From the Archive; Aubrey Powell interviewed

Screen Shot of Pink Floyd's exhibition website

Screen Shot of Pink Floyd’s exhibition website

With the Victoria and Albert Museum staging the blockbuster exhibition, Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, and an upcoming talk by Aubrey Powell titled, ‘Art of Hipgnosis and the Album Cover’ (14/9/2017), here’s an interview with the man himself. Back in 2000 I spoke with Aubrey on the phone while curating an exhibition, Sound Design, for the British Council, which featured the very best British record sleeve designs from the heyday of Rock to the rebellion of Punk, the eccentricities of New Wave and the innovations of Rave and Rare Groove.

The exhibition included extracts of interviews with all the contributing record sleeve designers but the complete interviews were not published, even though the designers gave permission for them to be compiled into a book. The publishing industry being what it was, at the time, the book didn’t fly, so look out for more interviews on this blog. My questions were quite general; the aim was to get the designers talking about what interested them. The interviews were edited from longer conversations, but I tried to keep the designer’s tone of voice, and each interviewee signed off on the final version. What’s particularly interesting is that at the time vinyl had been replaced by digital technology in the form of CDs; Web 2.0, online downloads and MP3s were still ‘experimental’ and the first Apple iPod wouldn’t be launched for another year. The implications of the Internet for the music industry were beginning to be talked about but not yet felt.

Why am I posting this interview now? To celebrate the work of Aubrey Powell and his (late) partner, colleagues and clients, and the V&A exhibition that he helped to create, which I also hope to review. For more information on the exhibition visit the band’s exhibition website and the museum’s extensive programme, here. To see masses of images check out the websites dedicated to Hipgnosis and Aubrey Powell; for the best of Hipgnosis’s work in print have a look at Aubrey’s book, Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue, published by Thames and Hudson.

Aubrey Powell, interviewed by Liz Farrelly on 5/7/2000.

Liz Farrelly: How did you start Hipgnosis?

Aubrey Powell: We started Hipgnosis in the 1960s…It’s not what you know it’s who you know and Storm Thorgersen and I came from Cambridge and Pink Floyd originated in Cambridge – Syd Barrett, Dave Gilmore, Roger Waters – we all came to London at the same time, around 1965/66 and were all attending various art schools. Storm was at the Royal College of Art film school, and I was at the London School of Film Technique. Syd Barrett was at Hornsey Art School. And we were very together, all coming from Cambridge. We shared flats; Storm and I and then Syd and Dave had a big flat in South Kensington. Storm and I were looking to get some holiday money and we had a connection to photograph some cowboy book covers, and at the time everybody was getting stoned and dropping acid and were very drug-oriented. We were right in the middle of that psychedelic revolution. We were all part of that. Pink Floyd were doing gigs in tiny clubs like the UFO club on Tottenham Court Road and had just released their first album and were about to have a hit called See Emily play.
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From the Archive; remembering Lucienne Day

Lucienne Day in New York with Calyx (1951), 1952: The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation and archive. Photographer: Studio Briggs.

Lucienne Day in New York with Calyx (1951), 1952: The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation and archive. Photographer: Studio Briggs.

The current issue of Blueprint celebrates the life and work of Lucienne Day in the centenary year of her birth, with articles by and about her. The back pages of the magazine collect previous articles about the renowned designer, including a review I wrote about an exhibition at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery, long before the stunning renovation and addition (mentioned in a previous post about Manchester, here); when I visited the Gallery presented a perfect example of late Victorian institutional architecture, a fine addition to the “Red Brick” University of Manchester. Initially, the thought of re-reading an article written over 24 years ago was a bit daunting, but then it helped me recall my first time in Manchester, an extraordinary day trip, meeting Lucienne Day and Jennifer Harris (the curator and author of the exhibition catalogue), and the privilege of walking the exhibition in their company. A new exhibition at the Gallery, Lucienne Day – A sense of growth, from 14 April to 11 June 2017, examines how plant forms inspired many of Lucienne Day’s iconic patterns. I hope to get back up north to visit it…

Lucienne Day celebrated in Blueprint, no. 351.

Lucienne Day celebrated in Blueprint, no. 351.

“British design’s first celebrity”
by Liz Farrelly
Blueprint, June 1993, pp.36-38
Exhibition review of Lucienne Day: a career in design
Whitworth Art Gallery, Oxford Road, Manchester
23 April to 26 June 1993
Visited 22 April 1993

Calyx screen-printed furnishing fabric, Lucienne Day, Heal’s Wholesale &; Export, 1951. The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation and archive.

Calyx screen-printed furnishing fabric, Lucienne Day, Heal’s Wholesale & Export, 1951: The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation and archive.

After a long and distinguished carer, Lucienne Day is being honoured with a retrospective exhibition which, appropriately enough for a textile designer, is in Manchester. Over 80 per cent of her furnishing fabrics are here, supplemented by examples of designs for wallpaper and tableware, showing a great virtuosity of image-making and variety of aesthetics. And while the exhibition sheds light on an individual’s career, it acts just as effectively as a review of changing styles in domestic taste, albeit at the upper end of the market.
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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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Issues around archives, part one; Archiving Design Organisations

Screen Shot of Homepage for University of Brighton’s Design Archives listing the individual archives, news and events.

Screen Shot of Homepage for University of Brighton’s Design Archives listing the individual archives, news and events.

Proving the worth of my own archive (flyers, handouts and notes filed), this post recalls an event that spurred me on to apply for an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award. Overlooking the time-lag, another prompt to this post is the fact (and it’s a surprise even to me) that archives have become central to my methodology. During my doctoral research I’ve attended a number of academic events at which issues relating archives have been discussed; in this and a subsequent post, I’ll attempt to document those debates.

Archiving Design Organisations
“A Design Archives seminar funded by the Design History Society”
University of Brighton
Grand Parade, Brighton
6 June 2011

Being (at the time) a Visiting Lecturer at University of Brighton and therefore on an events mailing list, news of this day-long-seminar popped into my uni inbox…I was enticed…

Curatorial Director of the Design Archives, Professor Catherine Moriarty, welcomed delegates and identified three themes running through the day’s talks: the historical legacy of design organisations and the responsibility of telling their histories; the current activity of design organisations and how to manage material, record activity and make the past public in a digital age; and, shifts in the way designers work, the future of the design profession and of representative organisations. Catherine also posted a write-up of the event, here.

Professor Jonathan M. Woodham, then in post as Director of Research and Development, recalled how in 1994 the Design Council was reorganised following a report that recommended vacating its Haymarket headquarters; staff cuts of 90% followed. During an event at London’s Design Museum Jonathan voiced his objection to a proposal that the Design Council’s photographic archive be relocated to the Museum, pointing out that “it was a free and public library created with public money, so why should we pay to use it”. He later invited the Design Council to deposit its records at University of Brighton’s Design Archives and “two enormous pantechnicons of material” arrived; 17 years later “we’re still mining it”.
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From the Archive (& now); catching up with knitting

A new exhibition, What Do I Need To Do To Make It OK?, features Freddie Robins and the arts of stitching and knitting, which reminded me of a review I wrote a decade ago, of an exhibition fanfaring the reinvention of knitting, Knit 2 Together at the Crafts Council Gallery.

Back in 2005, knitting was at the vanguard of the DIY/Maker Movement, and while that movement is going from strength to strength, the boom in all-things-knitted points to how commerce and the media can hitch a ride on even the most unlikely bandwagon. As I mention in the article, a decade ago yarn shops were closing. But now it can be argued that, along with other independent shops run by enthusiasts and local-entrepreneurs, crafting shops are spearheading a high street revival; while “public knitting” was once deemed radical, now it’s helping shopkeepers build communities (a “user group” even) with knitting circles that “keep the lights on” after closing time. Crafting events in libraries, schools and museums are guaranteed crowd-pleasers; Craft Fairs and Maker Faires draw in punters looking for unique items (which chain stores could ever supply), and all of this helps fund the freelance economy. Another knock on effect of knitting is the boost it has given publishing; from how-to books to anthologies of radical craft, publishers, magazines and newspapers are benefitting from the expansive-yarn-economy. And while it’s a decade since Design Week published my article, the message is still current; Susan Jones recently declared, “Our future is in the making” in The Guardian (19/3/15).
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Anthony Dunne; two meetings

Anthony Dunne on Design Week website

With the news last week that Professor Anthony Dunne, Head of the Design Interactives programme, and his partner Fiona Raby, a founding member of CRD Research Studio and a Senior Research Fellow, are stepping down from their roles at London’s Royal College of Art at the end of the 2015 academic year, I’ve looked back through my archive of design magazines and found a couple of interviews with Tony. Now Fiona and Tony plan to concentrate full-time on their joint practice, Dunne & Raby, which has brought us, among other memorable moments, the “design fiction” United Micro Kingdoms (in exhibition form at London’s Design Museum), reviewed here.

Part One

“Loewy’s Children”
by Liz Farrelly
Blueprint
No. 76, April 1991, p.44-47

Standfirst: As the Design Museum celebrates the father of industrial design, Michael Horsham assesses its history and Liz Farrelly looks to its future (profiling five young(ish) product design practices)…

Tony Dunne’s intrepid move to Japan, after graduating from the RCA, led him to a full-time job at the Sony Corporations’s Design Centre. Being one of only two western members of a design staff over a hundred strong, and being expected to develop ten products a year, Dunne has been exposed to a rate of technological change, and social and cultural differnces, that have profoundly affected his view of product design. Using this as material for a redefintion of perception and information, he has come up with a product aesthetic that attempts a “mapping of the void”.
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Show Don’t Tell, with design fiction

Communo-Nuclearists let the train take the strain. Image by Tommaso Landa. ©All rights reserved by d_&_r

Communo-Nuclearists let the train take the strain.
Image by Tommaso Landa
©All rights reserved by d_&_r

United Micro Kingdoms (UmK): a design fiction
Design Museum, Shad Thames, London
1 May to 26 August 2013
Visited 30 April and 15 August 2013

I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, attending a Designer Breakfast (8am start!) at the Design Museum, and was invited into the Press View for United Micro Kingdoms. There I bumped into Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne, the instigators of this groundbreaking exhibition, which is billed as “a design fiction”. True to my journalistic roots, I fired a few questions and scribble some answers, before PRs whisked them away.

Tony and Fiona use design to provoke debate; they call it “critical design”. With “UmK” they’ve created a near-future scenario for our little island, populated by four tribes defined by differing attitudes to technology and ecology. These in turn are manifested as imagined transportation and energy choices, which mirror each tribe’s ethical and ideological beliefs.
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Conference Session; Design Objects and the Museum

39th Annual AAH Conference
University of Reading
11 to 13 April 2013

More usually I write up conferences from the vantage point of being an audience member. This time, however, I was a convenor, which entailed defining the theme, sending out our call for papers to networks far and wide, selecting the papers, and chairing the discussion. I’ve written this in partnership with Joanna Weddell.

At the 39th Annual Association of Art Historians Conference, myself and Joanna Weddell (we’re both recipients of AHRC Collaborative Doctorate Awards at the University of Brighton, with the Victoria and Albert Museum and London’s Design Museum, respectively) organised a session titled “Design Objects and the Museum”. Prompted by a quote from Bourdieu and Darbel’s 1969 study of museum visitors (“Maybe there should be museums with modern stuff in them, but it wouldn’t be a proper museum”), the session questioned notions of what could and should be displayed, and where, and how methods of display and interpretation might engage and educate a museum’s public.
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