a tough job winning over the author. He wanted all the pictures big, so he blanched when he saw the first few spreads. It took twenty minutes but I won him over. That’s important, winning people over rather than ‘persuading’ them. John and I... We worked together; that’s truer of John than it is of anybody else.

I was very much Derek’s assistant at the beginning. It became more collaborative but it’s Derek’s show—clearly. I learned a lot. I wouldn’t have known how to set up my own studio without him, but also the way Derek works with clients. Other things as well, like having grappa after a meal…

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We’ve had some good times. Remember lunch in Paris, before that meeting?

I’m going tomorrow. I moved the meeting forward so we can have lunch at Brasserie Nord. What a good idea.

See, I learned that.

One is very fortunate if one can be doing something where you can always improve. And experience is learning what NOT to do. So when you sit down to start a job you’re not thinking, “I have to innovate.” We have to keep reminding ourselves... I like to think the world needs graphic designers, particularly book designers or typographers, but it doesn’t really. We’re as good as we make ourselves; we’re as good as the life we live, and the teaching we do is almost... missionary.

It’s quite a new profession, isn’t it?

I’d suggest nine-tenths of the world’s population don’t know what book designers do. They assume you design covers. I do believe that more people, especially designers, should live like artists. You shouldn’t live as if it’s a profession or an industry. Who runs the Design Council? I ticked him off in front of the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She met me and she met Terry Jones — a brilliant guy — and this guy butted in that the “design industry” was worth £10 million or £50 million... I turned round and said, “Your Majesty, it is not an industry.” Now, I love my work and I love working here, but it’s my life. I’m not an industry. I feed an industry: the publishing industry. But one must insist on one’s own role; one must be able to stand back from this whole ‘industry’.

www.omnific.co.uk www.morganstudio.co.uk

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Rachel Thomas is a much-sought-after art director and set designer with a playful, sensuous palette that is often imitated, but rarely matched. She has been collaborating with photographer Dan Tobin Smith for around six years, having first joined forces to create images for the cover of The Music’s Welcome to the North album—with design and art direction by Peter Saville Studio. Tobin Smith, who recently shot the cover art for Jay-Z’s long-awaited album The Blueprint 3, has worked with Thomas on commercial commissions for clients such as Orange, Visa Go and Malibu. A catalyst for the recent ‘still-life’ trend in creative advertising, their commercial work together has provided a platform for innovative, personal collaborations. The duo’s personal work allows them to experiment and, with a shared desire to push the possibilities of their oeuvre, it’s a collaboration that continues to evolve.

Steven Bateman

met them for

coffee in Thomas’s studio, alongside Regent’s Canal in London, and got a glimpse of what makes this pair tick in tandem.

Art Director and Photographer

Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith in Conversation Rachel Thomas: I studied fine art. I definitely hadn’t thought about doing set design; I’m not sure I even knew what it was. I made things using found objects, but I always tried to work with three-dimensional spaces. I did print design for a fashion designer, a good friend who I worked with in a very close creative relationship. I designed invitations for our shows, made films for the collection and started to direct a few music videos. I was doing window displays as well, so every two weeks I did a new window so I had to go through so many ideas; it taught me so much. One thing led to another and Bianca [Redgrave, Thomas’s agent] approached me; she wanted to work with me as a set designer. When I started, there weren’t many people doing it… Shona Heath was doing amazing work, but our styles were different and the kind of work I found myself being involved in wasn’t so much fashion, it was more advertising with creative solutions. It was all about still life and that creative, fantasy world. When Dan and I met, that trend was just kicking off. We fell right in the centre of it. Not very consciously… Dan Tobin Smith: I don’t think we were conscious of it at all. I’ve been taking pictures since I was thirteen. My Dad used to be a photographer and he lectures. He taught me photography. I assisted someone when I was seventeen — an advertising photographer — and I got taught how to print by a guy called Peter Caterall when I was sixteen, so I had quite an old-school, traditional, crafty education in photography. I did a foundation course at Central Saint Martins; did a lot of painting. Then I took a year out, came back to photography, studied at LCP, graduated and started working straight away. I didn’t assist. I shot commercial interiors for about three years and travelled quite a lot — which was good fun. I picked up Wallpaper* as a client but eventually I got a bit bored of interiors. We weren’t creating anything new, just documenting a space. Around that time I got asked to do still life and, slowly, I started to experiment. I liked the idea of doing something on my own... In a small front room, putting an image together. There’s a kind of freedom with still life. And I met Rachel when we got offered this project for The Music.

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I still really like it. We worked with Tom [Skipp] and James [Greenhow] at Peter Saville Studio. They contacted me and said they were thinking of Dan. I hadn’t heard of him because I didn’t know much about still-life photography. So they came to me with this idea and we developed it; it was all to do with Perspex and abstraction… They were into this deconstructive thing and I think that’s what Dan was looking at already: the idea of the set being part of the image, so you could go in and get a pure image or you pull out and see the workings. That can become very beautiful. It’s seemingly accidental, but it was very considered. There was a restriction as well, which meant it had to be shot in this corner, a white box lit with fluorescent tubes — and we just played around with those ingredients. They were quite clean textures: Perspex, on this white matt wall. There was no retouching, they were naturally clean elements and once we pulled out it was almost like revealing the fact that it had that property on its own — that we weren’t forcing it. I think it’s nice to find those things naturally; I think we’ve done that with other things. We’ve never done any crazy retouching. It’s always been about consideration of materials, so you can create something quite refined but also natural.

We never push anything where it doesn’t want to go; we’ve never had to do that. I think we’ve been quite lucky. We’ve looked at what we’re doing and responded to it quite instinctively, like the next project we did, the Big Active book Head, Heart & Hips [Die Gestalten Verlag, 2005]. It was the first time we’d worked with polystyrene and it’s a simple material; it’s quite rough. I remember it took a long time to get it right, but as soon as it came together it was like... yes.

Rachel Thomas (left) and Dan Tobin Smith (right), at Thomas’s studio in London, December, 2009 All location shots by Christoffer Rudquist www.c-h-r-i-s-t-o-f-f-e-r.com

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01 Set for shoot for album cover of Welcome to the North by The Music, design and art direction by Peter Saville Studio, set design by Rachel Thomas, photography by Dan Tobin Smith, 2004 02 Paper Profiles, by Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith, 2006 03 Image for Les Yeux Sans Visage, personal project commissioned by Big Active for the Head, Heart and Hips book, by Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith, 2005 04 Detail, set for shoot for album cover of Welcome to the North by The Music, design and art direction by Peter Saville Studio, set design by Rachel Thomas, photography by Dan Tobin Smith, 2004 01

05 Homage, Mapplethorpe, for Acne Paper, by Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith, spring 2007

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We had this Polaroid and, “Wow—look at the way the light behaves with that depth.” It was so fluid. In a way, it doesn’t look like polystyrene: it looks like an illustration, but it’s still photographic. That was important, because the shapes were very graphic. If I asked him, I’m not sure Dan would choose to shoot a bright-red pair of lips, but once these seemingly strange things are in front of a camera, Dan is able to elevate them; he makes them feel like something other than what they are. And I really saw that in this project. There was a simplicity to it as well; for me it was a point where I grew up a bit — when I started seeing things like that. I remember seeing one of the first Polaroids and there was too much light and too much description, when the lack of description in some of these things is what makes them.

Absolutely. The lack of light and information. A lot of people wouldn’t light like that, but because of the way I shoot things with film — I always shoot two sheets so I get more information tonally and stick them together — the simplicity of the light just seemed to work; it was almost natural.

The content being quite feminine and the way it was shot, the sophistication of it… creating this really interesting image. It was about the collaboration and what we were able to bring to it, individually. It was a really good mix.

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I find with some projects there’s a real challenge, but with Rachel it’s somehow easier.

Well, we didn’t have lots of choices; the pictures were already sketched out. We had the objects and we didn’t have an awful lot to play with, so it was a case of, “Let’s make it work; let’s put some light on it and bring it to life.” That’s generally how we work. The ideas are fully formed before we work, so I’ll come to Dan and say, “This is the idea, here’s the set, here’s the composition,” and he’ll say, “What about the scale?” He always makes it seem so easy, in terms of lighting. We’ll talk about it quite a lot, and work things out. It is quite practical. Also, I think we’re at the stage where we can look at a sketch and imagine what it could look like.

As you become more experienced, the more you think things through. It’s not just about throwing a few things in front of the camera: you have to work out how it’s going to behave, how the lens will see it, and practically, if you’re trying something quite challenging, how is that going to come about? There’s so much planning to do with sets. It is not spontaneous—I’m really not a spontaneous person. The lighting has to be spontaneous, because it happens on the shoot. I do like experimenting with that.

Dan can see how it behaves with light; I can’t. I have to make sure everything is there and allow for some leeway if something’s not quite right, so my work happens before the shoot. I question things a lot. I don’t want to produce something I don’t understand. I have to get a feeling for it… We’re talking about personal work, but when you work commercially it’s very different. The most important work we’ve done is personal work. Where there are no products or deadlines to distract us. It’s a very different thing.

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01 Homage, Sarah Moon, for Acne Paper, by Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith, spring 2007 02, 03 Jeepers Creepers fashion story for i-D magazine, by Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith 04 Image for Les Yeux Sans Visage, personal project commissioned by Big Active for the Head, Heart and Hips book, by Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith, 2005

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It represents us. It’s a platform that we have to create for ourselves, to communicate with people about what we feel is interesting or constitutes an image. Commercially, some clients request that we work together. Sometimes I’ll get a commission and bring Dan in, and vice versa. It varies. Which is nice. I think they see what we’ve done together and think, “Not many people do this kind of thing.” That seems to work quite well.

When it’s commercial it often starts with the agency sending a drawing. Sometimes great direction, often quite vague—sometimes it’s a pencil drawing on a receipt. Turning a drawing into a kind of illustration, and then make it feel photographic... It’s actually quite difficult. And to keep a style so it doesn’t look blank. That’s the challenge.

There are so many requirements as well with advertising. Advertising is advertising, though. When it works I love it; it’s a great form of communication. We’ve been really lucky to work on advertising like that. We’ve both done work for Orange, and Fallon and Mother are really good agencies with great ideas. They want to work with you and respect what you do. They give you a platform, recognising the fact that you created the trend. I think it’s practice as well. You’re dealing with all these problems — there might be a limit to how far you can go, but it’s still an interesting process.

It’s a challenge, and Dan loves a challenge.

I think our best work together is more interesting because things aren’t spelled out.

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Which is quite hard with photography.

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It’s a very descriptive medium, especially large format. But there are ways of playing with it to make it not so, while keeping it photographic, which I think we’ve done actually quite well together... When you shoot a story there can be three... or maybe only one image that is brilliant. Normally you get a few winners, but with Rachel there are always more winners than losers. Maybe because they’re more refined and considered.

I feel confident when I bring something to Dan because I know he’ll make it look fantastic. I understand how he works and what kind of mood he can bring. I think there’s a lot of work out there that is great in terms of set design and art direction, but it’s not always shot brilliantly… One thing I found very quickly with Dan was the opportunity to create images that people can really enjoy. It’s become more intuitive; I know where she’s coming from, even if it’s quite abstract.

I could be rigid and say, “This is how it should be…” But you have to know when to let go, because you’re collaborating and, ultimately, it isn’t a drawing or a piece of polystyrene—it’s an image. It is nice when Rachel’s working on something and I’ll come round and we’ll pin it up and look at it... We can speak quite freely.

It’s confidence as well. When you start with an idea you’re not sure if you’re going to pull it off. The most important thing, the hardest thing—and yet the most rewarding thing—is ideas. Once you have the ideas and you believe in them, you get the energy you need to make them work. But you need to feel confident in your photographer and the other people you’re working with. Confident they’re going to do it justice. I think we have that trust in one another.

www.dantobinsmith.com www.biancaredgrave.com

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Next Month in Grafik 108 pages of the best graphic design work, new talent, events and exhibitions, reviews, opinion and inspiration.

Joost Grootens Special Report Branding

Profile

With contributions from leading graphic designers and branding experts, who tell the stories of the greatest brands of all time. Lawrence Weiner, Gerd Arntz and Ron Arad in Review and more...

www.grafikmag.com

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72 How to Be Green Demystifying eco paper

74 Logoform YSL by Wladimir Marnich

76 Letterform Plakat Grotesk ‘R’ by Philipp Herrmann

78 Bookshelf Essentials The Powers of Ten flipbook by Charles and Ray Eames

80 Viewpoint How did you fall in love with design?

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How to Be Green

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The myths and jargon that surround recycling can be daunting and confusing, so in the second part of her special focus on paper, Nat

Hunter guides us through the nitty-gritty of paper recycling,

demystifies some of the terminology and puts us on a good footing for making intelligent decisions about buying paper. Illustration by

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How to Be Green

Richard Hogg.

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Last month we looked at papermaking and its destructive environmental impact. This month we focus on the industry’s more sustainable practices and help you choose the right paper for you and the planet. As we saw last month, industrial paper production is very damaging, with large areas of forest being felled to meet our insatiable demand and the pulping process’s intensive resource requirements and toxic waste discharge. If making a single sheet of A4 paper causes as much greenhouse gas emissions as burning a light bulb for an hour, we need better alternatives. The best alternative is recycled paper. Often most people’s entry point to environmental issues, recycling paper is now a common exercise and printing on it is increasingly a standard business practice. The principle is simple: the old newspapers and cardboard boxes that fill your green box every week are reprocessed, the pulp is used to make new paper and no new trees need to be felled. Recycling involves its own share of energy consumption, from resources needed to collect recyclable material (though these same resources are also required to dump waste paper in landfill), to those used in the repulping process. The latter stage produces waste products, such as ink, short fibres, staples and adhesives. This ‘sludge’ often ends up in landfill, though there are alternative uses for this waste, as raw industrial materials or fertiliser for agriculture. Despite these downsides, recycled paper remains the best option if you want the most environmentally friendly paper possible. There are a couple of important details to note when buying recycled paper. Different industry definitions mean that paper can be labelled as ‘recycled’ even if only a small percentage of the fibre used has actually been recycled. Therefore you should check what this percentage is and choose 100 per cent recycled where possible. Then there is the difference between postand pre-consumer recycled waste. Pre-consumer waste comes from printers, such as cut-offs and over-orders, while post-consumer waste is the office paper and boxes in our recycling bins. The latter is preferable, having had a more useful life, so try and ensure you get post-consumer recycled paper. Last month we touched on the harmful effects of the bleaching process. Bleaching occurs in the pulping stage and creates the different aspects of a finished sheet of paper, such as colour. Left untreated, virgin pulp would make brown paper, while recycled pulp produces brown-grey or offwhite sheets, depending on the quality of the original waste. The process of bleaching pulp to produce crisp, white paper involves the emission of toxic dioxins. Fifteen years ago, these emissions would have included chlorine compounds, but studies revealing adverse environmental and health effects of chlorine led to a reduction in its use. Now, most paper produced in the US or Europe is chlorine-free.

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How to Be Green

While the bleaching process has been cleaned up, there remains a level of dioxin release that can be harmful to the environment. Dioxins can also work their way up the food chain by being ingested by fish and animals and are suspected of causing health problems in humans from cancer to diabetes. We designers tend to love bright white paper but why not consider using unbleached, off-white paper, especially for regular everyday printing needs? Occasionally the range of available recycled paper will not meet your requirements. This is especially true in the design world where paper features like colour and texture can be decisive. In this case, the next best alternative is to use paper from FSC-managed sources. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests. Its decentralised, regional offices apply the organisation’s ten Principles and 56 associated Criteria to determine if forestry is managed in a sustainable manner and, if so, award it official FSC certification. Despite the occasional lapses in standards that must be expected from such a large international organisation, the FSC is generally considered the leading forestry certification scheme available. The term ‘sustainable forestry’ is often used to mean that the trees were replanted after harvesting. The FSC’s ten Principles require much more than this and are used to ensure that a renewable, economic supply of timber is produced from a source that sustains native wildlife, human communities, plants and non-commercial trees. The FSC also runs a Chain of Custody certification scheme, which tracks the timber from the forest to the paper mill and on to the printer. The end product can only carry the FSC label if all the parties involved are FSC-certified. FSC certification is voluntary, therefore its power lies in the hands of the consumer. The more demand there is for FSCcertified paper, the more foresters, paper mills and printers will have to submit to FSC requirements. It is a surprising statistic, but Britain imports more illegal timber than almost any other country in Europe. Therefore we are responsible for the destruction of four million acres of some of the world’s most important forests each year, not to mention the consequent exacerbation of poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world. So when you’re choosing paper for a brochure, your office or even the bathroom, ensure it is 100 per cent recycled or FSC-approved, and do your bit to avoid this unnecessary devastation. And when you’re done with this magazine, if you’re not keeping it, make sure it goes in the recycling bin. Because after all, paper doesn’t grow on trees. Oh, hang on…

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Logoform

Logoform

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YSL Logo designedby A.M. Cassandre by Wladimir Marnich View

Logoform

My favourite version of the YSL logo is the original one hand-drawn by Cassandre in 1961. It sits framed—like a painting—on a telephone table in the library of Saint Laurent’s apartment on Rue de Babylone in Paris. In this setting, the logo is given the rare status of a work of art. The financial and, above all, emotional importance of this piece is demonstrated by Pierre Bergé’s (Yves Saint Laurent’s longtime companion and business partner) decision not sell it in last February’s auction of their entire art collection organised by Christie’s. The logo is simply a beautiful piece of typography. Elegant and timeless. It perfectly represents the sleek, glamorous and sophisticated style of the House of Saint Laurent.

Legend has it that Saint Laurent and Bergé contacted the artist even before having the necessary funds to start their company. Cassandre was considered the greatest graphic artist of his time. At the meeting that took place in the restaurant Le Débarcadère in Paris, he presented just one proposal, the entwining initials. A.M. Cassandre (real name: Adolphe JeanMarie Mouron) was born in 1901 in Kharkov, Ukraine. Famous for his poster designs, he was also a type designer (Bifur, Acier, Peignot), painter, set designer and teacher. He worked on magazine covers for Harper’s Bazaar in New York and co-founded the AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale). He committed suicide in Paris in 1968.

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Letterform

Letterform

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Plakat Grotesk ‘R’ by Philipp Herrmann View

Letterform

“A vertical line, leading from the baseline to the upper height, at the upper end of which, on the right-hand side, a half-circle, open to the left, is attached, the lower end of which leads down to the vertical centre, from where a diagonal line leads down to the right-hand side of the baseline.”01 In the context of a course of guest lectures at the Zurich University of the Arts, I designed a series of posters using an old letterpress machine. The typeface used for the headlines did not have a specific name but was labelled “Plakat Grotesk”. The proper name is unknown. The typeface features some unique elements. The characteristics of the ‘R’ are particularly flashy. It contains a peculiarity, which is quite unusual for a grotesque ‘R’ with such wide proportions: typical design principles do not seem to be applicable. It does not simply resemble a ‘P’ with a diagonal stroke attached to it. Rather, the design references handwritten principles wherein the curve and the diagonal are written off the reel. An early exemplary archetype is the Capitalis Quadrata, which is written by hand using a reed pen.

Despite its heavy line thickness, the principle of drawing the circle and the diagonal of the ‘R’ in one stroke becomes visible. This creates the character’s unique expression. ‘R’ is the only letter that combines straight, diagonal and round lines of which at least two are connected. In the case of the Plakat Grotesk ‘R’, all three are. The heavy line thickness requires special design solutions. Such headline fonts rarely emerge from the development of a type family. New approaches are needed to abandon the inflexible system of type families and to create families wherein the heavy cut is more than just a plump version of the regular font. 01 Norm: The Things, by Manuel Krebs and Dimitri Bruni, published by Die Gestalten Verlag, Berlin, 2002, p. 47.

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Bookshelf Essentials

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Capturing the polar extremes of the molecular depths of the human body and the furthest reaches of outer space, Charles and Ray Eames’s film The Powers of Ten is worthy of that overused word ‘awesome’. This month

HUGO introduces us to the flipbook that was made of the

film, exposing another layer of that brilliant design classic.

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Bookshelf Essentials

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Powers of Ten: A Flipbook by Charles and Ray Eames View

When I was a young dude, my friends and I rarely used the word ‘awesome’. When we did, it was to describe things like mountain ranges and charging grizzly bears. Great size and power were the definition parameters of the word. Nowadays, the word has grown out of its old self and taken on a wider definition for the young ones to describe any sort of thing that is truly amazing or a mental turn-on. Back in the day, we would have used the phrase ‘mind-blowing’ for that. I asked a young friend recently what the word meant to him and he said, “Things that excite me.” In the design world, very few things remain ‘awesome’ for very long. Societal change and changing tastes, both now relentless, constantly move us on from work that was amazing and exciting only a short time ago so that it quickly becomes back-catalogue ‘work’, if it is remembered at all. This month’s Bookshelf Essential is awesome and exciting and mind-blowing. The fact that it has been so for thirty-three years gives some testament to its genius. Charles and Ray Eames created Powers of Ten in 1977. Originally a film, I’ve always and only ever known it as a flipbook. Presented as sequential images and projecting outwards and inwards at set distances, it charts from the far reaches of outer space to the far reaches inside the human body. You’ll be amazed by the visual similarities between the two extremes. I cannot really explain to you how this is done as maths challenges me and I have an understanding of distances and direction like a butterfly on a windy day. Still, looking at the images, I can understand exactly what it all means, which is one of the enduring and solid characteristics of this work: although potentially very complex, visually it can be understood by virtually any adult or ‘young one’, regardless of education or interest. I’ll let the Eameses explain the techie stuff: “The pivot is the human scale: the sleeping man at the picnic, captured in a view one meter square from one meter away. Our point of view is always perpendicular to this man. Therefore, every image on every page, out to the outermost power, is

Bookshelf Essentials

centered on the nucleus of an atom in the hand of the sleeping man. Following that path, this flipbook offers a journey of thirty-eight powers of ten. It takes two pages per power… Since every image is centered on the same point, any given page is a detail from the center of the next higher page and has the next lower page nested within it… Starting at the picnic, after twenty-three powers of ten, each time leaping ten times further, we should find ourselves at 10+23 meters, 10 million light years out, roughly three orders of magnitude from the edge of the observable universe…” A human being as the starting point for the scale of everything is interesting to me not only for our physical place in the universe but also in terms of ego. But rather than being an egotistical ‘I am the centre of the universe’ type of thing, the flipbook gives us a realistic perspective on our place in the grand scheme of things: we are very tiny indeed. But the use of the human scale in the whole of the divine works also means we are not inconsequential either. There is implied balance in all this. In a quiet way the work is both spiritual and scientific all in one. We ‘belong’ and are ‘a part’ of a thing much larger than us. But that’s enough of the science and deep thoughts. This book continues to inspire people who are new to it, and those of us who have known it for years, because it’s one of the best examples in the history of design of a brilliant idea and a brilliant execution of that idea. There are countless examples of good ideas not fully realised in work, and mushy ideas made visually appealing by competent design. Here we get excellence in both. I’m always amazed at the people who do not know this work. It deserves an audience of everyone. Whenever I can show it to someone who does not know it, I always get the same response. They say it in different ways, but it always translates as ‘awesome’. hugo@grafikmag.com

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Viewpoint

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How did you fall in love with design?

Magnus Voll Mathiassen

Crap. I don’t really love design. I have never loved design. There is not even a love/hate relationship there. I should blame Kim Hiorthøy. When I was eighteen I noticed his work. Fantastic person, by the way. He combined illustrations, text, photos, whatever. Very seductive. I looked through a folder from an art academy that described these crafts. I was twenty years old when I eventually knew what graphic design was. From that day ’til now I have been very uncertain about design. Is it for me? Not sure. One theory is that design loves me. I work too hard, get frustrated, always experiment and go to bed with a thousand thoughts in my head. Diabolical. www.themvm.com

Emily Robertson

I didn’t realise that I was head over heels until my second year at the Glasgow School of Art—about 2004—and we had to choose our specialisation under the visual communications umbrella. Sophie Moorish, my illustration tutor, opened my eyes to the strength and sensitivity of the image and introduced me to many of my future loves. The greatest of these are Louise Bourgeois, Marion Deuchars, Milan Kundera, Patti Smith and Henry Darger. Sophie encouraged us not just to look to illustrators to be inspired but to anyone and everything and to then bring it back to a commercial application, which I believe is the most valuable lesson to hold onto after graduating in producing work that is truthful and imaginative.

Freda Sack

Romain Lenancker

I fell in love with design by chance really. In 2004 I went into a design school called La Fontaine in Faverges with no real convictions. Then, in my first year of study, something clicked, a passion was born. I fell in love with design in all its forms: illustration, graphic design, fashion, product design. My teacher, Mr Druon, was a good teacher. For six years I practised the job of art director, graphic designer and illustrator without getting tired. This is only the beginning of a passion—I’m only twentyfour years old. www.lenancker.com

Ian Cartlidge

I fell in love with Habitat in the 1970s. I used to love going into the Habitat store in Newcastle, which was an oasis of beautifully designed and carefully considered products and furniture. Terence Conran introduced me to the joys of good design and I can’t think of anybody since who has managed to make it appeal to such a broad audience—not just designers and the design-aware but even my Mum and Dad. I made it my mission to work for Terence Conran and specifically the Habitat catalogue design team, which I eventually did. www.cartlidgelevene.co.uk

Love Letters is an appropriate title for a lecture I first gave one Valentine’s Day. The catalyst for my love of design was a passion for words and language, and the desire to communicate in a visual, structured way; followed by an increasing fascination with the letterforms carrying the information. A type designer needs a mix of seemingly opposing skills: obsession with detail and the ability to see the whole picture; creative yet technically minded. The love affair with typography comes full circle each time some enlightened designer uses our typefaces superbly. www.foundrytypes.co.uk

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84 Exhibition Decode: Digital Design Sensations reviewed by David Crookes

88 Six Books The latest design books under fire

90 Book Subway: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System reviewed by David Quay

94 Exhibition Stuart Haygarth reviewed by Richard Bucht

96 Exhibition Mike Ballard: The All of Everything reviewed by Angharad Lewis

Review

92 Book Graphic Design: A User’s Manual reviewed by Richard Hogg

98 Magazine Apartamento magazine by resident mag man Michael Bojkowski


Exhibition

Review

Decode: Digital Design Sensations

V&A South Kensington Cromwell Road, London Until 11 April

Reviewed by David Crookes

What happens when you extract computer data from its original context? What happens when you use a computer in the same way a painter would use a brush? And what happens when you invite lots of people to visit and interact with the results?

Image from digital installation for Decode by Karsten Schmidt, 2009 © V&A Images

The answer is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, London, in a three-strand exhibition of thirty works called Decode: Digital Design Sensations. Each exhibit draws on digital technologies, showing how they can be put to use as tools for art and design. There are three distinct themes running through the exhibition — code, interactivity and network — and the works on display have a live and, in some cases, random element. The exhibition is based in the Porter Gallery but it is also spread throughout the museum and in the garden too (check out the original commission. Mirror Mirror, by British artist Jason Bruges). With some exhibits, people are themselves able to shape the final artwork and in others the computer itself picks up where the author left off, providing an almost unpredictable, fluid outcome. Although each of the themes is largely separated, co-curators Shane Walter (of Onedotzero) and Louise Shannon decided to mix things up slightly at the beginning. So visitors get to walk through the interactive exhibit, Dune, at the start of proceedings before moving on to the intricacies of the exploration of code, revisiting interactivity later. And it’s a smart move. Dune is a collection of bendy black rods, which have white light tips. Created by Daan Roosegaarde, the rods appear grass-like and the lights turn on as you wander through, touching them to see the response you get. It is wholly engaging and, were it not for the crowds of people pushing visitors on, it is an exhibit that could capture the imagination for quite some time. Walter tells me that interaction is an important part of the exhibition. “The exhibition highlights play, which is often undervalued,” Walter says. “We wanted Dune as a nice introduction and to bring in the touch and play aspect of the exhibition from the start before going into an area which is less interactive.” What Decode highlights is the living, breathing nature of art. Such life is seldom seen outside digital art, a form of expression that is perhaps less influential than it deserves to be. For each of the works on show would die if they were turned off but, more than that, there lies, behind a great deal of them, a set of driving processes, whether human or technological, and it is an intriguing dynamic that blurs the boundaries of nature and how we consider ourselves a part of that. It is interesting to see how programmers, whom we associate with dealing with reams of written data in order to produce something with a purpose, are entering creative arts and are being inspired to explore not only the artistic potential of technology but, as the exhibition itself states, the beauty of algorithms. Much digital design is based around open source code, which is shared and manipulated in order to produce fresh art, drawing on the personalities of other creative souls. It’s about using fresh computer code as a raw material just as a sculptor would work with clay and it’s about producing something new from existing data; decoding, as the title suggests.

Review

Exhibition

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Review

Exhibition

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There are new pieces, such as that by thirty-year-old Daniel Brown from his On Growth and Form series which utilises advanced mathematics to produce continuously growing, realisticlooking plants. They bloom organically, forming shapes on the monitor as they randomly generate. Brown turned to creating organic art via computer because an accident that left him wheelchair-bound also prevented him from being able to grip a brush.  Troika’s Digital Zoetrope is a reflection of a city, highlighting themes of urban exploration and sensory impressions. Based on the 1834 original zoetrope by William Horner, the different speeds at which the work’s words revolve highlight the varying speeds at which we travel around a city. Depending on the speed of flashing LED lights at the zoetrope’s centre, different words or alternating patterns show. Opposite: Still from  Gathering most interest among visitors, especially Radiohead: House of Cards, the young, however, are the interactive elements. The technical direction by designers of work in this area, which is drawn from Aaron Koblin, direction by James Frost, production across the world albeit with a strong British flaby Zoo Films, Los Angeles, vour, have played with the boundaries of design and 2008. Image courtesy performance. The interactive version of Radiohead’s of Xurbia Xendless Ltd © V&A Images House of Cards video allows visitors to touch the Opposite: Dandelion by Sennep/Yoke, 2006. Photography by Sennep © V&A Images

screen and manipulate singer Thom Yorke’s face. Flight 404’s Solar draws on experience in C+ programming to produce sound-responsive art and visitors can enjoy sweeping away sand to expose little fishes, blink while standing in front of an eerie mock-up of a human eye and see it blink back (Golan Levin’s amazing OptoIsolator), or watch a tree blowing in the wind, reacting to the gusts outside the V&A. Ross Phillips’s Videogrid makes art of the visitors themselves. They can record themselves in one of twenty-five screens. The result remains on display until it is overwritten by someone else, ensuring the artwork remains ever-changing and dependent on the mood of those who go. Mehmet Akten’s Body Paint lets people paint just by waving their arms (and legs if you so wish). You can even blow seeds around a screen using a hairdryer. They are ideas that would work well with the contemporary phenomenon that is the Nintendo Wii.  “Actually, games are art too,” says Shannon. “They have come so far and the concepts in video games are very much stretched now to the point you have to even wonder what defines a game — is Second Life a game? The lines are blurring and there is great use of gaming technology in art. There’s a real sense of global creativity.” She says a lot of people are scared by the term ‘digital art’ but believes digital art design to be ubiquitous. “We can use interactivity to create an access point to the exhibition,” she adds.  The final strand of the exhibition is Network. It draws upon the interactions of people not in the room but further afield, right across the world. Exquisite Clock draws upon users of the website www.exquisiteclock.org. It asks people to upload images representing numbers and these appear on a large clock in the Decode exhibition. There are data-mining projects such as We Feel Fine by Jonathan Harris, which draws on blogger comments and presents them as floating spheres which can be selected to produce a reflection of modern life. Aaron Koblin’s Flight Patterns takes real-time flight data and visualises it. Decode is a deep, often exhilarating ride of ideas. It shows how artists are sharing power by taking creative, collective responsibility, and how you can use 1s and 0s to express yourself and your vision. People still argue over whether photography or cinema is art, so the idea of digital art may raise eyebrows among some. Decode, however, goes a long way to advancing a very inspiring cause.

Review

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Six Books

Review

New Ornament Type by Steve Heller and Gail Anderson

Published by Thames & Hudson, £24.95

British Design 2010

Published by Bis, £49.00

The prolific Steve Heller is at it again with his sixth collaboration with Gail Anderson in this fascinating read, sampling ornamental type dating back to the turn of the last century. Three hundred and sixty illustrations, 272 of which are in colour, make for a great book to dip in and out of. Beginning with a historical overview of ornament entitled Ornament Is Not a Crime, which refers to Adolf Loos, the interesting architect from the turn of the twentieth century who had very particular ideas on ornament (or the lack of it) in design. The book goes on to dabble in everything from Gothic to Hip-Hop with short intelligent essays that link influences and cultural backgrounds with great type examples. Worth a read.

Emma Calder’s Moody Days Sticker Book

Thames & Hudson, £12.95

Could this be a series of paid-for advertisements masquerading as a curated ‘best of’ book? Surely not. No, it’s a useful directory for companies that want to locate British designers, ahem. Why on earth Ben Terret bangs on about the recession in the foreword of a book that is supposed to be massaging a bit of life into the industry is anyone’s guess — it’s a global recession, not unique to Britain and it’s certainly not a unique selling point. Apart from that, it’s not bad: nice large images, a bit of company information, not too much corporate blah. It’s in its fourth edition so it must be useful to someone. It just doesn’t seem expansive enough to be genuinely useful and although there are some great agencies and designers it doesn’t really sum up British design. Ho-hum, it means no harm.

This is the second dip into the world of children’s books by award-winning animator Emma Calder and it’s a nice warm cuddle of a dip. Dedicated to “all the friends that I never see any more”, Calder’s spindly illustrations, subtle colour palette and gentle wit naturally lend themselves to children’s books and her Moody Days Sticker Book proves this. Every page tells a different story, reflecting a wide range of emotions from moodiness to love — great for getting to grips and understanding pre-teen mood swings by relating them to adult experience and honesty. Our favourite line in the book is “when I was a child I used to watch dust particles all day long. Now I am grown up, I Google myself all day long.” How true. A great present for an twelve-year-old girl.

Review

Six Books

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Review

Six Books

Published by jkr

2009 was a testing year for many design businesses and this little book is a chronicle of the online observations of one designer (Silas Amos of specialist packaging company jkr). Rather than doom and gloom, it’s an enjoyable and pithy read. In uncertain, contradictory times, how can designers plan for the future? asks Amos. What’s the tipping point between good value and undermining your brand value? Has the safety of nostalgia jeopardised progress in design? There’s a certain cosy satisfaction in reading Amos’s well-researched numbers about the turnover of companies who are illustrating or bucking the downturn trend. Well informed and brilliantly observed, this is essential reading for anyone involved with design and branding but it also has legitimate mass appeal for a non-design audience. This unassuming book might just become a branding classic.

Is Brad Pitt a Fishfinger? by Silas Amos

Published by Gestalten, £45.00

A white, grey and black shrine to the maestro of minimal, this book espouses Rams’s philosophies even if the packaging is rather on the more than the less side (slipcase, PVC cover and plastic-wrapped). With a Japanese book design team at the helm led by Tamotsu Shimada, this is a great accompaniment to the exhibition which has, since November 2008, toured Osaka and Tokyo in Japan and is currently at the Design Museum in London, before finishing up in Frankfurt in May of this year. Apart from the beautiful design, and great insight into the world of Rams, the book includes an arresting essay by co-editor Klaus Kemp on Rams’s early work and places the man in historical context, charting his success at Braun and the connection between the company and the philosophy of the first German post-war parliament. It rams it all home, as it were.

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams, edited by Klaus Kemp and Keiko Ueki-Polet

Published by Collins, £20.00

Information Is Beautiful by David McCandless

Vic Reeves said that 88.2 per cent of statistics are made up on the spot — he was wrong, it’s 78.3 per cent. Of course, neither is correct. Reeves was making the point that the true value of statistics is immeasurable and dubious: as long as you treat them as David McCandless does here, with a heavy dose of salt and good humour, then all is well. McCandless specialises in visualising data into bite-size portions, perfect for middlebrow media like the Guardian which has snapped up many of his visualisations. Dedicating his book to “the beautiful internet”, McCandless is clearly wrapped up in the digital Polyfilla of contemporary society but isn’t afraid to tackle political and scientific issues such as “Is the H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine Safe?”. Entertaining, lighthearted, one for the smallest room in the house for when the prune juice is yet to take effect.

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Book

Review

Subway-Helvetica and the New York City Subway System by Paul Shaw

Published by Blue Pencil Editions, €69.50

Reviewed by David Quay

As Paul Shaw, author of Subway points out, we might assume that Helvetica has always been used on the MTA, the New York Subway system, if we were to believe Gary Huswit’s documentary about the typeface. But this is not true — or rather, it is only partly true. In fact, Akzidenz Grotesk (or ‘Standard’, as it was known in America) was the typeface used originally on the New York Subway signage. Helvetica is the official typeface of the MTA today — but the switch only came in 1980, and it was Standard, not Helvetica, that was specified by Unimark International when it first created the signage system at the end of the 1960s.

01 Unique sign set in Standard Medium, Hoyt Street/Fulton Mall station, Brooklyn, c.1981 02 Typical girder column sign in use today (originally from the 1990s) set in Helvetica Medium, 219 Street station, the Bronx 03 Original Unimark sign set in Standard Medium, 57th Street station, 1976

In this book, Shaw places the New York City Subway system signage in the context of 1960s transportation sign systems worldwide, the collapse of the American passenger railroad system that same decade, and the decline and rebirth of New York City from the Lindsay administration to today. He also offers a fresh and revealing look at the history of Helvetica from an American perspective. Subway, or Helvetica and the New York City Subway System, to use its rather longer subtitle, addresses these issues and then goes beyond them to look at how the subway’s signage system has evolved over the past forty years. The resulting story is more than the tale of a typeface. It is a look at the forces that have moulded a signage system. Not only does the book look at Standard and Helvetica, it also looks at other typefaces that were being designed or had been designed at that time. Comparisons are made between Margaret Calvert’s Rail alphabet, Matthew Carter’s Airport and Bob Noorda’s alphabet for the Milano Metro system. The book has a wealth of images: photographs of early turn-of-the-century signage to the present-day signs, MTA design manuals, typeface specimens, maps and diagrams. Shaw’s extensive, incisive text and notes make for fascinating reading. In one section of the text he addresses a very direct question to Massimo Vignelli: “Unimark’s choice of Standard Medium comes as a shock given Vignelli’s reputation — burnished by his passionate testimony in Helvetica: A Documentary Film — as a life long proponent of Helvetica. Furthermore, he stated on several occasions that he wanted to use Helvetica for the New York City subway signage but ‘it was not available’. Why not?” This is one of those timeless books that come out only every few years. It is not a dry book — Shaw’s passion for his subject and his love of New York are self-evident. For me as a type designer and typographer, it’s one of those books I have to have, but it is also brilliant for anyone interested in graphic design. It will sit on my shelf alongside Crouwel’s Mode en Module, protected by bulletproof glass and security lasers. The book is limited to a print run of 500 copies; 400 are for sale. Nijhof & Lee in Amsterdam have fifty copies for sale and they are selling like ‘Het verkoop als zoete broodtjes’.

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Book

Review

Graphic Design: A User’s Manual by Adrian Shaughnessy

Published by Laurence King £19.95

Reviewed by Richard Hogg

Imagine it is ten years in the future. You are working in a design studio and are unsure about how to resolve a particularly vexing design-related problem. I know, you think, let’s see what Shaughnessy has to say on the subject. And you reach for a copy of this book. It’s dog-eared and grubby from years of thumbing, the cover held together with brittle, yellowing Sellotape. This book never leaves your desk. It is the tome that you trust on all questions of graphic design.

Spread from Graphic Design: A User’s Manual

When I worked at the British Film Institute many years ago we had exactly this kind of a relationship with a book called Halliwell’s Film Guide. Leslie Halliwell was outspoken and opinionated. A contrarian. You could guarantee that he hated most of your favourite films. But you needed to know ‘what Les thinks’ because it helped you to form your own opinion in a way that a more anonymous, dispassionate assessment of the film would not. Halliwell’s is the source you trust because he is a real person who gives a shit. Even if you don’t agree with him all the time. This has the makings of being a similar kind of book. Structured like an encyclopaedia, it has alphabetic entries covering all aspects of graphic design practice. And yet it is all written by one bloke. This seems like it should be a contradiction. One person, with all of their foibles and prejudices, attempting to make something which is encyclopaedic and definitive enough to be THE companion of choice to anyone studying that subject. Like Doctor Johnson’s English dictionary, stuffed full of the wit and playfulness and unashamed bias of one man. Nowadays you wouldn’t tolerate that in a dictionary. We expect our dictionaries and encyclopaedias to be completely devoid of opinions and idiosyncrasies. Adrian Shaghnesssy is not Les Halliwell or Samuel Johnson. Apart from a fantastic little rant about the use of the ellipsis, his tone is measured and reasonable. He has strong opinions but when discussing things that he feels are bad or wrong he tends not to be critical or derisory and often uses his own past mistakes as examples. The overall tone is one of experience gained — learning from mistakes, learning from others. This book isn’t a manifesto, it is too focused on being practical and useful to be that. Yet a strong sense of Shaughnessy and what he cares about comes through in a quiet, firm way. It is far from dry. There are lots of nice little anecdotes and his examples of other people’s work and ideas are entertaining and always top-notch. Each entry ends with one piece of suggested further reading. These seem to be well chosen and sometimes surprising.

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Book

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My favourite bits of this book are all the practical ‘how to work’ bits. Chasing invoices, negotiating fees, pitching. His advice on these subjects is rock-solid and unambiguous. He makes it all seem so simple. For instance, I never show anyone my work without being conscious of Shaugnessy’s advice on the subject from his previous book (advice that he reiterates and expands upon here under the headings of “Presentation Skills”, “Portfolio” and “Finding a First Job”). If you do this stuff his way you can’t really go wrong. Just do it. It’s a no-brainer.  On more contentious and emotive subjects like ethics, originality, fashions in design and Helvetica, he doesn’t exactly sit on the fence but there is something polite and open-ended about the tone. Like someone you meet at a party who is hedging their opinions because they don’t want to offend you. Perhaps this is a good thing. Perhaps more people will find this book useful because of it.  Personally I wanted to find something in this book that I totally disagreed with or that wound me up and made me angry. I would love it all the more for it. I think this might be an important ingredient if I am going to have the kind of relationship with this book that I do with Halliwell’s. It isn’t a ‘love/hate’ thing. That’s a twee idea. It’s more to do with wanting to be challenged and provoked occasionally. Nevertheless, I devoured this book ravenously, Hoovering up information and advice. This book has already helped me and my practice as a designer. Whether it will be on my desk in ten years’ time, who knows....

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Exhibition

Review

Stuart Haygarth: Found

Haunch of Venison, London Until 30 Janurary

Reviewed by Richard Bucht

I first saw Stuart Haygarth’s work at Designersblock in 2006: clear bright glass cases filled with glassware all of one colour, sourced from car-boot sales and other such accidental venues for the discarded and unwanted. Lit from below, the assemblages radiated a collective glow — objects that would, individually, not have warranted special appreciation, transformed into a startling and beautiful collective group.

Raft (cats), by Stuart Haygarth, 2009

As a designer, Haygarth is best known for his work with lighting, but the scale and intention of his work make the term ‘lighting’ seem short of the mark. What I saw at Designersblock was hung around light, but it was also spectacle. I left thinking of him as a designer, and the work thought-provoking and very good. Between then and now I lost track of Haygarth’s work, most likely from not opening the post promptly. And between then and now something emerged in the design and art worlds called ‘design art’. While much has been written for and against this commerce-driven arts Godzilla (it can literally take on everything in the design and art world), what it involves essentially is ‘proper’ art galleries showing what normally would be thought of as graphic or product design. In my view this is good. It’s certainly good for design, and excellent for any designer who makes it into the design art realm. So when the invitation for Stuart Haygarth’s show at Haunch of Venison arrived, I’m glad I opened it on time. As a gallery, Haunch of Venison is one of the newer players at the top end of the contemporary art world, lodged in the magnificent former Museum of Mankind in Mayfair. The gallery has been a champion of design art from the movement’s beginnings. So to see Stuart Haygarth being shown here signals an affirmation of his work that was evident at Designersblock but needed a greater stage to really flower. Walk into this show and, as at Designersblock in 2006, you are an observer of ‘lighting’ but also a witness to ‘spectacle’. The pieces, whether reflective or luminous, give the ambiguous term ‘design art’ some definition because this work is more than design as I’ve known it: it makes you think as well as want. As promised in the earlier work, here the scale and intention become fully realised, but the game has been raised and these works are trickier to comprehend. Most of the pieces are large, the scale making you re-evaluate something you were familiar with but now confront anew: lamps the size of boulders, coffee tables with the dimensions of a backyard pond. Their scale is also challenging for where they should belong: the big house or the public gallery? Design or art? It is when you look at what each piece is made of that they then become easier to comprehend. The component parts of each piece of work, unwanted articles from someone’s life, here find a salvation: it all could have ended up in a landfill, but we find ourselves looking at something extremely beautiful and desirable.

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There is a shifting dimension of earnestness in this show. The effort that went into collecting all these objects must have been monumental, but the assembled end result is far from the green/recycled/reused earnest eco-product that a catalogue definition of these pieces would suggest. Close inspection of the work gives an almost cosy satisfaction of good graft and wise reuse. Step back and you are simply left with ‘wow’.  So if you want to see some amazing work, want to think about all the stuff you’ve thrown away, want to know more about design art, then Stuart Haygarth at Haunch of Venison would be the perfect place to begin your tutorial. Don’t get lost by design art like I did, start with Found.

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Exhibition

Review

Mike Ballard: The All of Everything

Arts Gallery, Davies Street, London Until the end of February

Reviewed by Angharad Lewis

Bond Street Tube station is the portal for beaming in shoppers to Selfridges on Oxford Street and it is the handiest stop for reaching the University of the Arts’ admin building on Davies Street — also the location of its exhibition space, the Arts Gallery. This unprepossessing space (a low-ceilinged, squat, squareish thoroughfare, linking the foyer to the café and the rest of the building) nestles at the heart of an altogether more inspiring Mayfair block and has been home to some quality exhibitions of work by graphic designers and artists (Peter Blake, Chris Ofili, Sarah Lucas, Gavin Turk and Martin Creed among them) since it opened over a decade ago. In December, the Arts Gallery launched its last ever exhibition — the building and its gallery are due to be emptied at the end of February before disappearing in a cloud of brick dust to make way for a new extension to Bond Street Tube station for the Crossrail project, the new east– west rail link due to bisect London in 2017.

Installation view, The All of Everything, Arts Gallery, 2009 www.arts.ac.uk

The Arts Gallery’s last stand is an ambitious, all-consuming monochrome explosion by Mike Ballard. There are no politely framed works of art on whitewashed walls here; this installation turns the gallery itself into a work of art, covering every inch of the floor and ceiling and leaving you, the viewer, in the void at its centre. Standing in the middle of the room surrounded by a pulsating graphic landscape of ritualistic symbols, faintly menacing characters and comic-book lightning bolts, and engulfed in a hypnotic soundtrack with voiceover that seems straight out of a scifi B-movie, you are Alice inside Wonderland. As well as being a painter and installation artist, Ballard is a musician and filmmaker: this comes through in the strong sense of visual ‘sampling’ in The All of Everything. It’s a mash-up of Ballard’s cultural reference points, from Renaissance painting to street art and ancient Egyptian pharaohs to comic-book heroes. There is also a lot of movement in this apparently static installation. Black-and-white parallel lines rush away from you into the corners of the room to create magnified perspectives and on tiny screens behind the eyes of an Egyptian sphinx (the discernible ‘centrepiece’ of this sprawling work) a thudding, hypnotic, kaleidoscopic audio-video work draws you, peering, close up to the wall. To reach the sphinx’s eyes you must cross part of the floor covered by a ritualistic-looking circle (the spirit of Aleister Crowley might well be exerting an influence). Here Ballard has also infused the work with a sense of time — he seems to be embracing the impending doom of the space, goading on the wrecking balls and bulldozers with an incantation that repeats oroboros-like around the circle on the floor: “the beginning of the end of the beginning of the end of...” There is a defiantly celebratory air to the work Ballard has installed for the Arts Gallery’s send-off: a two-fingered salute to the compulsory purchase order by Crossrail, a fittingly chaotic embodiment of the upheaval that faces the occupants of the Davies Street building in their move to the university’s Holborn site and, lastly, a tongue-in-cheek spooky threat of an art hex on the architects of the Arts Gallery’s unhappy fate.

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Magazine

Review

Apartamento Reviewed by Michael Bojkowski It’s not often that a magazine comes along that beats a whole genre into a new kind of shape but Apartamento could transform longtime hokey ‘house and garden’ magazines forever. And if you think that statement’s a tad OTT, let me take you back to the last great financial crisis, back in the 1970s, when scrimping and saving became the rigueur du jour. In magazine land, if the 50s were all about mod cons, then the 60s were about taking your new dream home and turning up the volume. House magazines had a decadent time of it in the 60s. The message was that if you had a fantasy now was the time to indulge it. It wasn’t to last, though, and by the time we turned the corner into the 1970s the money had run out and invention and innovation on a budget became the order of the day. Slowly but surely a recession-led aesthetic spread its way across the magscape, transforming even the most high-brow publication into a DIY evangelist.

Cover, Apartamento, issue 04 www.apartamentomagazine.com

This was pretty darn exciting for a while but by the time we reached the 80s all we were left with was a sort of chintzy mush. Most ‘house and garden’ magazines found their middle ground and have stuck to it ever since, not daring to be too daring lest they be accused of being too fanciful or unrealistic. Even promising pioneers such as the smartly designed Dwell seem to have started dumbing down their editorials. Praise be, then, to Apartamento for going to the obvious extreme and completely stripping the way we decorate our living spaces down to its bare bones. It’s all about thrift once again. In Apartamento you’ll find crates stolen from bakeries as bedside tables, stacks of used carpet tiles as sideboards and an ode to weeds. Part of its success has to be in satisfying the urge to peer into the knicker draws of quirky creative types the world over. Issue #4 lets us rummage around in the basement of Sonic Youth’s royal couple, takes us on a tour of Perks and Mini’s comfy little corner of what they refer to as “Shitland”, shows us what Geoff McFetridge has been making for his daughters as well as getting kids to make their own crazy furniture. The new ‘Kinder’ supplement also features illustrations by Andy Rementer to colour in. Apartamento’s aesthetic sensibilities are so striking and its viewpoint so in tune with modern circumstance it’s only a matter of time before other homes and interiors magazines follow suit, maybe throwing the odd dirty sock or bit of gaffer tape into a shot to make it seem a bit more ‘real’. It’s only funny that it’s taken yet another global financial crisis to light a fire under a genre that’s been all too happy to play it safe in better times when, in reality, innovation never sleeps.

Review

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Trilogy Jeremy Tankard Typography

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