Winter 2007

Editorial Eye 66

The revelation may not be earth-shattering, but it can be humbling: the solution is not always design. Of course any graphic design job leads to a set of questions and considerations and research that are legitimately part of design the verb, if not a noun. But sometimes the answer is to have less design, a point made by Ken Garland in a substantial and candid ‘Reputations’ interview (pp.60-69) conducted by Anne Odling-Smee. If you only know Ken’s CND posters, or about his involvement in First Things First, then his substantial body of design work for a wide variety of clients will be a pleasure and a revelation, as will his highly personal photographic work (inside covers).

Movie titles hero Kyle Cooper is always keen to stress that he’s a graphic designer, and this is borne out by close examination of his best work, where each frame is a piece of two-dimensional design in its own right. David Peters’ profile (pp.32-41) brings us up to date on Cooper’s progress since he quit Imaginary Forces to set up Prologue Films.

Brian Griffin is a photographer, not a designer, but his distinctive visual statements are usually created in the context of a client brief. Which makes his practice more like that of a designer than most photographers of his generation. The ‘Teamphoto’ project (pp.48-53) shows him returning to the themes he dealt with so strikingly in his work for Management Today in the 1970s, and at Broadgate in the 1980s.

The Photofit project (see Picture, pp.25-25, and the cover) is about photography and art direction, but this is also personal work, by designer Matt Willey and photographer Giles Revell, that is not really a piece of graphic design. But that doesn’t really matter because it is a collaboration, and a piece of work, and (from our point of view) a story that has plenty to say about the process of design – with or without a client.

‘Whose space?’ (pp.42-47), by Noel Douglas, is about work that challenges what he calls the ‘triple threat of the ‘war on terror’, Neoliberal economic policy and climate change.’ This overview includes many examples that are not really design, yet they’re informed by design’s concerns as well as political ones. As Douglas puts it, designers are on the sharp end of many of the forces that make life more stressful, and he makes strong claims for the power of design to ‘transcend our limits.’

There’s little doubt where Douglas’s political sympathies lie, and in Agenda (p.75) Steven Heller discusses the way political and social issues are discussed among designers, and the soft-liberal consensus which is often assumed to exist when several designers are grouped together. Social questions crop up in our two-part feature about Indian design (pp.54-59), in which Sarah Temple is impressed by what she sees as an ‘egalitarian and highly inventive’ culture, in an enjoyable snapshot of the fast-changing Indian design scene, while Mouli G. Marur discusses the racism shown explicitly in the advertising of skin-lightening products.

Our brief Technology supplement, with stimulating and provocative writing from Malcolm Garrett, Robin Richmond, Steve Hare, Simon Esterson and Khoi Vinh, is intended to set the scene for future discussions about topics that lie behind the ‘skin’ of graphic design: in this case the rapidly changing worlds of printing, interfaces and handheld devices. On the surface, however, Richmond finds much to criticise in ‘The look of 2.0’, while Garrett talks with interaction guru Bill Moggridge about the way our tools might change, from giant drawing boards to mobile screens. Whatever happens, such speculations are something to which we can return in the future. JLW