• Img_8183

    The Idler Academy: We’re Electric

Graphic Design

Lovely new Idler Academy book on the wonder of electricity

Posted by Rob Alderson,

When Vauxhall sat down to decide how best to launch their new electric car, the Ampera it’s safe to assume the usual ideas were thrown around – billboard ads, TV spots maybe some social media work. Meh. But how they came to commission The Idler Academy to produce an excellent, beautifully-designed book of essays about electricity is far more interesting.

“It all came together quite randomly,” Tom Hodgkinson, founder of The Idler Academy told It’s Nice That. “We were asked if e had any ideas about how to promote an electric car and it just popped into my head to do a book about it.

“Electricity is so fascinating. I read Jenny Uglow’s book about early industrial pioneers like Wedgewood in the 18th Century who loved doing these experiments with electricity and big theatrical presentations round the table after dinner for the ladies.”

  • Img_8187

    The Idler Academy: We’re Electric

That sense of awe and excitement is present throughout We’re Electric (after the Oasis song). Uglow has written a piece as has Will Self, stand-up poet Murray Lachlan Young, music journalist Bob Stanley and Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society. Pamphleteer Peter Willis has done a series of portraits of famous electricians and there’s eye-catching illustrations from Alice Smith and Sam Green among others.

“It’s so great to be able to pay people properly,” Tom says. “People like Pete Willis do amazing work mainly for love – the pirates are taking over and everyone is expected to work for nothing.”

But did this funding from a multinational car company compromise the creative integrity of the project? No, according to Tom. “We had complete freedom – occasionally they would say ‘Perhaps we could mention the car?’

“It felt like having a patron – we had to please them but they had no problem with anything we wanted to do. It was a very harmonious and creative collaboration which maybe you wouldn’t expect.”

“People might accuse of us of selling out in some senses, but we are an independent book shop that runs talks and has a little cafe. In an ideal world I would like to sell hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of books every week and be completely independent but it isn’t going to happen. And I don’t really like the strings that are attached to state funding – it all feels a bit Leninist.”

“We had complete freedom – occasionally they would say ‘Perhaps we could mention the car?”

Tom Hodgkinson

And his pride with the finished product is not in any way misplaced. Designer Christian Brett is a typesetter by background and inclination and brings this sensibility to bear in the ages of this tome.

“He spends all day in this building with old Heidelbergs and draws of draws of lead type and that’s the aesthetic he will bring to design on a computer too. There’s a great quote from Tschichold  that says something like graphic design enhances the content while typesetters quietly bring out its qualities. The idea is that typesetters are a little more humble but you can still have beautiful touches like drop caps or the odd letter in red. I think it looks absolutely gorgeous.”

  • Ampera-we_re-electric-front-cover

    Christian Brett: Front cover illustration

  • Cs12_loopsystemquintet_2005_1

    Conrad Shawcros’s work (courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery)

  • Tesla

    Pete Willis: Nikola Tesla

  • Faraday

    Pete Willis: Michael Faraday

  • Volta

    Pete Willis: Count Alessandro Volta

  • Edison

    Pete Willis: Thomas Edison

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List-motherdesign_sundancefilmfestival_2

    “It’s been funny seeing ‘Robert Redford to sign off’ on our work plans in recent months," Mark Aver, Mother Design New York design director tells us, revealing the new identity for the 2015 edition of the Sundance Film Festival. The independent film festival, which started in 1978 in Utah, is chaired by Redford, who from the sounds of it, takes quite a hands-on approach.

  2. _llisr-meteor

    French design duo My Name is Wendy caught our eye earlier this year with the innovative D/I/M/E/N/S/I/O/N typographic poster series. The studio recently launched a new site showcasing some great new projects that suggest the pair’s Bauhaus-esque graphic approach is going from strength to strength. Two projects particularly intrigued us – the first being a poster series which acts as a part of a wider project in which the studio creates the fictional land of Meteor.

  3. List-tumblr_ncojdd7pid1tap5jeo1_1280

    Taiwan-born graphic designer Wang Zhi-Hong claims the place that most stimulates his imagination most is one with “no one but me”. In a somewhat reluctant-sounding chat with French magazine Post IM, he paints a careful picture of himself as a man of solitude and precision. Whether or not this makes for a happy life, it certainly makes for some superb graphic design work. From his impressive portfolio we were most drawn to his book design, which takes this idea of a simple, uncluttered existence and turns it into beautiful pared back, precise creations. We were particularly seduced by the monochrome Yohji Yamamoto book designs, with the glorious curved forms of Japanese kanji characters given space to breathe against this restrained aesthetic.

  4. List-dhub_brochures_inside

    Pitching for a design museum identity that will act as the platform for some of the most celebrated designers the world over can’t be an easy task. How to merge tradition and modernity? To create something beautiful, that doesn’t detract from the work itself? So when Mallorcan agency Atlas put forward their proposals for the new Barcelona Design Museum’s identity, it’s perhaps little surprise they worried their ideas were “too modern and risky.”

  5. List00_mitml_posters

    Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and designer Aron Fay have designed a new identity for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, creating this striking, labyrinth-like look that brilliantly communicates the faculty’s “anti-disciplinary” approach.

  6. List-2

    When it comes to psychedelic album artwork, it sometimes feels like the very best might already be behind us – Wes Wilson, Mouse & Kelly and Rick Griffin already having worked through the golden era. There’s something reassuring about the knowledge that graphic designers are still looking for ways to incorporate psychedelic elements into their designs though, and French graphic artist Lucas Donaud is foremost amongst them.

  7. Stationary

    Hotel branding can so often be a dowdy affair, as if the design nods to the temporary nature of the building’s inhabitants – something to move on from, rather than to dwell on. So it’s wonderful to see a brave, opulent new identity for the Connaught in London’s Mayfair, designed by The Partners around a stunning new artwork by Kristjana S Williams which now hangs in the hotel.

  8. List

    I was surprised to learn that Amsterdam’s HOAX studio don’t seem to have been on the site before, and faced with their wide-ranging portfolio it was a challenge to focus in on a narrative that made sense. Founders Bram Buijs, Sven Gerhardt and Steven van der Kaaij joined forces based on their “shared love for typography, material and experimentation” and this passion for fresh creative thinking runs throughout their work.

  9. List

    Creating a cohesive identity for a design conference might not seem like such a tall order, but the reality of producing flyers, bags, programmes and that all-important logo mark for an international event isn’t as simple as you might think. For starters there’s an abundance of conferences out there, each with it’s own unique look and feel, so creating visuals that present a point of difference will always pose a challenge; secondly how on earth do you make a talks timetable look exciting?

  10. List

    Boasting PVC-clad bottoms, surreal jazz photography and beautifully-rendered risograph prints of basketball hoops, Shabazz Projects’ homepage certainly offers a well-curated and striking experience. The LA-based publishing platform was founded by Hassan Rahim and Brian Okarski, releasing art, photography and design-focused books and objects, all with a run of 200 or fewer editions. Stand-out pieces include the Various Basketball Hoops risographs, which put a whimsical spin on these often weary-looking monoliths; and Eric Wrenn and Antje Peters’ Jazz photographs, which place instruments against a dramatic plume of smoke. Hassan and Brian say their aim is to “provoke and surprise,” and from the images on their site alone, they’re certainly not letting themselves down.

  11. Hellotalja_kit-list-image

    Many a blue-sky-thinker and envelope-pusher has been extolling the virtues of meditation and mindfulness to pseudo-spiritually swell their business jargon lately. So it’s refreshing when a beautifully branded, creatively-minded product emerges that promises to offer that lucrative “pause from modern life.”

  12. List

    If all the magazines and small publications that used the internet as their subject matter were dumped on your head it’d be curtains for you – there’s bloody loads of them. Some, like Offscreen, deal with the people that make digital culture happen and try to bring these unsung heroes out from behind their screens into the RGB limelight, others, like French publication Nichons – Nous Dans l’Internet (Tits – We In The Internet) are more conceptually-minded, analysing and assessing the social and cultural phenomena brought about by the ubiquity of technology.

  13. Main

    Setting up a design studio and changing your name to a cool pseudonym is a good two-fingers-up to life on the quiet side. Parisian designer Julien Ducourthial decided to make this leap, and now overseas The Jazzist, offering bold, fluoro design work “serving in fields of graphic design, illustration and art direction in digital & printed media.” When Julien emailed us he told us he was inspired by 8-bit imagery and cartoons, which gave us an immediate inkling that we were going to like his work. Anyone looking to commission a great French designer any time soon? Julien is your man.