The (No Graphic) Design Issue

Here we go again. Today’s Observer Magazine proudly proclaims itself to be “The Design Issue” and yet, with wearisome predictability, we search its glossy pages in vain for any acknowledgement that design can, just sometimes, be about the organisation and dissemination of information and ideas. Unless, of course, those ideas are rendered in ruinously expensive polycarbonate.

Graphic design’s invisibility in the British national press long ago ceased to be a surprise. Now it’s just downright rude.

Here we go again. Today’s Observer Magazine proudly proclaims itself to be “The Design Issue” and yet, with wearisome predictability, we search its glossy pages in vain for any acknowledgement that design can, just sometimes, be about the organisation and dissemination of information and ideas. Unless, of course, those ideas are rendered in ruinously expensive polycarbonate.

Graphic design’s invisibility in the British national press long ago ceased to be a surprise. Now it’s just downright rude.

The Observer’s “20 page celebration” includes a profile of Jaime Hayon, a feature in which various magazine editors pick their favourite cutlery, desks and sofas and a typically entertaining reprise of the old “designer has become a dirty word” line by Stephen Bayley, in which he takes Philippe Starck to task and a chainsaw to one of the designer’s chairs. But of visual communication, we hear nothing.

Presumably, this is all intended to trail the upcoming London Design Festival, itself an almost exclusively product and furniture-based event in previous years. This time, however, Ben Evans and his team of organisers have gone out of their way to be more inclusive.

As its new strapline declares, the event now promotes “all things design”. One of the more promising of a wide array of graphics-based events this year is 1 – an Exhibition In Mono (exclusively previewed in the current CR) in which leading designers create posters in black and white in response to a single word brief. Front Page at the British Library celebrates 100 years of British newspaper design, while Pentagram partner Angus Hyland and Jamie Byng of publishers Canongate reveal “The truth behind bookjacket design” on 19 September (I have to declare an interest here as I am chairing the latter event).

The organisers of the London Design festival obviously believe, however belatedly, that there is a popular audience for graphic design. Just don’t expect to read about it in The Observer. Design Issue or not.

More from CR

The Blank Tape Spillage Fête

Illustrator Marcus Oakley was one of 21 contributors to The Blank Tape Spillage Fête, at The English Folk Dance and Song Society, Cecil Sharp House in London. This is what happened:
I really like cassette tapes, I still use them, I still use my Walkman and I use them to record music with on my four track, and so last winter I was delighted when I was invited by Mat Fowler and Matt Hunt to take part in their Blank Tape Spillage Fête project.

Alan Fletcher

Alan Fletcher, one of the true greats of graphic design, died last night. He had been diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago but, characteristically, did not want people to know that he was ill.
As a founding member of both Fletcher Forbes Gill and Pentagram, Fletcher had an enormous influence, not just on British design, but on graphic design the world over. During my time as editor of Creative Review I was very fortunate to have got to know Alan. As well as being supremely talented, he was wonderfully warm, funny and the most tremendous company.
In a world of instant celebrity and unearned adoration, Alan was the real thing.

More Fuel For Thought

Last year in the magazine we wrote about design group FUEL’s initial forays into the world of publishing with books The Music Library and Fleur. Now FUEL is about to publish a new book, Ideas Have Legs…

Senior Creative Designer

Monddi Design Agency

Head of Digital Content

Red Sofa London