Summer 2021

Cinematic storyteller

David King: Designer, Activist, Visual Historian

By Rick Poynor. Designed by Simon Esterson. Yale University Press, £30

I am not sure when I began to understand what graphic design was, or that I might like to practise it myself. But I do remember moments when images, typography, layout and colour grabbed my attention and refused to let go: the pages of my parents’ Sunday Times magazines; the covers of my cousins’ Jimi Hendrix and Who albums; the placards and posters I saw at gigs and festivals organised by Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League. Years later, I realised that they were all the work of one man – David King.

Cover designed by Simon Esterson.
Top. Spread from ‘A Dictionary of the Revolution’, The Sunday Times Magazine, 8 October 1967. Design: David King; art director: Michael Rand; editor: Peter Crookson; picture research: Doris Bryen. Main image is Alexander Rodchenko’s ‘Books’ poster, 1924.

King led several lives. He was a graphic designer, journalist, artist, photographer, political activist, visual historian and archivist. In the time before [Neville] Brody and [Stefan] Sagmeister, when there was no such thing as a graphic design rock star, King was the nearest thing to it. His dazzling assemblage of grainy photography, heavy rules, bold sans serifs, strong colours, starbursts and lightning bolts created a unique visual style. But his approach and his passions fell out of fashion, and he is almost unknown to the newest generation of design practitioners and students. This extraordinary new book should change that.

Rock Against Racism badge designed by David King.

David King: Designer, Activist, Visual Historian is a comprehensive monograph by Eye founder and columnist Rick Poynor. It is a biography, a critique and an appreciation of King’s fascinating life and career. But most of all it is an enthralling visual document of King’s work from his student experiments to the groundbreaking visual histories of his later years …

Mark Porter, founder and creative director, Mark Porter Associates, London

Read the full version in Eye no. 101 vol. 26, 2021


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.