Summer 2006

Editorial Eye 60

One of the ‘hidden themes’ that occasionally resonates through Eye’s pages is that of ‘life after design’. It is always fascinating to see just how well design education – and design practice – prepares individuals for work that’s not strictly design. And I don’t just mean flipping burgers. We see designers become photographers, actors, editors, writers, curators, publishers, TV directors; they also make good parents, trusted friends and rounded human beings, often without leaving the profession.

The career of Alex McDowell is not strictly ‘post-graphic design’, since he’s a production designer, but it’s timely to examine the sheer scale of his work, and the all-encompassing nature of that job title, in the light of his work on blockbuster films by Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg and others. It seems a long way from the posters, sleeve designs and crudely stapled magazines of his early career. What McDowell’s career shows us, in Malcolm Garrett’s detailed profile, is the extent to which graphic design skills and thought processes are needed in 21st-century film-making, and the way technology puts the designer at the heart of these overwhelmingly visual experiences.

At the other end of the budget spectrum, Jeff Scher’s visual poems are sophisticated yet easily understood pieces of graphic art, imbued with a DIY sensibility that recalls the punk and post-punk worlds of McDowell’s early work for pop bands and i-D magazine. Scher’s mini-symphonies have a wit and grace that’s closer to jazz than rock’n’roll.

Movement always implies sound and music, and you can imagine every kind of twentieth-century music accompanying the prehistorical motion graphics in Matt Soar and Peter Hall’s ‘Images over time’: Cage for Duchamp; perhaps Monk for Robert Breer. We know what Doctor Who sounds like, and it is interesting to note that Bernard Lodge’s use of TV feedback predates Nam June Paik’s video art by a couple of years.

Eric Kindel’s account of the early (pre-psychedelic) days of fluorescent ink throws light on concerns about advertising in those pre-First Things First, pre-D&AD days, with its anxieties about the vulgarity of too many posters shouting for attention, as Day-Glo pigments sizzled provocatively to promote louche plays, crooners and cosmetics.

The Penrose Annual, source of many Eye writers’ research over the years (including some of Kindel’s), comes under scrutiny in Steve Hare’s ‘By printers, for printers’. For this feature, the challenge was knowing where to stop. The issues provide such a visual feast for designers, typographers and print fetishists of all persuasions. Art director Simon Esterson spent many hours in the St Bride Library choosing and stacking volumes for this feature’s photography. Penrose was always about much more than the flat image, using many different stocks and techniques – from embossing to printing on corrugated card – and always engaged in the first principles of print.

Today, any engagement with process usually touches on the digital. Jürg Lehni’s Scriptographer demonstrates how clued-up designer-programmers can fiddle with the nuts and bolts of prêt-a-porter software to open up new design possibilities. The front cover of this issue shows a detail from Charlie that was processed by one such script.

This issue ushers in a few production changes for Eye itself, since it is the first issue to have four-colour printing throughout the uncoated section, giving us scope to display review subjects (such as Chip Kidd’s chunky Book One) in greater glory.