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.

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