Very Flat

Photography project from graphic designer Pearce Marchbank

Amanda: Very flat, Norfolk.
Elyot: There’s no need to be unpleasant.
Noël Coward, Private Lives

After 47 years living and working in London as a graphic designer and art director, a year ago I moved home and studio to deepest Norfolk.

Thanks to digital technology, which now seems to be working most of the time, it is far easier for me to work here than in the city. The non-creative hours spent in traffic, buses or trains are now spent in my four-wheel-drive Panda on deserted by-ways, a camera always on the seat beside me.

For the past year I have been photographing the Norfolk landscape. Typically the prevailing view is half sky, half land or sea. As a designer I am happier with a problem to solve, so I set myself a very constricting brief making the composition in the frame pre-determined, always the same. The horizon would be ‘very flat’, exactly horizontal and exactly in the centre of the frame. No cropping, always full frame as shot.

The abstract qualities of the photographs have started to take over. There are elements of Rothko and other abstract minimalists in the Norfolk landscape.

This ‘Very Flat’ project is as endless as the subject matter. I hope to make a book, an exhibition and a video of the photographs. Here is an early sample of a work in progress.

Pearce Marchbank, RDI
Castle Acre, Norfolk, 2014


Pearce Marchbank is one of the most respected names in British graphic design. He has worked as art director for numerous magazines, most famously for Time Out, for whom he created the classic logo – still in use worldwide after over 40 years.

As designer for Music Sales, the world’s largest music publishers, he designed books for musicians including the Beatles, Paul Simon and Michael Nyman. Richard Branson asked him to set up Virgin Books, and then to become design director of Virgin Records.

In 1988 he worked on redesigns for both The Times and The Independent colour sections, and later, most of the packaging for John Lewis.
Described in The Times simply as ‘top designer’, in 2004 he was appointed as Royal Designer for Industry (RDI), acknowledged as the highest honour to be awarded in all fields of design, engineering and architecture.

In 2012 Marchbank designed the official Royal Mail stamps for the opening of London Olympic Games.


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