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Richard Hollis designs for the Whitechapel: a graphic designer and an art gallery at work in twentieth-century London

Christopher Wilson

Richard Hollis was the graphic designer for London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery in the years 1969–73 and 1978–85. In this second period, under the directorship of Nicholas Serota, the gallery came to the forefront of the London art scene, with pioneering exhibitions of work by Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Cornell, Philip Guston, Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti, among others. Hollis’s posters, catalogues, and leaflets, conveyed this sense of discovery, as well as being models of practical graphic design. The pressures of time and a small budget enhanced the urgency and richness of their effects. Christopher Wilson’s monograph is an exemplary examination of a body of graphic design. This book matches the spirit of the work it describes: active, passionate, aesthetically refined, and committed to getting things right. As in Hollis’s work, ‘design’ here is a verb as much as a noun.

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Talking about Colin Ward and ‘Anarchy’: an event at Housmans

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On Saturday 9 February (6.30 pm), our book Autonomy is the subject of an event at Housmans Bookshop in London. Daniel Poyner will introduce the book and Richard Hollis will talk about the cover designs of Anarchy. Ken Worpole will talk about this book and also about the recent collection of Colin Ward’s writings Talking green, from Five Leaves. Anything to do with Colin Ward seems to pull in a crowd these days, so if you want to come, be sure to reserve a seat by writing to Nik @ housmans.com.

Autonomy at Housmans

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We were part of a successful and good-spirited event at Housmans bookshop in London last night. The occasion was the publication of our book Autonomy, and the posthumous collection of Colin Ward’s writings on ecological themes: Talking green. Someone from the shop had warned that Colin Ward – who died in 2010, after a very full life as architect, writer, editor, disseminator, doer – always brings the crowds in. The shop was packed out, with all seats taken, and people standing and sitting on the floor. As our introducer for the event remarked, this crowd, more than any crowd, ought to be able to self-organize the seating problem, and they did. Read more

Designer as publisher

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Robin Kinross / 2010.07.07

Some years ago – I recall events and publications in the early 1990s – there was some noise about the ‘designer as author’: graphic designers would have a hand in writing (or maybe ‘authoring’) the texts that they also designed, and designers could even be considered as authors. It follows from the technology: the text gets shaped by designers, and the last touch before publication may now be in a designer’s hands. And there is the fact that content is always embodied in its form, and so to make form is also to shape content. But it does not follow that the designer needs to become an author. I don’t believe we should give up on the ideal of the designer working hand-in-hand with an author: listening, thinking, suggesting possibilities, making changes to first proposals, and often following an author’s wishes. There are clear advantages in a separation of the two roles: designers see things that authors can’t, and vice versa. (Against all this, the arrival of another new technic – screen displays of content – may take this process in another direction: away from the hands of any designer and into the domain of the ‘browser’ and its settings, and of the particular screen that is used.) Read more