Graphic Design Archive

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    Last time we bigged up Norwegian/American studio Non-Format it was for an anthropomorphic animal head serving as the identity for Only Connect Festival of Sound in Oslo; so it seems only right that the following feature also explores the visuals for that same Nordic gathering. This time the festival has been dedicated to the late, great J.G Ballard – a man for whom much graphic design and illustration has already been produced, both for his books and film adaptations, as well as in his cult magazine, Ambit. But the Non-Format team have steered clear of any Ballardian visual clichés and adopted a retro-futuristic, geometric approach to the branding, utilising a glitchy typeface for the logo mark and a variety of pixellated patterns to tie the programme’s contents together. And not a smashed-up car or crash-test dummy in sight!

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    By all accounts Kevin Harris is an extraordinary badass, working only for the very coolest record labels and publications, with collaborators like Mario Hugo and Tim Lahan in tow. Part designer, part illustrator, with art direction and animation skills aplenty, he’s carving out a niche for himself producing effortlessly awesome work that references 1990s web art, stoner comics, tie-dye fabrics and pulp pornography with serious conceptual flair. He does his OWN comics too which obviously makes him OK by us. Look out for this one, he’s going to be huge!

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    When it comes to mainstream media, few organisations have embraced digital innovation with quite the same appetite as The Guardian. This week sees the launch of their new and improved app which creative director Alex Breuer and his team have been working on for some months, hoping to create a newly coherent and content-friendly mobile and tablet experience. We spoke to Alex about the design thinking that went into it…

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    While I’ve gracefully accepted the fact graphic design is not a skill I possess, if I was ever to foray into that world, Matteo Gualandris’ work would definitely be the standard I’d like to reach. When it comes to sophisticated, clean and modern design, this guy is as slick as they come.

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    Studio Hato have been around in some guise or another since 2009, although they’ve only recently given themselves an official name. They’re the design branch of a multi-faceted organisation that also includes Hato Press (an exceptional Risographic print studio) and Hato Labo (a digital design and programming team) all based in north east London. Its founders, Jackson Lam and Ken Kirton, have been around since the very beginning, working away on a multitude of commercial projects behind the scenes, while the reputation of the press has grown.

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    Labra is a Helsinki-based “creative laboratory” which is quietly building a super-impressive portfolio of branding, identity and illustration work. Of course there’s a particularly strong graphic design heritage in Finland, but while Labra’s work recognises that heritage, it doesn’t feel slavishly bound by it. This identity for the Mervi electronic music festival sums up the studio’s talents neatly; stylish, playful and interesting with a consistent communicative quality. Little wonder then that clients from art galleries to restaurants are queuing up for a slice of Labra’s considerable graphic talents.

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    Maybe it’s the world cup that’s dragging out the reluctant patriot in me, but I’m seeing flags all over place at the moment, and do you know what? I’m enjoying it. Perhaps nowhere so much as in this project, Multi-national Typeface by Grey Singapore. They’ve taken every single flag in the world, and reconfigured the shapes and colours which distinguish it to create the first letter of the country’s name. Sounds tricky, but fortunately Grey Singapore are also adept at putting together brilliantly functional and very entertaining GIFs which demonstrate the composition process, making the whole thing a damn sight easier to work out.

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    The sad death of Massimo Vignelli this week was greeted with the kind of tributes as befitting one of the design world’s most important figures. From posters to publications, brand identities to buildings and products to public signage, Massimo brought European modernism firmly into the mainstream.

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    In the midst of some research last week I came to Mat Maitland’s site and spent a blissful few minutes reminding myself of his brilliance. Mat – one of the talents on the consistently excellent Big Active roster – pulls off one of the most difficult image-making tricks around, and what’s more he makes it look easy. There’s an awful lot of surrealist collage and far too often it feels like it’s trying too hard, but Mat knows exactly what works and what doesn’t and just as importantly he knows when to stop. So it’s no surprise that big-name clients are beating a path to his door, so Mat is the man behind the new posthumous Michael Jackson release and a recent Prince single among other gems.

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    “Ah,” I can hear you thinking, “another process blog by a graphic designer!” but not just any designer, and not just any process blog, either. Leslie David is a Paris-based illustrator and art director to clients from the high fashion (Givenchy, Opening Ceremony and Chloé) to the music-related (Metronomy) and media-based (The New York Times and Jalouse Magazine) among several others, and tucked away on her page is a blog full of screenshots both of personal work and of work in progress.

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    Book cover designer Peter Mendelsund has just finished work on a publication that brings together the fruits of his career thus far in the form of a rather beautiful monograph. To those of us that know his work well it seems like a deserved achievement to have it represented in a book of his own, but he’s typically modest of the honour: “After producing enough passable design to have established a reputation – and after having participated in the requisite interviews, given the obligatory talks, and pursued the necessary whimsical side projects of varying natures – it is de rigeur that a designer should then publish a book of his or her work.” And so he has.

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    Anyone who has been to the excellent David Pearson show at London’s Kemistry Gallery will know that there’s an awful lot of creative mileage to be had from limiting book cover design to type-based solutions. I’ve become quite obsessed in hunting out other examples of this craft and although this work from Astrid Stavro is a couple of years old now, it deserves a fresh airing in this context.

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    Oeuflab is a small graphic design company based in Fukuoka who create amazingly lovely logos and identities for various clinics and hospitals around Japan. Apparently the name “Oeuflab” translates to something like “Egg Institute,” and the company’s ethos is to think not only about the surface (or the “eggshell”) of a brief, but also about the substance (or “yolk”) inside. Their branding is effective, clean and comforting, and we love the welcoming colours and creatures that emerge from the simple logos. We’ve never seen such friendly and accessible designs for a paediatric hospital, vet or skin care clinic: Oeuflab is definitively a good egg, and we can’t wait to see what ingenious designs they hatch next.

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    The second year graphic design students on Central Saint Martins’ BA course are about a year ahead of anyone else when it comes to their degree show planning. They’ve already put the wheels in motion to raise vast sums to help launch themselves professionally when they graduate. In order to do so they’ve got a pop-up shop in progress that aims to be the most expensive concept store the world has ever seen. In it they’ll be selling one-off pieces for up to one million pounds, although the more their website is shared through social media channels, the lower the price will get.

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    Threatened by the obliterative force of modern shopping centres and e-commerce, a small district in Japan made up of “mom and pop” shops decided that a good-old poster competition would be the best way to breathe new life and excitement into their area. With the help of the Dentsu Kansai ad agency, each of the Fuminosato Shotengai shops are now represented by witty and exuberant posters, which have brightened up the streets and got customers flocking.

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    There’s never really been a point where I’ve been halfway through doing the washing up at home and wondered what might happen if I mix two potentially dangerous chemical substances together and then photograph the results. Thankfully though, the more creatively-minded Davy Evans has done, and he came up with results so astonishingly beautiful that he was able to create some very beautiful album artwork from them for the likes of The XX and Fryars. Some of them like them so much that they have films of his moving images projected on the stage while they play.

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    Paris-based graphic designer Michael Thorsby originally hails from Sweden, but has travelled across Tokyo, Copenhagen and London picking up influences and developing his work before settling in Paris with a visual language that’s entirely his own. His projects vary enormously from luxurious pattern design fro the likes of Sixpack France, beautiful posters for obscure bands and laboriously 3D rendered commercials for automobile brands. There’s seemingly nothing he can’t do.

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    In 1936 a Penguin executive passing a bookstand in Kings Cross station overheard a woman asking for “one of those Pelican books” and so, worried rivals might start imprints named after birds, he moved to snap up the name for his employers. With its distinctive blue covers, Pelican made a name for itself publishing “concise, accessible and intelligent” books which aimed to “capture the current state of knowledge in their field.”

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    Just when you think you’ve seen everything typography has to offer – bacon, for example, or some of the wilder creations Sam Winston has created, you stumble happily across the type design of a Japanese designer and everything gets turned on its head. Because not speaking Japanese I have absolutely no idea what these bold, graphic compositions mean, but in spite of all my linguistic inadequacies, I still find myself inexplicably drawn to them. The new combinations of lines and forms presents a whole new world as far as type design is concerned, and designer Shun Sasaki is taking full advantage of it, presenting unashamedly vivid colour combinations, and carrying over her myriad Japanese references to the equally fascinating examples of type design in English. Take that grid and throw it to the back of the cupboard, Shun has no need of it.

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    To be totally honest I never knew the Swiss city of Lausanne had a film and music festival, let alone an underground film and music festival but it does, and last year the organisers were savvy enough to call on the design talents of Demian Conrad.

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    Barcelona-based studio Forma & Co. is Joel Lozano and Dani Navarro, and my, do Dani and Joel know how to take a rather unexciting brief – creating communicative posters for government organisations, or posters to advertise debates about neuroscience – and make it 100% more interesting. Example A is this identity for Can Felipa’s Civic Centre, the name of which doesn’t exactly inspire a flurry of excitement.

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    This autumn a fascinating exhibition will celebrate the work of the Royal College of Art’s remarkable graphics alumni. As part of the preparation for this exhibition, organisers have set up a Tumblr called GraphicsRCA on which they are posting some superb examples of work that has a connection with the school. The most interesting bits include degree show posters from the days of yore; particularly given that we are moving into graduate season now. There’s also posters for lectures, workshops and film society meetings as well as work from selected alumni. Well worth a browse as we countdown to what will be a magnificent exhibition in October.

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    In any identity project, designers must also be soothsayers and try to think about how their work will be used (and maybe abused) out in the real world. So when multidisciplinary studio Blok Design was asked to come up with a look and feel for a Mexican cultural organisation they tried to work a few steps ahead.

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    When the seventh issue of Boat Magazine dropped through our door a couple of weeks ago we interested to see that it had undergone a redesign. For the Lima issue, London studio She Was Only had refreshed the look and feel with a new masthead, a new approach to layouts and some nice new visual tricks. We spoke to the studio’s Craig Scott about their involvement in the globetrotting magazine.

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    This is something of a niche reference so please forgive me if I lose you, but do you remember that episode of The Magic Schoolbus where the bus shrinks to molecular size and travels inside Ralphie’s body? Well Kraftfolio’s recent project for Bit Hotel in Barcelona reminds me hugely of that; together with Karina Eibatova and Lesha Galkin, Edgor Kraft who heads up the studio painted the walls with a mural which looks exactly like what I imagine the inside of an illustrator’s brain to look like if you were to shrink and then travel inside it. Covered in ambiguous shapes, squiggles, colours and forms, it’s quite the transformation for the space, turning it from a plain white box into a highly original, almost biological-looking room. Just like inside Ralphie.

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    We’re well versed in the graphic treasures in and around the London Underground but Adam Chang is on a mission to introduce us to the New York subway system in the same way. His beautifully designed NY Train Project site is in turn a celebration of the beautiful design to be found in the city’s underground stations; from intricate tiling and interesting murals to some terrific typography.

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    Graphic designer Mark Porter is synonymous with the far-reaching 2008 redesign of The Guardian newspaper, and not content with mastering one huge media’s look and feel, he’s now turned his talents to TV. RTL is the biggest commercial network in The Netherlands and RTL Nieuws produces news bulletins, business, weather and traffic across its channels.

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    The Tour de France evokes images more quintessentially French than a GCSE exchange visit to La Rochelle, but this year’s race begins in the decidedly English surroundings of Yorkshire. To mark this honour, MADE NORTH studio has invited an amazing selection of designers to create a yellow T-shirt, riffing off the famous Maillot Jaune the Tour leader wears.

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    It would be easy to live in London and take for granted the brilliant posters and identities promoting shows at some of the capital’s best galleries. When you’re shoving past someone 30 metres below street level you barely have time to take in the work someone’s gone to to tell you to go and see a show at the weekend, you just sort of absorb it.

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    We first came across photographer Colin O’Brien last autumn, when we interviewed him about his stunning 1987 series Traveller’s Children in London. The book which housed the series was an understated affair, allowing his monochromatic images to speak for themselves, which they did in volumes of sentimentality and nostalgia. And while understated can be lovely, Colin’s back catalogue is so extensive – beginning as it does in 1948 and stretching all the way to the present day – that we couldn’t help but feel that he deserved something more.

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    Held in any number of unusual venues and with a line-up of acts who break boundaries all over the shop, Eastern Electrics is a festival unlike any other, so when Accept & Proceed undertook rebranding it it made perfect sense that they create something appropriately cool. They created a new mark which they describe as a “lightning bolt E” and a “bespoke electrifying variation of Simplon Mono font,” drawing on classic heavy metal motifs and a gloriously sunny palette.

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    Don’t be shocked at the photos you see here. Clicking on a Henrik Purienne article and complaining about the nudity is like going to the Louvre and complaining that there are too many paintings. The bounty-hunting jet-setter has recently published a new book, morena, which has been lovingly designed by Barcelona design studio Córdova – Canillas. The concept of the book is simple: morena is a Spanish word for “a tanned or a non-blonde girl, or both at the same time” and the book is “a collection of monographs venturing in a timeless sensuality, in nudity as a state of true elegance, in sex…”

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    Elizabeth Dilk is a New York-based graphic designer and art director who has a rare gift. Not in a creepy I-see-dead-people-kind of way, rather she creates work which is stylish without feeling soulless (a compromise we come across more than you’d think). It helps that she’s very versatile, with a portfolio that includes web design, packaging, identities and logo marks, advertising, typography and print and it’s the latter we’ve chosen to focus on this time.

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    Like many famous combinations – fish and chips, gin and tonic – type and design are inextricably linked but rarely do we explore that relationship in any depth. A new exhibition in New York does just that though, bringing together a host of rare works and unique artefacts to examine the centuries-old way in which these two entities have developed in partnership.

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    A boutique creative agency based in New York, New Zealand and London, Hardhat Design have a side range of projects under their belt. We were particularly taken by this identity for interior stylist and store owner Alex Fulton, whose work is characterised by her use of colour and forms. In accordance with these elements of her practice, Hardhat designed a fun and playful identity which utilises shapes that can be viewed in a number of different ways. We spoke to the design director Jenny Miles about their key references.

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    We don’t want to seem like we’re showing favouritism to particular publications by featuring them repeatedly on the site, but even though we profiled Edition 9 of Process Journal back in October, Edition 10 is equally deserving of attention, and so we’re covering the Aussie mag again.

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    Educational design is no mean feat, the boundary between accessible, engaging and incredibly cheesy being a difficult one to tread, and I’ve never seen it achieved with the aplomb that Multistorey have managed in Discovering Architecture, the publication they designed as part of the V&A museum’s back-pack guides.

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    It was just the other day that we featured some striking new work from Graphic Thought Facility, but they’ve clearly been busy working on all manner of interesting projects so we thought, what the hell, let’s get them up on the site again.

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    You know that advert where everything that guy touches turns to Skittles? Well Graphic Thought Facility are like that, only that everything they touch turns to design gold rather than delicious fruity confectionery. They have just art directed the inaugural issue of Modern Design Review which is billed as “a considered and curated insight into modern product and furniture design.”

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    I’m an unashamed geek when it comes to journalism (my favourite Twitter feed is easily the Guardian Style Guide for goodness sake) so this new publication from The Times is right up my street. Byline is a quarterly magazine for the newspaper’s subscribers which provides “an exclusive insight into the news-gathering process.”