Flock It

It’s wallpaper’s turn to enjoy a retro chic revival, thanks to digital technology and talented designers.

The word “wallpaper” has, in our digital age, expanded way beyond its traditional meaning. Nowadays it refers to the designs that we decorate our computer desktops or mobile screens with as much as to the patterned paper we paste up inside our homes. But this once vital element of home furnishing, that thrived throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, is itself enjoying something of a comeback.

Wallpaper is believed to have orginated in China in around 200BC (where hand-painted rice paper was applied to walls) but the modern incarnation – employing a repeated pattern of block designs – was first developed in France in the late seventeenth century. While little has changed since then in terms of its application, the best in contemporary design shows just how far artists have pushed the medium. New book Wallpaper  looks at a range of designers and artists who are taking the medium into the twenty-first century.

New technologies mean that wallpaper is no longer always paper-based. Graphic designer Christopher Pearson, for example, reworked an 1887 Willow Boughs print by William Morris in his Environment Sensitive Wallpaper – “a physical wallpaper that,” he says, “will change pattern depending on room temperature and UV exposure.” An RCA graduate, who has worked as a textile designer for Alexander McQueen, Pearson also used the Morris pattern in his Digital Wallpaper which animates on a giant screen. Similarly, Loop.pH – a creative partnership set up by Rachel Wingfield and Mathias Gmachl – use reactive surfaces to display intricate floral patterns onto sliding panels. These “ambient displays” can be used in the home and change colour and pattern accordingly.

The majority of contemporary designers working in wallpaper, however, work on a more traditional basis, creating “wallcoverings” (to give the medium its proper name) produced as flat graphic art – a pattern or even a single mural image – to be pasted on to a wall. What isn’t so traditional, however, is the range of designs being produced for bars, clubs, hotels and, if your eyes can take it, the modern home. While established manufacturers like Glasgow-based Timorous Beasties have been creating site-specific wallpaper for years, many design companies and practitioners – such as Sweden Graphics, Rinzen, Phunk Studio, Kam Tang and Geoff McFetridge – have more recently moved on to designing innovative repeat pattern wallcoverings and large-scale graphic artworks.

While the renaissance in wallpaper is young it’s already taking on a repeat pattern of its own. According to Timorous Beasties, wallpaper will continue to adapt and change according to prevailing tastes in the future but “digital will bring in a lot more scale and bespoke [work], then we will go back to minimalism, then back to decoration… like a big repeat into infinity.”

Wallpaper, by Lachlan Blackley, is published by Laurence King at £19.95

 

More from CR

Breaking News

Thanks to London’s evening paper wars, commuters now have a choice of two freesheets to grab absentmindedly as they head home. Last night, those who picked up Rupert Murdoch’s thelondonpaper got quite a shock.
Its front page appeared to splash on the assassination of President George W Bush. A grainy black and white photograph taking up almost the whole page showed the President clutching at his chest, while frantic aides hustled him away. Stern type below spelled out the enormity of what had (apparently) happened: George W Bush: 6 July 1946-Tonight 9PM. Heh?

Music videos of the week

Here’s a selection of our favourite music videos this week, kicking off with Jaron Albertin’s atmospheric promo for Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. Suburban supermarkets have never seemed so bleak.

My Type Of Town

One of the most loaded questions any Londoner can ask another is the seemingly innnocent, “So, where do you live?”. In a city as property obsessed as London, divulging your address reveals far more than your post-code. In London, you are where you live.
Peter Dawson, of design studio Grade, recognises as much in his response (above) to a brief from the International Society of Typographic Designers. Dawson was one of 18 designers invited to take part in the ISTD’s My London/My City exhibition.

The Book

Last year’s D&AD Annual broke with tradition. Until then, the practice had been to hand the cover design over to either an ad agency or a design studio (they took turns) while treating the inside pages as a separate project. The result was a kind of packaging arms race where each year the challenge often seemed to be to produce the most ludicrous, overblown and often totally inappropriate solution possible.
Thankfully, sanity finally prevailed and, in 2005, D&AD gave over the whole book to Spin. The result was a beautifully-produced, conceptually consistent book which succeeded in honouring those chosen while also underlining D&AD’s charitable status.
This year, Design Project were chosen to produce the Annual. Check back later in the week for an interview with the designers on the project. In the meantime, have a look at what they did with it…

Senior Creative Designer

Monddi Design Agency

Head of Digital Content

Red Sofa London