From the Archive; Sagmeister’s first sabbatical

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On the occasion of an earlier blog post about The Happy Film, which began as one of Stefan Sagmeister’s sabbatical projects, here’s an article I wrote when his first book, Sagmeister made you look was about to be published by Booth-Clibborn Editions, as that too was the product of a ‘year without clients’, his first in fact.

I also worked with Edward Booth-Clibborn but wasn’t involved in the editorial or production process of Sagmeister’s book, so felt that it was OK to write about it. This article appeared in the esteemed German magazine, Form, subtitled ‘The European Design Magazine’, and is presented in German and English. Scans of the article are available through the magazine’s online archive, here (access requires registration).

Reading this article reveals that even then Sagmeister would seek collaborators with complementary skills, in this case, design writer Peter Hall (for The Happy Film, he worked with co-directors Hillman Curtis and Ben Nabors). But he was wrong about one thing; that once design work is published, it’s off the agenda. A star turn like Sagmeister is always going to be known for that poster (info for AIGA Miami scratched into his skin) and that CD cover (Lou Reed’s face overwritten with lyrics). If he doesn’t show then at a lecture or talk about them in an article it’s like your favourite band refusing to play their signature tune on stage; Sagmeister’s greatest hits keep his fans happy! This article also points to the performative aspect of graphic design; not only the lure of being ‘guest speaker’ at an international conference doing your best ‘show and tell’, but also with regard to selling ideas in client presentations…a very useful skill.
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The Happy Film; graphic design on screen

Stefan Sagmeister in ‘The Happy Film’, seeking discomfort on the streets of New York. Photograph: Ben Wolf.

Stefan Sagmeister in ‘The Happy Film’, seeking discomfort on the streets of New York. Photograph: Ben Wolf.

The Happy Film
Duke of York’s Picturehouse
Preston Road, Brighton, East Sussex
14 June 2017 at 6pm

I’m not a fan of solo cinema visits but even with my partner-in-crime currently ‘away’, I had to see this just released, much discussed film at this special screening. Right on the money, the power-couple hosts of Glug Brighton, Carl Rush of creative agency Crush, and Helen, the renowned Illustration agent and founder of Agency Rush, invited graphic-design hero (and I don’t use the term lightly) Stefan Sagmeister to show his seven-years in the making documentary, The Happy Film. Despite the lure of a glorious summer evening, Brighton’s historic Duke of York’s cinema was packed with the city’s creative community including a good number of Graphic Design and Illustration students from University of Brighton, come to see the legend in action, for after a film of thrills and spills Sagmeister stepped up for the Q&A.
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From the Archive; Mysterious Absence at the Cutting Edge

Screen Shot from Women’s March on Washington webpage of downloadable graphics.

Screen Shot from Women’s March on Washington webpage of downloadable graphics.

Last weekend women the world over took to the streets to protest, making themselves visible and their voices heard, as they waved an array of protest signs. Hand-made, humorous, strident and strong, the signs were seen in Instagram feeds, shared via Twitter, broadcast on television and pictured in newspapers. The importance of graphic design to protest cannot be over stressed; multiples of engaging graphics will communicate and amplify your message. To that end the Women’s March on Washington website contains a page of downloadable graphics offering slogans and images to be used for free as posters, placards, t-shirt graphics, wherever and however.

That vision of graphic protest was anticipated in a recent a seminar text read with Level 4 Graphic Design and Illustration students at University of Brighton. Teal Trigg’s chapter on “Graphic Design” in Feminist Visual Culture (edited by Fiona Carson and Claire Pajaczkowska) contained a quote from Eye magazine about the activist group she co-founded: “They [WD+RU] aim to talk to women in all walks of life, but the first step is to initiate a debate that will politicise designers and prompt them to address gender issues through their work’ (p.157).
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From the Archive (and now); Destroy, punk and DIY

So an email arrived inviting me to the launch of Punk.London at Oxford Street’s 100 Club, and I have to admit it didn’t totally intrigue me. Instead in gushed cloudy memories of a dark, sweaty cellar and an uncomfortable din, which I must have endured (it feels like) a hundred times over a couple of decades. But a closer look at the invite revealed this to be an occasion for nostalgia, a celebration of a 40-year anniversary marking London’s punk moment and the start of a movement, a subculture in fact, the long-tail of which has affected both attire and attitude.

Screen Shot from Punk.London website, designed by Brody Associates, inviting D-I-Y participation in a city-wide cultural event

Screen Shot from Punk.London website, designed by Brody Associates, inviting D-I-Y participation in a city-wide cultural event

“Subversive Culture” is the strapline (pardon the bondage-tinged pun), which it is claimed has fuelled creativity (now the Creative Industries) ever since. Over the coming year a host of venues will stage events big and small, backed by the Greater London Authority (GLA); shouting about London’s past punk credentials must have tourist-attracting potential. With an identity and online hub branded by Neville Brody (still demonstrating punk attitude by being “notoriously abrasive”, according to Digital Arts), for me the most innovative element is an prompt to organise your own event; tagged “D.I.Y.” the page offers links to branding and fundraising advice, via the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Regardless of designated anniversaries punk is perennial, and it doesn’t need much of an excuse to hit the headlines. In 1998 I reviewed an exhibition, Destroy: Punk Graphic Design in Britain, and because it isn’t available on the magazine’s website I’m re-posting it, see below. Yes it was cheeky of me to declare punk to be the only “memorable cultural event in the 1970s”, but that’s a clue to my age. I may have been “witness” to the “heyday of punk” but only just; the article is unapologetically London-centric, too, hardly surprising as I was still at school and London was home. What isn’t mentioned is that I was a lender to the show too, having amassed a substantial collection of vinyl due to a fascination with indie record shops. I sold most of the best bits (the vultures were already circling at the Private View) as I became nomadic, leaving London in April 1998, and had neither the means (no turntable) nor inclination (changing musical tastes) to listen again.
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Sound Design UK Music and Graphic Design; reconstructing an exhibition

Welcome to Sound Design: UK Music and Graphic Design, an exhibition from 2000. Staged on the cusp of the digital communications revolution it has no online presence and is therefore “invisible”. This post is an attempt at digital reparation, an experiment in creating a “trace” for a long-gone temporary exhibition by providing details of the exhibition-making process. The idea for an exhibition on the graphic design of popular music came from David Elliott, then Head of Arts at the British Council in Japan and a keen vinyl collector. I was asked to pitch a concept that would fit the brief and then employed as curator. The exhibition was designed and organised in the UK by the British Council and toured Asia and Australia. Sometimes in a venue for just a few days, it proved extremely popular, surpassed all expectations and toured for nearly three years; before opening in Tokyo it was already booked into venues in Sydney, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. However, there is no British press coverage, probably because the exhibition wasn’t shown in the UK. Masses of media was generated in Asian and a pile of clippings probably resides in the Tokyo office; I saw the fast-growing folder. (Eventually the British Council realised it was missing a trick and started to give touring shows a short run in the UK, with a Press and Private View to provoke media interest; then the LDF launched and constituted an even better reason).

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This is the poster, in situ, displayed at the entrance to the Tokyo venue, The Ground. Instead of installing the exhibition at the British Council headquarters, it opened in this concrete-lined bunker (not the easiest place to hang a show) close to the epicentre of Japanese trendiness (between Harajuku and Meiji-Dori). However, in some correspondence The Spiral is named as venue, which would have been an even bigger deal! David’s brief called for an exhibition of UK music graphics; from the golden years of vinyl when British designers helped to invent the genre of “album sleeve art”, to recent annexation of the aesthetic high ground by indie labels and various subcultures. The aim was to come right up to date with examples of ingenious CD packaging.
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From the Archive (& now); a moment of manga

Manga is a popular choice for museum exhibitions and displays: with boundless variations in content and style, it’s accessible but (still) culturally exotic; it mixes scholarly research with contemporary collecting; and whether PG-rated or not, attracts a diverse audience of geeks and gawkers of all ages. Not for the first time, the British Museum gives over the high profile Room 3 (can’t miss it, first stop on the right) to a manga-moment with Manga now: three generations, which features new and specially commissioned work by Chiba Tetsuya, Hoshino Yukinobu and Nakamura Hikaru. I’ll pop in to inspect it next time I’m on the hallowed ground.

Manga now, three generations
The Asahi Shimbun Displays, Objects in Focus
British Museum
Great Russell Street, London WC1
www.britishmuseum.org
3 September to 15 November 2015

Screen Shot from the British Museum’s website; three manga artists

Screen Shot from the British Museum’s website; three manga artists

Previously the same gallery featured the stunning display, Manga, Professor Munakata’s British Museum adventure (5/11/09-3/1/10), by Hoshino Yukinobu. Jane Cheng reviewed that show on Eye, here: “The juxtaposition of hugely enlarged with minutely detailed asks visitors both to lean in closer and to step back”. Jane’s post features great images of the life-sized cut-outs in situ – like walking through a giant pop-up book — and she highlights the interactive nature of illustration exhibitions (something I recognised too at the V&A’s Memory Palace show, and featured in a conference paper, here). Loving a museum-based-mystery, especially one that showcases perfectly rendered images of museum objects (and hat’s off, what a tie-in, when’s the movie?), I ordered said graphic novel from the BM’s online shop having received a timely email reminding me of the publication on the same morning that the new show opened; now that’s what I call museum marketing. The online shop also tells customers, “Every purchase supports the Museum” (rather than Amazon).
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From the Archive; five curators interviewed

As a contributor to Design Week in its print form, I worked with Lynda Relph-Knight and her editorial team for fifteen years; she was the first editor to commission me as when I became a freelancer writre in 1994. Until recently it was possible to search the entire DW print run, via its website, and find “full text” of years and years of design journalism, so I could access my back catalogue of articles including a regular column. Not only was this a useful research tool (with a search box), but it also functioned as a (stop-gap) personal archive too. However, a recent website redesign has adopted a sub-Instagram interface that displays just a handful of results, which can neither be saved nor downloaded, and, mysteriously, DW has cut years off its age!

Scrabbling around at home, I found “some” (but not all) tear sheets of articles and this particular one seemed relevant to share. In early 1999 I interviewed five curators who were producing design exhibitions, and we talked about their current shows. To foreground the curators’ voices I edited our conversations into monologues (the interviews were taped). Each curator also discussed the nascent field of design curating, which was evidently flourishing. Design was in the air during the build-up to the opening of the Millennium Dome (big party 31/12/99, cue Prince); the press was full of stories about architects and designers as controversy surrounded the various exhibits planned for the Dome. Stephen Bayley, ex-Design Museum Director, had been in charge but by the end of 1997 he was ex-Millennium Dome too; he resigned. See Chapter 6 on the Dome, in The Trojan Horse: The Growth of Commercial Sponsorship by Deborah Philips and Garry Whannel (Bloomsbury, 2013).

At the time the prospect of a “Millennium Bug” melting down our PCs was freaking people out but the world was still on the cusp of digital connectivity; the Internet was dial-up and mass adoption of websites by business and government was still to come. So this design-curating activity and these exhibitions remain under-documented online – just try searching for them. When I’ve found “traces” I’ve added links, but it appears that some of the exhibitions have nudged off “past projects” pages (if the curators have a website). I’ve also included links to information on individuals to show their subsequent career paths. The catalogue cover images are from my own copies.

“Display cases”
by Liz Farrelly
Design Week
26 March 1999, pp.41-48

Standfirst: Five curators describe, in their own words, their experiences and the highs and lows of managing and producing an exhibition. Liz Farrelly acts as custodian.
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From the Archive; Paul Davis spreads joy

On the occasion of Paul Davis’s latest exhibition reviewed on the Eye blog, here’s a reminder of an earlier show that I was privileged enough to stumble across…

…and if you’re in Tokyo, you’ll find Paul drawing a…
Line in the Sand
at
Ginza Graphic Gallery (ggg)
DNP Ginza Building, 7-2, Ginza 7-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Until 28 February 2015

Paul Davis on Eye Blog

Monday 12:47pm, 1 June 2009
“Paul Davis wakes up in Brighton”
by Liz Farrelly
Eye Blog

On first viewing, Paul Davis’s exhibition of word drawings felt a tad bleak, on a sunny Friday afternoon wind-up to a Bank Holiday weekend, during the Castor + Pollux Private View right there on Brighton’s holiday-making seafront, with pleasure jostling business for attention. A few days later I revisited the work to discover more light among the shade.
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