Andrew Slatter

Radical Modernist

LCC School of Design Lecture Series poster by muirmcneil

Lecture Programme Poster designed by muirmcneil

Designed by muirmcneil

I love this poster by muirmcneil, it’s great to see aspirational design reinforcing modernist principles, I look forward to seeing this on the walls at LCC.

 

Filed under: Education, Visual Communication Design

‘It’s cold out there, in here it’s warm.’ A tribute to Peter Rea

Peter Rea. Image taken from the Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication Prosepctus 1992, which Peter designed under his company name: Archetype Visual Studies.

Peter Rea. Image taken from the Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication Prospectus 1992, which Peter designed under his company name: Archetype Visual Studies.

This week I learned of the death of designer and educator Peter Rea (1938–2014), whose funeral will be held this Tuesday in Ashford, Kent.

My first encounter with Peter’s work was in the form of the ADAR (Art and Design Admissions Registry) catalogue of 1991:

ADAR catalogue for 1991. Registration scheme for applicants: BTEC Higher National Diploma in Design & associated studies and CNAA first degree BA & BA (Hons) courses in Art & Design

ADAR catalogue for 1991. Registration scheme for applicants: BTEC Higher National Diploma in Design & associated studies and CNAA first degree BA & BA (Hons) courses in Art & Design

Peter’s designs from this period made explicit use of stepped elements, rules and letter spacing, most commonly associated with the work of Weingart, whom Peter admired.

A student on my BTEC National Diploma brought into class the Ravensbourne prospectus Peter had designed, and I remember how distinctive his design was, I can’t recall why I didn’t apply to Ravensbourne at that point in time, however this publication made a lasting impact on me.

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication prospectus designed in 1991, updated in 1992.

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication prospectus designed in 1991, updated in 1992. Designed by Peter under his company name Archetype Visual Studies.

Peter was head of the graphic design school from 1988–1991. During this period Peter brought in some influential speakers as told on page 34 of the prospectus:

Page 34 featuring Peter

Page 34 featuring Peter

The caption to Peter’s image reads: ‘Visiting specialist in applied design studies, Peter Rea introducing an exhibition of the work of April Greiman. Recent visitors brought into the school as part of Peter Rea’s input have included Wolfgang Weingart, from Basel, Switzerland, and Erik Spiekermann, MetaDesign, Berlin, West Germany’.

When I visited Ravensbourne in April 1993, I was given a tour of the college. I remember seeing Peter teaching in the third year studio assisted by Andy Lawrence. Peter was animated and appeared intense and enthusiastic. When I began my degree at Ravensbourne in September 1993, unfortunately Peter had left so I never had the opportunity to be taught by him.

Peter’s identity for Ravensbourne (colloquially known as ‘the Bromley Bauhaus’) was formal and restrained, when I received my first correspondence, it confirmed my desire to study at this distinctive institution.

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication symbol, 1993

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication symbol, 1993

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication Compliments Slip, 1993

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication compliments slip, 1993

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication letterhead, 1993

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication letterhead, 1993

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication receipt, 1993

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication receipt, 1993

Peter wrote the Introduction to the 1993 Visual Communication Degree Show catalogue and an essay titled ‘Time for hard facts. It’s cold out there, in here it’s warm’. This is the essay in full:

‘Our education world is virtually a fantasy and someone else pays the bills. We don’t parody reality through our teaching but try to give our students an approach to design which will carry them through or above the daily dilemmas or drudgery. Design may be a job but it can also be a way of life. We don’t deny that designing is hard work, with moral and ethical issues to face. But ‘the artist is the editor of their own portfolio’ and must be prepared to face such decisions in addition to those of ‘form and function’ ‘Study’ is not for today or even tomorrow, study is a source of life in the future, designer or not, come good or hard times.

It is a difficult concept to grasp that today’s study is education for the future, when the enthusiastic designer naturally has one eye, or both, on the employment market. It is often easier to emulate the average visual standards which we see all around us in the high street, on the breakfast table, in the magazines and it is more difficult to grasp longer term principles such as: good communication means ‘think with the head of the audience’ or ‘we are what we design’ , or ‘it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it'; maxims which can help you through life whatever you do. Tell this to today’s students and they understand, don’t tell them and they are betrayed later when their inner resources run dry. Students are the new visionaries, the pioneers and the avant-garde who struggle to use the computer as a creative instrument to make design.

How many times have our students quietly blasphemed as the computer crashes or the wrong key is struck, the time-code slips, the processor doesn’t process or the rub-downs don’t rub down …and of course ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!’ Hard fact: nothing is perfect, only virtually so.

What state is ‘virtually so’ a virtual reality? ‘Virtual’ technology visualises what we cannot perceive until it is made a reality. Is the student designer just a rough for the real thing–in all their shapes, sizes and colours they are embryonic designers seeking their next step into the real world.

A long journey and a long one if you let the good book of knowledge drop from your hand. It can be a testing process, taking the final responsibility onto oneself. These students have sound foundations, they have planted their roots deeply and are ready for growth. Time to work out a strategy for survival, to develop a greater conscience: design for need and design for the public sector–design that is needed as a move towards balancing our work for commerce and industry. Where is the school of thought?

Exciting times. Perhaps we are moving to an electronically supported neo-medieval do-it-yourself serfdom. Equipped with global communications systems, fax machines, Macs and personal computers, television. We are becoming the neo-medieval electronic scribes of a changing world. We may become the designer, compositor, reader, pressman working from our own individual strips of land. Exciting realities.’

Peter wrote an essay ‘Where is the School of Thought?’ published in Octavo 87.3 (1987). It is likely this essay was an abridged version of that which appeared previously. Re-reading Peter’s words, twenty one years on, allows us to reflect on our developing and symbiotic relationship with technology. The premise that students are warm while institutionalised, and face the cold hand of reality upon graduation still resonates, although student fees and the high cost of living, mean that today’s students are subjected to the cold well in advance of graduation.

I last saw Peter at the DIY Design symposium at St. Brides in 2010, he accompanied Weingart who stated, according to Farrelly: ‘“…students need to know the rules, otherwise it is all egotism”. He advocated providing access to letterpresses and trained technicians, teaching the basics, and then letting students loose to play’. I couldn’t agree more, and I’m certain Peter would have agreed.

Filed under: Education, Visual Communication Design

Martine Syms lecture at London College of Communication

Today I sat in on a guest lecture at LCC by Conceptual Entrepreneur Martine Syms. Syms was in London for the Frieze Art Fair, and was invited to speak at LCC by MA Graphic Design Course Leader Paul Bailey. She says “my work examines the assumptions of contemporary America, particularly the way that identity and memory are transformed by the shifting boundaries of business and culture”. I particularly liked the project Everything I’ve Ever Wanted to Know – ‘a diary recorded through three years of Google search terms’. Martine is a thinker, and consequently she makes us think. I’ve included images here of books she recommends, which are now on my Wish List.

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Filed under: Education, Philosophy, Visual Communication Design

Malcolm Garrett at Campfire

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Buzzcoks, Orgasm Addict, single cover, 1977, designed by Malcolm Garrett, collage created by Linder Sterling

Tonight I attended a ‘campfire talk‘ by Malcolm Garrett. The talk took the format of an interview where we learned that Garrett has little time for nostalgia, especially in regard to the 12 inch sleeve.

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Cover for the Pop Art exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, 1991. Designed by Malcolm Garrett.

I’ve been aware of Malcolm’s work for many years, and I’ve always admired this Pop Art catalogue he designed in 1991. He’s always been something of an enigma to me, simply because his name has been in and out of design discourse since the Buzzcocks, so tonight it was interesting to get to know more about his design methodologies. Above all he seems like a really decent man, and not at all egotistical.

Currently Malcolm’s mission is to make design more integral to the secondary school curriculum and raise awareness of design’s pervasiveness in everyday life. Like Malcolm I only became aware of design at sixteen years old, having decided that A-Levels were not for me, I had to choose a subject at my local FE college. Design is such a fundamental aspect of our lives, that it does seem short-sighted that successive governments have done little to embed the subject in mainstream compulsory education. If anyone can champion design then Malcolm has the credentials and the passion to carry it forward.

Filed under: Design, Education, Music, Visual Communication Design

Disobedient Objects at the Victoria and Albert Museum

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Today I visited this through-provoking exhibition at the V&A with first-year students from the BA (Hons) Design Cultures course at London College of Communication. Barnbrook‘s exhibition and catalogue design mimics the vernacular visual language of the exhibits. Objects are transformed into weapons of protest and rhetoric, re-imagined and re-invented for political, social and to help cultivate grassroots activism. There are many fascinating objects in this small exhibition,that resonate with my feminist and queer position, below I have selected one movement that has become iconic:

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The Silence=Death campaign

This caption at the bottom of the Silence+Death poster states: “Why is Regan silent about AIDS? What is really going on at the Centre for Disease Control, the Federal Drug Administration, and the Vatican? Gays and Lesbians are not expendable …Use your power …Vote …Boycott …Defend yourselves …Turn anger, fear, grief into action.”

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The Sketchbook of Avram Finkelstein one of the creators of the Silence=Death logo illustrates his concepts incorporating the pink triangle.

It’s fascinating to see some of these objects first-hand, which could otherwise have been lost over time.

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An example of a ‘bust card’ that summarises a persons legal rights should they be arrested

These artifacts are a reminder of the persecution and prejudice that gay men were subjected to. This exhibition is small in size, but large in ambition, reflecting the aspirations and goals for those seeking change and/or revolution.

Filed under: Art, Design, Queer

Olafur Eliasson: Turner colour experiments at Tate Britain

My friend Katie admiring one of Eliasson's 'doughnuts'

My friend Katie admiring one of Eliasson’s ‘doughnut colour wheels’

Anyone who has ever tried to paint a colour wheel using designers gouache will know how difficult it is to lay the paint flat. I’ve never tried to paint in oils, and maybe I should have as Eliasson has managed to apply the paint to canvas with such technical mastery that the paint is without brushstrokes and the blending is seamless. This one-room exhibition at Tate Britain featuring seven wheels, represent the colour pigments and light that feature in seven of Turner’s paintings. They don’t have the awe factor of Eliasson’s 2003 The Weather Project at Tate Modern, however, these paintings are mesmerising and magical.

Filed under: Art

Marlow Moss at Tate Britain

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White, Yellow and Black 1953. Oil on canvas. The caption next to the work states ‘the purpose of the double line was to create dynamism in a composition’.

In August, Charles Darwent’s article titled: Marlow Moss: forgotten art maverick published in The Guardian filled me with anticipation and today I was thrilled to visit this modest one-room exhibition at Tate Britain. Darwent writes of the curator Michael Canney’s response to seeing Moss ‘She is an oddity rather than a person, not quite real. If she is memorable at all, it is as a footnote to the history of a man, Piet Mondrian.’ Darwent is quick to point out how wrong this is, I agree. This enigmatic English artist, who celebrated European Modernism so determinedly, fascinates me as much as her queerness and subversion of gender norms.

Filed under: Art

Pilots Channel launch

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Today, Pilots Channel was launched at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the London Design Festival. As one of the Pilots participants, an adaption of my paper ‘From people to pixels: is there a future for the studio in design education? has been included.

In April 2013 I took part in the first Pilots: Navigating Next Models of Design Education workshop at the Stanley Picker Gallery at Kingston University. At the time I was working on the final project for my PGCE. The workshop proved to be a valuable experience in the research process and was included in the paper.

The original version can found on my website.

Filed under: Design, Education

WD+RU celebrate 20 years with online projects archive

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In 1999 I collaborated with the Women’s Design Research Unit (WD+RU) to create a design for a St Valentine’s Day card for the London Cardguide. My design has been added to an online archive set up to mark 20 years since WD+RU was founded.

Filed under: Design, Visual Communication Design

Paul Elliman: Invisible in the Field (Say You Heard and Saw nothing, 2014)

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Filed under: Architecture, Design, Philosophy

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