Craig Oldham is a designer who needs no introduction to long-time readers of It’s Nice That. The Barnsley-born creative has spoken at Nicer Tuesdays, heralded the lost art of the undershirt football celebration, and even dished out some brutally honest advice to new graphic designers with his book Oh Sh*t What Now?.
Most recently, however, he discussed the importance of counter-culture with us, following the launch of Rough Trade Books. A publishing project, each release epitomises the “same original spirit and radical direction” that the pioneering independent record label has stood for since its inception back in 1978. Craig has been involved with the publishing venture since the outset, designing each series of Rough Trade Editions – of which there are now three.
“The whole raison d’etre [of Rough Trade Books] was to do what the label did in music in publishing, and people are so inspired by Rough Trade because it went another way, explored other ideas, and introduced us to different things,” he told us back in June, “It’s that spirit we want, in their own way, every book to embody and express.”
Check out Craig’s five top titles from his bookshelf, below, and mosey on over to Rough Trade Books to check out its latest release – which features words from Jarvis Cocker and Marcel Theroux (a certain documentary maker’s brother) and many others – while you’re at it.
Lucy R. Lippard: Six Years: The Dematerialisation of the Art Object…
I came across this book by complete accident, when in the library at university, and picked it up for its cover (classic, shallow designer). I’m glad I did. The book documents the formative years of conceptual art (yep, over six years), and lets you graze through a meze of chronological text, artworks, images, and discussions. Though I’ve read through it more than once, each return visit brings up something new. It showed me, as a student, that there are rich creative opportunities everywhere in the creative process – not simply in the outcome.
Enzo Mari: Autoprogettazione
Translated literally, “auto” = "self’ and “progettazione” = “design” but “self-design” is misleading when it comes to the intentions of this book. To be honest, as a book of blueprints for a range of furniture you can assemble yourself, with the most limited of means, it’s not much of a page-turner. Having made some of the furniture myself (I’ve made a few chairs, a cabinet, and even modified some of the designs myself to make cabinets), I’ve experienced first hand what Mari was getting at. Making for yourself helps you understand the integrity and sincerity of objects, it improves your understanding of the design process from a completely different angle. I also love that he did this – gave away all his designs for free – just to stimulate people to create.
Bram Stoker: Dracula, published by Four Corners Books
I’m sure you’ve heard of this one. But I’m always surprised how few people have actually read it. I was a weird kid, and absolutely loved horror films, and stories, but didn’t read Dracula until someone bought me the Four Corners Books Familiars edition when it was released. I never knew it was written in epistolary form (which basically means you have to join the story up yourself, reading only characters’ letters, journals, recordings and newspaper reports) and I loved how much room it left for me (you) as a reader. Macabre Craig was out of his box again.
Marcel Theroux: An Unexpected Gift: Three Christmas Stories
Trumpet alert, as I’m about to blow our own here, but thought it’d be nice to share something new (and seasonal). Marcel Theroux, yes, Louis’ brother, has just penned this Rough Trade Books Edition, which consists of an anthology of Christmas stories which were originally written as Christmas cards for family. They’re so different, well-crafted, and witty, and that’s from me, a person who usually hates Christmas. But maybe the one about the angel with a Barnsley accent (my hometown) swayed me.
Emily King: Robert Brownjohn: Sex and Typography
When one of the most influential graphic designers in history, Alan Fletcher, describes another graphic designer as “about five jumps ahead of whatever you were thinking”, you take notice. I first came across Robert Brownjohn’s work at university, before visiting the retrospective at the Design Museum years later, for which this book was published. We were lucky enough to be taught by Mafalda Spencer, daughter of Herbert Spencer, a designer and friend of Brownjohn, who showed me photos her Dad took of the making of the iconic title sequence to Goldfinger – where Brownjohn projected typography and film scenes onto the body of a gold-painted figure. It just blew me away. Still does, even though all of it was essentially produced before the 1970s, it never fails to look, feel, and be, great. Or as Alan Fletcher called it, “timeless".
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.