Scenes of graphic London_by Teal Triggs

The graphic design of London is as important to the city as its architecture, argues Teal Triggs

Teal Triggs is professor of graphic design, University of the Arts London

Think London graphic design, and what comes to mind? Maybe it is the Underground tube map designed by Harry Beck in 1931, which visually simplified a way of navigating the city’s complex underground transport network. Maybe it’s London Underground’s distinctive style of branding – the red roundel designed by Eric Johnston in 1913 emblazoned with its more recent proprietary typeface New Johnson designed by Colin Banks in 1980 – which itself has been an established image for merchandising products for every tourist stall in the city’s centre.

‘A puerile mess, an artistic flop and a commercial scandal.’ Stephen Bayley on the Olympic logo

Maybe it’s the design of the 2012 Olympic logo. Designed by Wolff Olins, it’s a visual jigsaw inspired by London’s graffiti community and aimed ultimately at the ‘internet generation’. The 2012 logo, which had been described as resembling a ‘monkey on the toilet’ or a ‘broken swastika’, came under fierce scrutiny by the national press and the general public (when thousands reportedly signed an online petition in protest). Design critic Stephen Bayley even berated the logo in the Daily Telegraph remarking that it was a puerile mess, an artistic flop and a commercial scandal’. Yet, whatever you think of it, the logo has now become firmly part of London’s identity – well, until 1012 at least.

Maybe you have other loves or hates. Like many major cities, London is full of signage by anonymous graphic designers – many of whom have responded to the development of new technologies. Reportedly, a CCTV camera exists for every 14 people in London and with this comes the by-now familiar surveillance signs emblazoned with ‘Warning CCTV in Operation’. Bans on mobile phones appear on trains and increasingly in restaurants. From the professional to the amateur designer, the decision to ban Londoners from smoking in public places prompted a plethora of handwritten ‘No Smoking’ signs to appear on café, pub and restaurant windows.

The way in which information operates fro those who walk in London has been the focus of the Legible London project, which last year saw the development of 19 prototype signs placed in and around London’s West End. This wayfinding system helps pedestrians navigate their journey in terms of distance by telling them the time it takes to walk to their destination and what London landmarks they might see along the way. the signage was conceived and generated by the Applied Information Group (AIG) – a London-based information design consultancy in association with Lacock Gullam.

But there is more to London’s graphic design than its internationally recognised public service design. Graphic design of other kinds has been gaining in public profile over the last few years. Shoreditch gallery Kemistry has featured some of the rising stars of London’s recent graphic design scene including the Swiss-American designer Zak Keyes – currently art director for the Architectural Association and curator of the recent exhibition Forms of Inquiry: The Architecture of Critical Graphic Design – as well as Daniel Eatock, whose design of the Big Brother logo catapulted him into mainstream consciousness.

Another marker of this is the number of graphic designers featured in retrospective exhibitions at the London Design Museum over the last few years including Robert Brownjohn (1925-1970), Alan Flectcher (1931-2006) and more recently, Jonathan Barnbrook (1966- ). Brownjohn mad an impact on London graphic design in the 1960s with (among other classics) his design of James Bond title sequences. Alan Fletcher was the founding partner of Pentagram in the 1970s designing identities for notable London cultural institutions such as the logotype for the Victoria & Albert Museum. Jonathan Barnbrook has become synonymous with work from the 1990s and 2000s that tackles uncomfortable social and political themes. His exhibition ‘Friendly Fire’ (2007) featured work from his London studio (and typefaces from his Virus Foundry), plus such as David Bowie and the designer’s now famous book ‘I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, With Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now’ for fine artist Damian Hirst.

Barnbrook is only one of numerous graphic designers who have successful London-based studios. In 2005, the Design Council reported that 20,463 design businesses (including graphics, product, interior, etc.) were operating in London with 59 per cent under the size of 5 employees. Thirty nine per cent working exclusively in the discipline of communications. These businesses are concentrated mainly in West and East London. And they constitute, collectively, a ‘cultural industry’.

But how to define this industry? Alex Rich, of Field Trip, who has worked in London and Tokyo and is now based on Cardiff observes: ‘The scale of the various scenes in London is interesting: graphic design in a way suffers by becoming extremely stylistic in approach to the point where it has become a currency.’ Andy Altman, from Why Not Associates, is quick to suggest that the uniqueness of London’s design scene is based upon the reputation of the designers themselves. He lists Richard Hollis, Neville Brody, Peter Saville, Pentagram, The Partners, Stylorouge, Carol Dempsey Thirkell, Johnson Banks, Trickett and Webb, Lambie-Nairn, Fuel, Why Not Associates, Tomato, North, Spin, Mile, Push, Poke, Form and Graphic Thought Facility among some of the better known designers internationally.

Some designers have tapped into ‘Cool Britannia’, among them Made Thought whose clients include Kate Moss and Stella MaCartney, or the design team at Pony whose poster for ‘Derek: a film about the life and art of Derek Jarman’ sold out to collectors and interior designers.

Maaike van Neck (one half of the London studio Mwncreative – a Portuguese-Dutch collaboration) offers a newcomer’s perspective to London: ‘It is hard to pinpoint a particular visual style in the London graphic design scene in a way that you might describe the Bauhaus or Swiss International Style. The words come to mind which describe for me what makes London unique are “scattered randomness”; just like its geographical grid structure.’ Jim Northover, chairman of the international branding company Lloyd Northover, concurs. He suggests that ‘London’s style is less identifiable these days, mainly because the city has absorbed so many more influences and cultures.’ Equally Northover observes that, ‘the London design scene remains fragmented with lots of small businesses and individual designers operating successfully in a variety of markets.’

‘The scale of the various scenes in London is interesting: graphic design in a way suffers by becoming extremely stylistic in approach to the point where it has become a currency.’ Alex Rich, Field Trip

Graphic design in London can be about pure commerce but it also contains a strong thread of social responsibility. Examples are numerous, including studios such as thomas.matthews and Live/ Work where designers are using their skills to further new methods of working with communities and ensuring sustainability is at the top of London’s design agenda. Abäke is a co-operative whose members represent different nationalities, and which organises events to raise public awareness, while London College of Communication graduate Jody Boehnert set up EcoLabs last year with a remit to provide a platform to encourage designers to think differently about sustainable communities.

‘London’s style is less identifiable these days, mainly because the city has absorbed so many more influences.’ Jim Northover, Lloyd Northover

Design and environmentalism continue to attract interest from Londoners. All of this sets an agenda for high profile graphic design conferences and for lectures on current issues in design practice, industry and education. These include, Eye magazine’s series of forums begun with ‘Burning Issues’ in 2006 and continuing in 2008 with ‘Design and Education’. Meanwhile, ‘New Views’ 1 and 2, held at the London College of Communication, brought together designers, educators and academics from around the world to demonstrate that London remains to this day a destination point for many designers. Such conferences draw upon London’s large population of graphic design students: there are currently at least 39 graphic design degree programmes.

Even then, the story isn’t finished. There’s a thriving underground scene producing flyers, posters, and fanzines reflecting the city’s vibrant music and arts. It’s been this way since the 1960s counter-cultural phenomenon of publishing with Oz, IT and Frendz. But the ‘do-it-yourself’ explosion of the last few years has brought with it an increased visibility for those aspiring to be graphic designers. The London Zine Symposium and the London Artists’ Book Fair held at the ICA have become focal points.

So if we look closely enough, graphic design is all around us. It is not just about tube maps and Olympic logos – it is much more. The fact that we don’t always notice it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. This could be an indication that it is doing its job well. Graphic design belongs at the heart of the London Design Festival because graphic design is at the heart of London.

_The above article is derived from the ‘The London Design Festival Guide’

我看了這篇關於倫敦平面設計的文篇,真的覺得寫得很好,也令我更了解今天倫敦設計工業的狀況,post 在這裡,予以分享。


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