Tuesday, 10:00am
1 September 2020

David King: Ranged Left!

Eye’s next Type Tuesday, ‘David King: Ranged Left!’ will celebrate the life and work of David King (1943-2016)

Please join us for the next Type Tuesday at 6pm (British Summer Time) on 8 Sept 2020. This online event marks the publication of Rick Poynor’s new book David King: Designer, Activist, Visual Historian (Yale), designed by Eye’s Simon Esterson.

To celebrate the life and work of David King (1943-2016) we will be joined by a panel comprising designer Prem Krishnamurthy, Roger Law (Spitting Image), King’s long-time colleague Judy Groves, Martina Margetts (former Crafts editor) and curators David Elliott (with whom King worked at MOMA Oxford) and Matthew Gale (Tate) plus Esterson and Poynor, chaired by Eye editor John L. Walters.

Cover of David King: Designer, Activist, Visual Historian (Yale). Design: Simon Esterson.
Top. Portrait of David King.

King cover final 01a

In his preface, Poynor explains that the book is not a conventional biography, though it necessarily includes biographical information. He writes: ‘The multifaceted nature of King’s endeavour and achievement means that there are two kinds of audience for this book. For designers, especially designers interested in the possibilities of self-initiated forms of design, King stands as an exceptional instance of the tendency termed “the designer as author”.

Spread from I Am King: A photographic biography of Muhammad Ali by David King, published in 1975 by Penguin Books.

KING I am King

Poynor continues: ‘for readers who are not designers, King’s work stands as an illuminating example of an expanded form of authorship and book creation that is not founded on the production and primacy of text.’

The book covers all aspects of King’s career, including editorial work at the Sunday Times Magazine, City Limits and Crafts in the 1980s, some 1960s music design and his memorable, highly effective pro bono work for Rock Against Racism, the Anti-Nazi League and the British Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Sunday Times Magazine spread, ‘The stabbing of Stompanato’, March 1969. Art editor: David King. Art director: Michael Rand.

KIng inner ST Lana

Release all Southern African Political Prisoners, 1977. One of many posters that King designed for the British Anti-Apartheid Movement.

KIng political prisoners

King’s own books included photographic biographies of Muhammed Ali and Trotsky, Ordinary Citizens (2003) and The Commissar Vanishes (1997), a painstakingly researched account of the way Soviet visual records were ‘revised’ by both officials and ordinary people.

Spread from The Commissar Vanishes (1997). King’s research demonstrates how, one by one, Stalin’s party rivals were airbrushed out of existence.


Cover of Ordinary Citizens (2003). King selected secret police mugshots of those shot at Stalin’s behest between the late 1920s and 1953. Each portrait is accompanied by a list of the falsified charges brought against the victim.

KIng ordinary citizens cover

The David King Collection (now housed in Tate Library and Archive.) is the largest of its kind in the world – more than 250,000 photographs, books, magazines and objects relating to the Russian revolutionary period, the Soviet Union and communist China.

Eye has published many pieces about David King’s work, including Christopher Wilson’s Reputations interview with King in Eye 48 (2003), Poynor’s Eye 95 article ‘Exposing the menace’ about King’s political posters (2018) and Simon Esterson’s Eye 71 review of Red Star Over Russia (2009).

Cover of King’s Red Star over Russia, reviewed in Eye 71 (2009). ‘The book has just enough commentary to let the pictures speak: from the optimism of the early post-revolutionary years and their avant-garde graphics, to the expressionless faces of the victims of Stalin’s show trials, and Dmitrii Baltermans’ 1942 photographs of the aftermath of war in the Crimea,’ writes Esterson.


Click this link to buy David King: Designer, Activist, Visual Historian at a 25 per cent discount. Enter your billing and delivery details when you check out and add the promotion code Y2101 when prompted. Shipping is free within the UK.


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.