The 100 Archive: documenting Irish design

Ireland’s creative community has launched an online archive documenting visual communications in the country. We spoke to designer David Wall about the project…

Ireland’s creative community has launched an online archive documenting visual communications in the country. We spoke to designer David Wall about the project…

At this year’s Offset conference in Dublin last month, the three-day schedule featured a range of talks from Irish creatives: photographer Richard Mosse discussed his stunning images from Eastern Congo, Chris Judge spoke about his award-winning children’s book, The Lonely Beast, and street artist Maser reflected on his colourful and thought provoking public artworks. On smaller stages, studios and educators spoke about their creative heroes, getting commissioned and judging good design – and several mentioned the 100 Archive.

The 100 Archive is a website documenting visual communications in Ireland – from illustration and animation to album covers, packaging, identities, exhibition graphics and logos.

The site is divided into two parts: 100 Future, which acts as a rolling record of contemporary professional work in the country and 100 Past; an archive of the 100 finest projects submitted each year, as well as examples of great graphic design and communications dating back to the 1960s.

The project was initiated by four Dublin studios – Atelier, Conor & David, Detail and Studio AAD. Atelier founder David Smith first suggested the idea at AGI Open in Barcelona in 2011, when he became the first Irish member of AGI, followed by Johnny Kelly a year later.

The archive was officially launched late last year and since then, it has received hundreds of submissions: a curatorial panel are in the process of judging the finest projects from 2010-13 for 100 Past, which launches next month, and they have also trawled archives and personal collections for interesting items from the past five decades.

“Ireland has a rich visual culture and history of visual communication,” says Conor & David co-founder David Wall. “Design competitions have played a vital role in the setting and raising of standards, but they haven’t left us with an extensive record of the work done here. The ultimate goal of the 100 Archive is to establish such a record,” he adds.

To submit work to the 100 Archive, creatives pay a 20 Euro fee and their entry is assessed by a professional panel who decide if it’s suitable. The panel is currently made up of Johnny Kelly, Alastair Keady (Hexhibit), Susan Murphy (Ogilvy & Mather), Gillian Reidy (Penhouse) and Eamon Spelmen (Limerick School of Art & Design).

The criteria for submissions is broad, says Wall, and any work that has been produced in response to a commission and led by an Irish designer or created in Ireland, is eligible.

“If the work can be described as any of the following: good, interesting, different, unexpected, simple, modest, clear, well executed, considered, culturally relevant or noteworthy, it can be added to 100 Future,” he adds. If three out of five judges opt to include a project then it is uploaded, and judges aren’t aware of how their peers have voted.

There are local and global awards schemes for Irish creatives who’d like to see their work recognised, of course – some of which are documented online – but Wall says that as a non-competitive scheme, the 100 Archive offers something quite different and is more inclusive.

“As a non-competitive space for showcasing work, the archive offers a celebration of graphic design rather than the exaltation of a small group. Crediting of work is centred around individuals…so as the archive grows, it offers a rich history of the people behind the practice,” he says. “For those at one removed from the day-to-day industry here — whether they’re students or designers based abroad — the Archive [also] provides an overview of ongoing work here,” he adds.

The 100 projects added to 100 Past each year are chosen by an additional curatorial panel, which will change every three years. The current line-up consists of Brenda Dermody, Gerard Fox, Oonagh Young, Linda King and Liam McComish, who have also been responsible for sourcing historical work from archives and personal collections.

As well as its core staff, the site lists a number of ‘founders’ who have made the site’s launch possible through donations. The team has received hundreds of submissions for inclusion so far and Wall says many have dedicated their own time and resources to sourcing archive material. These objects will be launched on 100 Past later this year, says Wall, and include packaging, album artwork and editorial design.

“One of the things I’m most looking forward to seeing is the evolution of the Tayto pack. Tayto is one of Ireland’s longest established crisp brands — their packaging has passed through the hands of many designers over the years so that will make an interesting case study,” he says.

“Another gem that has come to light is Campaign magazine, which came to us from ICAD. They are the oldest representative body for creatives in Ireland and have been working with us to identify projects and individuals of merit from their extensive archive – Campaign was their magazine in the 1960s and 1970s and some of the cover designs are a joy to behold,” he adds.

More recent examples include the cover of U2’s Boy, designed by Steve Averill, which Wall says is one of his earliest memories of graphic design. “I remember being struck by the image on the cassette cover when I was barely older than the boy pictured on it. Steve’s son Jon is also a practicing designer, and part of the 100 Archive community too.”

The 100 Archive is a community project, and Wall says the response to the site has been overwhelming. “At each step, we’ve found more and more people who are willing to help  – one of the exciting parts of the process has been to forge new connections with designers whose work I knew but didn’t previously know personally,” he adds. In the future, he hopes there will be an exhibition of featured work from the 100 Archive, too.

It’s an interesting model and The 100 Archive provides a great platform for the country’s designers to share their achievements, work together and review their practice on a regular basis. The site should also prove a valuable source of inspiration for aspiring creatives, and a useful reference point for designers based abroad.

Images (from top): Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Stamp by The Stone Twins; What Happens Next is a Secret exhibition catalogue by Ciaran OGaora; Insular typeface by Naoise Ó Conchubhair; Le Cool exhibition poster by Rory McCormick and Rossi McAuley; Back to the Start by Johnny Kelly; DIT Masters of Arts programme by Cian McKenna; Ard Bia cookbook by Me&Him&You; David Smith & Oran Day’s artwork for Ghost Maps; Wayne Daly’s Archizines; a 1963 cover of Campaign magazine;  album artwork for U2’s Boy; AGI Open identity by Dan Flynn, album art for Dulra by David Donohoe studio and The Lonely Beast ABC app by Chris Judge. For more info on each project see the100archive.com

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