Winter 2002

Editorial Eye 46

This ‘Australian special issue’ of Eye marks the first time that the magazine has chosen a country as its theme since the early 1990s (see the ‘American special issue’, Eye no. 8 vol. 2). This doesn’t mean, however, that the design and editorial team have been basking in the Australian sun: we put this issue together during the damp days and lengthening nights of an English autumn, while our Australian friends looked forwards to their summer. And we realised, to our embarrassment, that it is irritating, when half the world experiences winter in June and summer in December, for an international journal to label its issues by seasons. Though it’s a minor sore point – and there’s no denying that we’re about to publish in the British winter – perhaps it symbolises a subtle malaise, the way in which people in the northern hemisphere can assume that the rest of the world thinks, feels and looks at things in the same way.

One of the pleasures of this issue has been the chance to work closely with Rick Poynor, our guest editor for no. 46. Rick, Eye’s founder and writer at large, was invited to make a research trip to Australia by Tim Marshall and Sid Newton of the School of Communication, Design & Media at the University of Western Sydney. When Tim and Sid commissioned Rick to carry out a ‘close reading’ of a graphic design subject, Rick proposed Inkahoots, and the outcome, after an extended visit in 2001, was a 10,000-word paper about the team, on which ‘Form follows purpose’ (pp.46-55) is based. The Inkahoots paper led to a further plan, again in collaboration with the University, to look more closely at Australian graphic design in general. This provided a perfect opportunity to devise and put together this special issue, with Rick writing or commissioning all the material for the magazine’s central ‘feature well’.

Everyone at Eye would like to thank the School of Communication, Design & Media at the University of Western Sydney for their generous funding of two research trips by Rick in August / September of 2001 and May / June 2002. Without their support, this special issue would not have been possible. Particular thanks should go to Kaye Shumack, head of school, and to Tim Marshall, senior lecturer, for their faith in the project, and additional thanks must go to Tim for his tireless back-up, culminating in an unscheduled trip to Canberra with his camera in an hour of need.

What is clear from this issue is that Australian graphic design deserves our attention: Mambo’s parade of taboo-busting artists; the cool assurance of work by Garry Emery, Nova, Fabio Ongarato and Advertising Designers Group; Stephen Banham’s intricate and witty experiments in self-publishing; the exhibition work of Douglas Annand and David Lancashire; the straightforward, socially aware commitment of Inkahoots. Whether this is work that can be ‘exported’ (with, in Mambo’s case, spectacular commercial success), or remains local (as with the Brisbane-based Inkahoots) isn’t really the issue here. Rather, we would like to think that the intelligently written, visually engaging contents of the pages that follow will provoke serious thought about the role of graphic design in a nation’s identity.