A working relationship

Trust is key to any client job, and the more you have of it in your designer, the better the work they produce. Paul Belford on a classic museum poster by Bruno Monguzzi

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I fired a client the other day. It’s not something I do lightly. Let’s face it, we’ve all gotta eat. But there’s only so much ignorant tinkering a piece of design can take before it disintegrates. And I’d had enough.

I’m sure it’s a problem many of us face all too frequently. It’s what this month’s featured work is all about.

A poster for an exhibition of graphic design at the Museo Cantonale d’Arte in Lugano, Switzerland. It’s basically just one word: FRAGILE. It came from the type on the packing crates containing the exhibits.

But of course this is about much more than the packing crates. Designer Bruno Monguzzi is using the stencilled word as a metaphor to dramatise the dangerous journey all commissioned creative work must endure before final approval. Our work is fragile. What a great idea. Thank God it survived.

The other main elements on the poster are a stencilled GB, CH and F, to tell us that the work in the exhibition comes from Great Britain, Switzerland and France.

I love the intelligence behind this solution. But it’s also wonderfully graphic. Once Monguzzi had decided to use the packing case graphics as the main element in the design, his decision to then place them at a random angle, cropped by the poster edges was another master-stroke.

In fact the whole design suggests fragility. It’s a perilously kinetic collection of tipping, falling, crashing type. Nothing is level, nothing safe. Except the museum logo, for contrast perhaps, solidly centred at the base of the layout.
The hierarchy is also interesting.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so much information so elegantly handled on a poster. Opening times, dates, sponsors, participants etc etc. It’s all there as an integral part of the graphic idea, rather than just plonked down at the bottom. The use of red to emphasise the names of participants is also very well done – not bolder and bigger. Just red. Same weight and same point size as the type around it. Minimising difference is the best way of holding a layout together. Especially a layout as wild as this one.

Yet despite having so many elements, the arrangement feels anything but cramped. Just look at the glorious acreage of white space. This design is clever, brilliantly relevant, unique and eye-catching. Everything a great poster should be.

Work like this does not get approved by your average client, of course. It needs the trust that can only come from a long-standing relationship – something in very short supply these days, as marketing directors are generally in their post for less than two years.

So it’s no surprise to discover that Monguzzi was the sole designer for this client from 1987 to 2004. Well done Museo Cantonale d’Arte for showing such loyalty and trust. You got the work you deserved.
So did my ex-client.

Paul Belford is the founder of advertising, graphic design and digital agency Paul Belford Ltd, based in London. He tweets from @belford_paul. His work can be seen at paulbelford.com

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