Within the design and communication environment, access to inspiration, research, reference, trends, case studies, resources etc. is only a mouse click away. Graphic designers have evolved / devolved to become generalists, competent across multiple types of media platforms. The University of Google and of YouTube has become the stimulus and the lazy source of design ideas.
But we want to bring ‘vanished’ art and design technologies, inspiration, stimulation and influence that previous generations took for granted, back into our studio. Our design and communication agency has an extensive library of books that we are constantly replenishing with gems from second-hand book stores. My creative partner makes the designers down tools and pull out the books, not only graphic design books but everything from architecture to fashion to jewellery to movies. And as your fingers page over the intriguing content and photography, inspiration comes from unexpected places. As opposed to searching the internet for logos that other designers have created, that one can copy, using a bit of creative license. Books have an evocative smell, you can lovingly run your fingers along the spines while searching for your next piece of design influence, breathlessly expectant. (yes, we love books!). The display resolution on a computer screen is nowhere near as good as ink on paper, the interface is crude and there is no pencilled message to a loved one or a library stamp on the inside front page. Then a pencil and paper. Draw, draw and draw some more. Then technology brings the expected layer of perfection to your design concept.
Interestingly, the art of Illustration has made a comeback, as designers recognise the intrinsic value of a skill that cannot be emulated by a piece of software. In late 2017, Rory Kurtz’s bright official poster for Baby Driver, Edgar Wright's film, known for its “killer soundtrack” and stellar cast, became one of the best examples of a growing resurgence of 'hand-painted' film posters harking back to those from the 1970s and earlier.
We suspect that just as the art of illustration has become a trend in an era of increasingly techno-assisted design - so too will the tactile, aesthetic experience of a book, magazine or newspaper survive the digital age. They certainly will survive in our design studio.
An increasing number of millennials have never used a landline, worn an analogue wristwatch, or mailed a handwritten letter. But certain technologies are being appreciated as authentic and intimate by young people in design studios around the world. The volume of film produced for the U.S. market has decreased by 98% in the past decade, however, analogue photography’s ability to capture detail, as well as its authenticity, has kept it popular among dedicated amateurs and artists. Young people represent film’s potentially fastest-growing market, with a recent survey showing that 30% of film users are reportedly under the age of 35. Silk-screen is more omnipresent than ever before as a fine art medium, printing by hand invites a more intimate experience with the materials.
We have creative Fridays where we expose our designers to real inspiration with real people, raw and tangible experiences on the street, interacting with cosmopolitan, interesting people and printing posters in silkscreen studios in the heart of our city.
Old technology is coming back in lots of little ways that improve our quality of life. In the 1990s it looked as if screw caps and plastic ‘corks’ would displace that impermeable, buoyant material from the cork oak tree, in virtually all wine bottles, but contamination problems began to emerge with those. Now 70 per cent of winemakers are using the real thing. The Parker pen company claims a “worldwide resurgence” in fountain pens. What’s the technical advantage of a fountain pen? It feels good as it glides across the paper. You feel the texture of the paper reverberating back up into your hand. It satisfies. My creative partner and I both use a fountain pen.
The Arctic Monkeys took a bold step by releasing a vinyl single back in 2009 when many of their teenage fans had never seen a black plastic disc go round and round on the turntable. Sales were slow but young fans spoke of the “richer and deeper” indie sound. But in 2015, 1.3 million vinyl albums were sold in the UK. The revival has gone way beyond a hipster fad. As Nigel Burke writes, “with real music you get sleeve notes and cover art. It’s music to have and to hold and argue over when you have a break-up.” Equipment from my creative partner’s days of DJ’ing in night clubs in the late 90’s, have found their way into our studio along with some of the greatest house music vinyls.
Art Nouveau in the 1890’s was dubbed the “Golden Age of the Poster” led by Jules Cheret and Alphonse Mucha, spreading decorative poster art and Art Nouveau style to Europe and America. Soviet Propaganda Posters in the 1920’s featuring famous artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Aristarkh Lentulov and Alexander Rodchenko were meant to coerce and persuade. Posters helped define the WWI era, the Art Deco movements and the psychedelic era of the 1960’s. Over the last few decades, poster art has decayed into mass-generated designs that we've all become accustomed to, this dumbing down of one of the most fascinating expressions of design. But thanks to Shepard Fairey and his iconic portrait of Obama and Rory Kurtz’s poster for Baby Driver amongst many others, there is depth once again to the poster movement, rich and meaningful. Our studio recently designed a set of posters for a client, conceptually strong and telling a story in a captivating way. An absolute highlight for the designers.
The unseen hand of the graphic designer touches and moulds every area of our lives. It stands to reason that inspiration should come from diverse sources so that design continues to fascinate, astound, gratify and satisfy. And as Hitchcock Michalski’s manifesto goes –
We’re here to start revolutions
To create work that redefines an age
Changes the eyes that see it
The world that surrounds it
And the people and brands that live it
And (every once in a while)
Change the world
· How e-Books Are Changing the Printed Word. By CBS News
· Jon Hardiman: How long does the printed word have left?
· Andrew Ofstad: America’s decline in Literary reading
· 7 Vanishing Technologies Making a Comeback through Art. Ariela Gittlen
· As old technology makes a comeback, why we are heading back to the future. Nigel Burke.
· Allison A Davis - 21st Century Poster Art Movement