The theme of Week 2 is ‘Industry Today’. Having explored our own identities and relationships with design last week, I am excited to reflect upon design in my city, Brighton, the UK, and the world.
Guest Lecture – Susanna Edwards in conversation with Maziar Raein
This week’s lecture took a podcast format, and allowed us to listen in on a conversation between Susanna Edwards and Maziar Raein on the industry today. Maziar Raein is an Associate Professor at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO), with film work including Underwater Productions, commissions from Channel 4 and F.4 Films, which made I Used To Be In Pictures. Maziar founded Codex Design, specialising in developing identities and transforming them into brands, amongst his clients were lastminute.com (KHiO, 2020).
In the podcast, Maziar describes working in graphic design in the 1980s as the beginning of a cultural shift, as people began to explore new ways of working. He says it was a time for change, with a sense of independence within the new designers, which older designers did not necessarily possess. Maziar explains how it was at this point where the idea of ‘the logo’ became hugely important within design, along with marketing and branding.
The podcast went on to discuss numerous influential designers who have made their mark on design today. He talks of former colleague Phil Baines, who credits medieval history as a strong influence for his work. Phil Baines is a well-known graphic designer and senior lecturer at Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design. A lot of Baine’s work was with experimental typography, taking inspiration from medieval manuscripts and the writings of Marshall McLuhan and George Steiner – he often noted that his influences came from written rather than visual sources (Eye Magazine, 2008).
An example of Phil Baines’ historical influence lies within his degree show poster, for St Martin’s School of Art in 1985 (Right). The bars above each number refer to Roman inscriptional practice, and the triple underlines at the beginning of each new word refer to type mark up. Personally, I really enjoy this poster’s design, particularly the subtlety of the nods towards Baines’ own influences. Their meaning may be missed by the casual viewer, however, the elements come together to create a highly appealing, of-the-time visual, whilst including small pieces of history, too.
In the lecture, Maziar touched upon the role of women in design, and noted his admiration for Margaret Calvert, who assisted in the creation of the British Road Signs, still in use today. She is known for her exceptional knowledge of type, and the iconic image of a man digging the road. In 2008, Margaret released her first print, reworking her iconic work for the UK road signs into ‘Woman at Work’, using the same style as her pictograms for the original road signs designed in the 1960s (Its Nice That, 2018). I was immediately intrigued by Margaret Calvert and her work, and made a note to revisit and research this further.
Drip Dry Shirts: The Evolution of the Graphic Designer
To further research this week’s theme, I looked at Drip Dry Shirts by Lucienne Roberts. This read supplemented Maziar’s insights in the lecture well. On technological advancements, the text describes how this led to the almost complete disappearance of skilled engravers (Roberts, 2005. p.19). In the 1920s, advertising agencies and specialist studios began to appear, and individual designers were working in a freelance capacity, generally as specialists within one field, and were known as ‘commercial artists’ (Roberts, 2005. p.20).
One insight that I noted was Roberts’ comment on how many designers chose not to exclusively align themselves with modernism, while sans serif fonts were on the rise, there was also a reintroduction of semi-decorative nineteenth-century display faces (Roberts, 2005, p.29). This appreciation for the past and elements of nostalgia within design are still prevalent today. It is not uncommon for rebrands nowadays to reflect upon and pay homage to the company’s history, as was certainly the case with the 2015 rebrand of Great Western Rail. This particular rebrand really excited me, and I noted to research this further in this week’s tasks.
This week’s workshop challenge tasked us with selecting 3 design practices / businesses that summarise our city in terms of design practice. We were also to select 3 examples of design production within our city, and geo-tag the locations of all 6 on the university’s map platform.
For the design practice element of the task, I first thought about the city of Brighton, and what makes here, here. Brighton is a vibrant city full of creatives and thriving independent businesses. Looking locally, I identified design in Brighton I considered to truly capture the essence of this city, and researched their creators.
20 Regent Street, Studio 3, Brighton, BN1 1UX.
Founded in 2004. 5 employees.
Specialities: Graphic Design, Art Direction, Brand Identity, Digital, Print, and Web design & build
Born in Brighton but working all over the world, we are a design studio with a passion for creating, building & applying brands.
Our formative years were spent working within the UK music industry, a culture where creativity ran free and the rules were there to be broken. Fifteen years later; every project we tackle is still based on this ethos. That means no house style and no preconceptions.Filthy media, 2020
Filthy Media are located within the bohemian North Laine area of Brighton. They describe themselves as a design studio, specialising in ‘creating, building and applying brands’. ‘Filthy’ as an adverb means extreme, tremendous, even. Their mission statement describes their attitude to rules as being ‘there to be broken’, and their name would support this; it’s unexpected, but unforgettable.
The project that led me to discovering Filthy Media was their work on the visual identity of Flour Pot Bakery, a small chain of bakeries in Brighton. In total they now have seven sites across Brighton, one of which is just at the foot of my street. Flour Pot’s visual identity in my opinion, truly encapsulates what it means to live in Brighton. The brand is modern, bright, clean, with nods to hand-craftsmanship and sustainability. Brighton is a green city, and Flour Pot’s branding in addition to in-store experience is an accurate representation of the community it sits within.
12A Marlborough Place, Brighton, BN1 1WN
Founded in 2003. 2 employees including founder, Chris Harrison.
Mission Statement: Take our clients to places that they didn’t expect design would enable them to reach.Harrison Agency, 2020
Tucked away by the gorgeous Victoria Gardens, Harrison Agency are a small practice of two employees; founder Chris Harrison (Creative Director) and Tash (Copywriter). They refer to themselves as a branding agency. The name, Harrison Agency makes potential clients instantly aware that they will be receiving Chris Harrison’s extensive industry experience and expertise if they choose to partner with Harrison Agency.
With a client list including Brighton Dome, Brighton & Hove City Council, Royal Pavilion & Museum, Visit Brighton, and the incredible Sussex charity Martlets; Harrison Agency are well and truly at the heart of iconic design in Brighton. One of their most visible projects around the city are the colourfully designed local buses. Harrison Agency’s work here is seen and loved by many in the city, whilst showing visitors and tourists just how bright Brighton is. Harrison agency also carried out a rebrand for Brighton’s OASIS Project, who do incredible work helping women, children and families affected by drug and alcohol problems in the city. This rebrand with its use of colour and type illustrates the warmth of the people involved. I feel this is an extremely important project, focusing on providing life-changing support to those suffering from hardships within Brighton.
We Like Today
Albert Works,, 2 Conway Street, Hove, BN3 3LW, East Sussex
Founded in 2010. 5 employees.
Interdisciplinary studio, made up of designers and architects.
We are an interdisciplinary studio of designers and architects united by nature, to cultivate context, identity, culture, value and relationships, that are memorable and meaningful. We create what matters. To fall in love not in line. On purpose.We Like Today, 2020
Based in Hove, the tranquil and upmarket seaside resort, We Like Today’s mission statement reads exactly as you would expect from a studio with such a positive and friendly name. ‘We create what matters. To fall in love not in line. On purpose’. Whilst their name does not instantly enlighten the passer-by of the nature of their practice, their company ethos is clear.
Hove is just a stone’s throw from Brighton, but is generally softer and quieter, but just as packed full of creatives as it’s bolder neighbour. The area is fairly prestigious, and We Like Today’s base here suggests that they would work on equally as fabulous projects. The project that drew me to We Like Today is PLATF9RM, Brighton and Hove’s largest independent co-working community of businesses and creatives. PLATF9RM fits perfectly into the community here, offering a modern, luxurious office experience to freelancers and businesses alike. We Like Today are also behind Brighton’s hugely popular Bison Beach Bar, further demonstrating their ability to cultivate incredible atmospheres that serve this community and bring it closer together.
For the design production element of the task, I was keen to select a variety of design outputs.
Factory Films are a Brighton-based video production company. They were behind BBC1’s The Great Staycation, and Comedy Central’s Unfiltered. Their mission is: ‘to create the most innovative and exciting content for TV, mobile & online. We love working with creative minds that make us think about how to tell stories from a new perspective’ (Factory Films, 2020).
Despite their name, Grandad London are a Brighton-based agency, offering a full suite of digital planning, implementation and support services (Grandad London, 2020). Their web design and development is what initially caught my eye, as Grandad London were the behind the overhaul of Brighton Fringe Festival’s website, refreshing its digital image and creating a great user experience for visitors.
THE PRIVATE PRESS
The Private Press is a modern screen printing studio. Everything is made by hand, with meticulous attention to detail (The Private Press, 2020). Working with artists, designers, illustrators and graphic artists, they understand that no two projects are the same. Their prints have appeared in The Design Museum, the Royal Academy and the Saatchi Gallery, as well as in exhibitions worldwide (The Private Press, 2020).
4 Evolutionary Design Steps in the UK
We were encouraged to think of 4 evolutionary design steps that have contributed to the identity of design culture in our country today, in our opinion. Looking at my list, I appreciate that my examples are predominantly fairly recent. There are obviously many significant design steps further back than mine, however, I considered Maziar’s point of how quickly the graphic design industry changes, and that it is constantly changing. The four examples I have included below, in my opinion, carry a message about design culture in the UK today.
- British Road Signs (1965)
Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert’s designs are a part of everyday life for many Britons, and have stood the test of time, being still in use today. The thought and extensive design planning that went into the UK’s road signs is perhaps not always appreciated, nor thought of first when you think of design. The size of lettering varies greatly depending upon the speed of traffic, and how much information is shown, with other elements scaled accordingly (The British Road Signs Project, 2015). “It is sad but true to say that most of us take our surroundings for granted” – Jock Kinneir.
- The Tate Modern (2000)
The Tate Modern is one of London’s most recognisable and most loved buildings. What was once the Bankside Power Station was selected by the Tate Trustees to become a separate gallery for international modern and contemporary art. The architects proposed to retain much of the original character of the building, with the turbine hall becoming a dramatic entrance, and the boiler house the galleries (Tate, 2020). Appreciation for history and design innovation are not mutually exclusive, as the Tate Modern demonstrates.
- London 2012 Olympics (2012)
This may seem like a strange inclusion, but I do believe that the Wolff Olins designed logo has impacted design in the UK today. The design for the London 2012 Olympic logo was extremely poorly received, with a petition for it to be axed, politicians speaking out in force against the logo, and suggestion that the animated version of the logo may cause epileptic fits, and had not been properly health-checked (Campaign Live, 2007). Whilst many criticisms came from the design’s huge deviation from previous logos, its lacking visual representation of London, and personal preference – the health concerns here are the most shocking. The conversation on accessibility is an important one, but accessibility regulations only came into force for public sector bodies in 2018. There is a lot that can be learnt from the London 2012 Olympic logo.
- Pentagram rebrand – Great Western Railway (2015)
Pentagram, the world’s largest independent design consultancy, carried out the identity redesign, taking First Great Western to Great Western Railway. The name was first used in 1833, being discontinued in 1948 when nationalism took place. The identity overhaul overtly references GWR’s heritage and its role in the formation of UK railways in the mid-nineteenth century (Creative Review, 2015). Pentagram’s John Rushworth said “You’ve got to wear your history lightly, in my view, because otherwise you become a nostalgic railway line”. Roberts’ Drip Dry Shirts described a desire for nostalgia in design, visual contrast between old and new, Pentagram’s rebrand was innovative whilst paying homage to GWR’s history, the new brand is prestigious rather than simply nostalgic.
The British Road Signs Project, 2015. [Online]. Available at: http://www.britishroadsignproject.co.uk/jock-kinneir-margaret-calvert/ [Accessed 01/10/20].
Campaign Live, 2007. Controversial London 2012 logo sparks public backlash. [Online]. Available at: https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/controversial-london-2012-logo-sparks-public-backlash/662581#:~:text=LONDON%20%2D%20The%20Wolff%20Olins%2Ddesigned,the%20image%20to%20be%20axed.&text=The%20controversial%20logo%20took%20Wolff,estimated%20cost%20of%20%C2%A3400%2C000 [Accessed 01/10/20].
Creative Review, 2015. The Rebirth of Great Western Railway. [Online] Available at: https://www.creativereview.co.uk/the-rebirth-of-the-great-western-railway/ [Accessed 01/10/20].
Eye Magazine, 2008. Reputations: Phil Baines. [Online]. Available at: http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/reputations-phil-baines [Accessed 01/10/20].
Factory Films, 2020. How We Work. [Online]. Available at: http://www.factoryfilms.tv/how-we-work/ [Accessed 01/10/20].
Filthy Media, 2020. About. [Online]. Available at: https://www.filthymedia.com/about [Accessed 01/10/20].
Grandad London, 2020. Our Work. [Online]. Available at: https://grandadlondon.com/our-work/ [Accessed 01/10/20].
Harrison Agency, 2020. About [Online]. Available at: http://harrison-agency.com/about/ [Accessed 01/10/20].
Its Nice That, 2018. Margaret Calvert Unveils First Ever Print: Woman At Work. [Online]. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/news/margaret-calvert-woman-at-work-print-jealous-gallery-london-original-print-fair-graphic-design-270418 [Accessed 01/10/20].
KHiO, 2020. Maziar Raein – About – Staff. [Online] Available at: https://khio.no/en/about/staff/maziar-raein [Accessed 01/10/20].
Tate, 2020. History of Tate Modern. [Online]. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/about-us/history-tate/history-tate-modern [Accessed 01/10/20].
We Like Today, 2020. About. [Online] Available at: https://www.weliketoday.co.uk/about/ [Accessed 01/10/20].