Spring 2005

The eye of the curator [extract]

Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design since the Sixties

Book: Edited by Rick Poynor Barbican Art Gallery / Laurence King Publishers, 2004; £28
Exhibition: Barbican Art Gallery, London. 16 Sept 2004–23 Jan 2005

To a young, typographically inclined Dutchman growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, British graphic design was a continuous source of delight. British design came to us mostly in the form of Penguin and Methuen book jackets and through dozens of unforgettable album covers, such as Peter Blake and Jann Haworth’s seminal sleeve for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album and Robert Brownjohn’s explosive visuals for Let it Bleed. In the 1970s, work by Hipgnosis for acts such as 10cc, Brand X, Yes (post-Roger Dean) and Pink Floyd became personal favourites. The enigmatic graphics of Hipgnosis collaborators Colin Elgie and George Hardie, as well as Storm Thorgerson’s concepts and photography, were eye-openers. They helped show how graphic form and style can be used to suggest meaning rather than spelling it out, and to comment on (or add to) a product’s content rather than just selling it. In this respect, new wave designers such as Barney Bubbles, Malcolm Garrett and Vaughan Oliver, instead of breaking with the previous generation, simply did the same with different means. [...]

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