Share is a rare exhibition on graphic design

A new show in Norwich is showcasing the work of five creative studios. We chat to its organiser about why talent should be nurtured from a young age, and why graphic design exhibitions are so rare

The exhibition, at the Crypt Gallery in Norwich, features the work of five design agencies – Spin, A Practice for Everyday Life, North, Muir McNeil and Graphic Thought Facility – that have each contributed a poster design for the show, as well as a piece of graphic design work that best illustrates each agency’s individual practice.

The exhibition was organised by Andy Campbell of Norwich School, which will play host to a handful of talks running alongside the exhibition. BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz will host the first talk, called Think Like An Artist, which will look at the connection between art, creativity and education. Music pioneer Brian Eno is also giving a talk on the role of artists in social movements, while Sean Perkins will be discussing what it means to be a designer today.

Share is something of a rarity by placing graphic design in an exhibition format. While such shows do sometimes crop up at design-focused galleries, graphic design all too often only makes the walls of an exhibition space in the form of promotion or wayfinding. Campbell suggests that because graphic design is commonly set to a brief, it tends to remain framed within that context, rather than as a standalone piece of creative work.

However, he believes graphic design is worthy of an exhibition in how it slows it down and makes us look at the work with a different focus. “I think this is true of all the design-based subjects,” Campbell says. “Some work better than others in the exhibition format. [It] allows one to cherish the design of the work, in a way it takes the viewer closer to the creative part of the process, so they can take time looking at the use of colour, the feel and form of the typography, the format and the material, the things that the designers will have cared for and about.”

Top image: MuirMcNeil; Above: Part of the 17 metre scarf created by A Practice for Everyday Life for the exhibition

“Whilst the content of the piece is still of vital importance, it is not the only driver,” he adds. “The designs on the gallery wall are often out of context, and therefore the focus of the viewer has time to shift for the ‘how it was made’, rather than ‘why is this being made’.”

Though graphic design is a popular career path for many, it’s not often featured in creative curriculums at school. “Budget cuts, need for prioritisation of resources within already hard-pushed school budgets and government-driven initiatives that prioritise certain subjects over others have put the creative subjects in jeopardy,” says Campbell, who believes it’s a disservice to the value that graphic designers bring.

Pushing graphic design to the sidelines at school age doesn’t support “the nurturing of the skills that are going to be needed for the workplace of the future, i.e. creative thinking, problem-solving, innovation, etc,” believes Campbell, who also says these skills are nurtured while studying creative subjects, as well as the promotion of self-expression.

One of North’s seven design principle posters. Image: North

Share is on display at Crypt Gallery in Norwich from November 18-30;; Tickets for the talks are available here