CR Blog

The V&A's changing face of Bowie print

Graphic Design, Type / Typography

Posted by Gavin Lucas, 26 February 2013, 14:48    Permalink    Comments (6)

Bowie stories, it seems, are like London buses today: two seem to have come at once. Here's a look at a specially commissioned typographic Bowie print to which over 100 designers contributed...

A hundred and one artists and designers have contributed to a typographic screenprint created exclusively for the V&A as part of its activity around its imminent David Bowie Is exhibition (March 23-July 28).

The print’s designer, Blam (aka Mark Blamire of Print-Process), approached dozens of designers inviting each of them to produce the word ‘Bowie’ in a favourite or bespoke typeface of their choice or creation. The final print showcases 101 responses from contributors that include Ian Anderson, Jonathan Barnbrook, Anthony Burrill, Crispin Finn, Angus Hyland, Trevor Jackson, Michael C Place, Emmi Salonen, and Claudia Klat and Tony Brook from Spin.

Each of the 101 renderings of Bowie has a thought process behind it. Designer Harry Heptonstall's submission (above), for example, was inspired not by Bowie's music but by his role in the 1986 film Labyrinth. "Initially I was going to set his name in the same typographic style as the lettering on the film posters," explains Heptonstall of his approach, "but where's the fun in that? Instead I've created bespoke lettering, creating a labyrinth out of his name."

Meanwhile, contributor David Jones' setting of 'Bowie' is a recreation of the Bowie graphic he had painted on his school satchel back in 1973. "Originally I did it with silver Airfix paint and it sat very well next to my MUFC Rule OK (in red, black and white) design," he recalls. His path towards graphic design, it seems, looked set from an early age.

James Nelson opted for a much more painterly approach. "I had a waking dream of a David Bowie totem," he says of his contribution, above, "a mysterious ancient thing that arrived from another planet. The totem represented a timeless reminder of Bowie's legend, the carving being how I imagined Bowie's name appearing on it. The dark surrounding print is suggestive of the totem's shape.

"Whilst working on Lodger [Bowie's 13th studio album released in 1979], and in particular the Boys Keep Swinging track, Bowie wanted to get a rougher garage sound so he asked the band to swap instruments," says Gareth Wild of the inspiration behind his contribution. "Guitarist Carlos Alomar played drums and the drummer Dennis Davis played bass, he continues. "So I made the E [of Bowie] into a W, the W into an E, B is made from the I and a cut-up O, and then the I and the O characters are made from the letter B."

Contributor Intercity even created animated (with Andy Potts) versions of their design:

"The logo is (obviously) made from reflections of the letterforms in the word BOWIE," says Intercity's Nathan Gale of his submission to the project, "referencing Bowie's 'many faces'. I wanted to create something with a contemporary feel, rather than retro, as I felt that was more relevant to Bowie."

The 50x50cm print, entitled The Changing Faces Of Bowie, has been screen printed by K2 Screen with matt white ink onto rainbow holographic, 240gsm Mirri paper and can be bought exclusively from the V&A’s shop, priced at £45. Each print comes with a certificate and a full list of all the contributors.

Thanks to Lee Funnell for photographing the print.

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6 Comments

Not being funny but this blog seems obsessed with David Bowie.
Mark
2013-02-26 16:58:26


...and why not he's a legend. Love the thought behind Designer Harry Heptonstall's submission. Very clever graphic design to which I'm sure "Dave" would approve.
Feelingpeaky
2013-02-27 10:48:51


Nice article Gavin. Being a typographic designer, musician and life-long Bowie fan I must say it's a fab idea to coincide with the exhibition – the overall design as a whole is very pleasant. Although looking for the wood amongst the trees I spotted something very close to Times Roman – the design of which I'm sure has a very relevant explanation. Heptonstall's design is certainly the most novel and very Labyrinth-like, but I suppose one could argue it's etch-a-sketch style is not too readable... Whereas David Jones' (!) contribution is certainly warmer. My typographic appetite has been whetted and look forward the exhibition... Thank you.
Terry Smith
2013-02-28 15:44:57


@ 'Mark'
Right, so we've written precisely two Bowie-related stories this month, three this year I think, at a time when Bowie has released his first new work in years and has a major show coming up at the V&A. Yup, totally obsessed aren't we?
You're going to love our upcoming post on a certain exhibition-relalted book...
CR PatrickBurgoyne
2013-02-28 15:55:51


The idea of.harry heptonstalls design is weird, I can barely read it but it's represents a maze - clever. That being said, my favorite is David Jones image. - Did Bowie design it himself? The man is a legend!!
Hayley Reeve
2013-03-03 10:18:10


Nice bit of old skool design from David Jones captures the spirit on the 70's pretty well. Wonder if he's still got his satchel - it would go down a treat in Hoxton today...
Tofurky
2013-03-03 13:13:14


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