Graham McCallum’s Top Ten Iconic Graphic Design Moments
From the 1966 graphics department of the BBC to transforming the look of contemporary broadcast news with CNN’s redesign, the iconic graphic designer Graham McCallum remains one of the most respectable graphic designers of our times. The founding partner of Kemistry Gallery curates ‘100 Years of Graphic Design’, the first pop-up incarnation of the legendary design gallery since it was forced out of its Shoreditch home in December 2014. Ranging from 1914 to the present day, the exhibition is a unique Kemistry-curated retrospective of some of the most iconic and exciting moments in graphic design history. Artists include Alan Fletcher, Fredun Shapur, Hans Hillman, Ken Garland, Lou Dorfsman, Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser, Saul Bass, Anthony Burrill, James Joyce, Jean Jullien, Geoff McFetridge, Parra, Rob Lowe, Ryan Todd, Stefan Glerum, Zero Per Zero, Experimental Jetset, Geneviève Gauckler, plus anonymous works from important private collections of classic design images, including Polish cinema posters of the 1960s and the propaganda images of the Latin American radicals OSPAAL. Graham McCallum picks his top ten exhibits of an event that is literally the next phase in their #SaveKemistryGallery campaign.
1. The Doves typeface
It’s not often a font gets celebrity status, but the Doves typeface has certainly achieved world-wide notoriety due the shenanigans surrounding its loss and recent rediscovery. In an almost Gothic tale involving a rights feud between the Hammersmith based printers T.J. Cobden-Sanderson and his partner Emery Walker, the original matrices were nocturnally cast into the Thames between 1916 and 1917 by Cobden-Sanderson.
Neither reckoned on the detective work, a century later of Robert Green, who with the aid of divers has rescued 150 of the original pieces from their watery grave, making him possibly the worlds first graphic design archaeologist. Robert has kindly lend us some rare items from his collection including an original William Morris piece set in types based on the 1470s Nicholas Jenson face upon which the Doves font was based.
2. Anthony Burrill – Trabalhe Duro & Seja Legal com as Pessoas.
One of our foremost and thoughtful designers, Anthony’s piece is typical of his thought-provoking type-based statements. This work was made in Sao Paulo and printed at the Grafica Fidalgo press who use a 1929 German letterpress to produce their posters.
The three friends who run the press make their own hand-carved wooden letters giving their work a retro feel that harks back to the very beginnings of the printed word. Naturally, Anthony’s unerring touch brings an effortless modernity to the message that translates as ‘Work Hard & Be Cool With People’ a mantra we should all live by.
3. Experimental Jetset ZangTum Btum
I’m not sure what Zang Tum Btum actually means but after seeing this poster, I almost certainly want it, and probably lots of it. Let Jetset explain:
“ZTT was a poster we created originally as a contribution to a group show that took place in Barcelona, in which the invited designers were asked to show their influences. In our poster, we tried to synthesize two seemingly opposed poles of the modernist spectrum: F.T Marinetti’s pro-war sentiments, as expressed in his novel ‘Zang Tumb Tumb’ (1914), and John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s anti-war message, as apparent in their ‘War is Over’ poster campaign (1970). By forcing the words of Marinetti in the lay-out of the iconic ‘War is Over’ poster (thereby distorting Marinetti’s phrase from ‘Zang Tumb Tumb’ to ‘Zang Tum Btumb’), we tried to ‘short circuit’ two of our main influences: Futurism and Fluxus”
4. Clive Piercy – I Tend to Agree With Her Easier That Way
This poster by Clive Piercy, English born but long time resident of Los Angeles, was printed at the legendary but now defunct Colby Poster Printing Company. As with other businesses, the digital age meant the company could no longer function in the market and ceased trading in 2012.
A family business, the staff had no training in design so they happily broke every typographical rule, mixing typefaces combined with a cavalier disregard to spacing, all printed on their trademark neon coloured backgrounds. In spite of this, their prolific output and style was instantly recognisable, hence the following of avid collectors.
5. Lou Dorfsman – Gastrotypographicalassemblege
This giant piece of work is no less than 11 metres long. The original, designed by Lou Dorfsman in the mid 60’s was installed on the wall of the cafeteria at CBS’s Black Rock building in NYC. Based on printers type-cases, 3D letters spelled out food items and the final composition was enhanced by embedding culinary objects such as rolling pins and jelly moulds into it.
In the mid 90’s when the building was being renovated, Philistines arrived and decided to hack the masterpiece off the wall. Fortunately passing designer Nick Fasciano heard about this and rushed to the rescue, raised funds and lovingly restored it to its former glory. It now graces the walls of The Culinary Institute of America in New York.
Kemistry Gallery obtained the original negative taken on the day the original was unveiled. We made a half scale reproduction on canvass of it that was unfortunately too large to show in our exhibition. It can however be viewed on request.
6. Gordon Young and Andy Altman – The Comedy Carpet
If you thought Lou’s work was big, try this on for size. This epic work must be the largest piece of graphic design ever made. Built to last 100 years, the 2,200 m2 design is comprised of over 160,000 separate letters, cut out of granite and embedded in concrete. The project was so large that a special factory was set up to manufacture the letters.
The work, commissioned by Blackpool Council, celebrates the catch-phrases and unique British humour of generations of comedians. Visitors can walk around and chuckle (although probably best not to take the Mother-in-Law) at memorable phrases such as ‘Shut that door’ ‘You are naughty, but I like you’ and hundreds more are preserved for future generations to puzzle over.
7. Ben Eine – Extortion
Eine’s work has decorated the walls of Shoreditch for several years with his trademark giant and colourful lettering. One day we enticed him off his ladder and into our gallery where he gave his first one man show. Ben didn’t train as a graphic designer but his work can only be described as graphic and he has set a style that’s been much emulated by lesser mortals.
His rising fame eventually caught the attention of Prime Minister Cameron who in 2010 presented his piece ‘Twenty First Century City’ to Barak Obama. Whether this is good for credibility is another question but Ben’s star has continued to rise and he remains dedicated to his art. When he heard we were holding our exhibition he donated this specially painted piece ‘Extortion’ hopefully not a comment on the show.
8. James Joyce – LIKE
James has worked for major clients including Apple, Nike, The New York Times and many more but has never compromised on his particular vision. His exploration of letter-forms and thought provoking images always set him apart as a unique voice backed up by a considerable talent. His acrylic on canvass piece ‘LIKE’, created for our exhibition is one of the stars of the show and the ultimate in cool.
9. Milton Glaser – Head Out to OZ
Milton Glaser has appeared in more designer’s top ten lists than you could shake a stick at. He remains one of the most influential and intelligent figures in graphic design history. Now in his 80’s his creative spirit burns as strongly as ever.
‘Head Out to Oz’ was a giveaway poster with issue number 52 of Pushpin Graphic, the in-house magazine of Pushpin Studio that he co-founded with Seymour Chwast.
10. Evan Lelliot – 5
Finally, this delightful number 5 was created to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the SWFC, that’s the modestly named Soho Warriors Football Club. The players are all graphic designers. It must be the only football team to place design skills above skills with the ball as an essential membership criteria.
“100 Years of Graphic Design” on through Sunday 15 March
Images via Kemistry Gallery
Tags/ graphic design, origins, history, exhibition, graham mccallum, kemistry gallery, doves typeface, jetset, clive piercy, lou dorfsman, gordon young, andy altman, ben eine, james joyce, milton glaser, evan lelliot