Radical education and political activism design history: Studio Hyte presents its Bookshelf

10 July 2019
Reading Time
5 minute read

Studio Hyte is a South London-based design studio formed from friendships made while studying graphic design at Central Saint Martins. Its founders Arjun Harrison-Mann, Ben Cain, Eugene Tan and Jordan Gamble met during their undergraduate degree and since then, they’ve crafted a unique design practice which overlaps graphics, interaction and emergent communications. Importantly, the studio places equal importance on its research-based, self-initiated practice which seeks to explore the politicised role of today’s creative practitioner in the current climate.

So far on It’s Nice That, we’ve covered the studio’s dynamic identity for DAOWO which saw the studio take on Blockchain technology to create ambiguous visuals. And last year, the founding designers designed an identity for iiii Magazine which analysed the characteristics of type, code and interaction on the web to inform the monochromatic outcome. Luckily for us, for today’s Bookshelf, we are treated to an inside glimpse into the studio’s research practices. From a Radical Education Workbook to a documentation of politically active design history; we can see why this studio is adamant to create socially engaging work with an emphasis on critical discussion.

Radical Education Workbook

Discovered on the sale shelf of Freedom Press, an anarchist bookshop located in an alley behind Whitechapel Gallery, this book came with half of its ring binding intact and a massive 80% reduction, from £10 to just £2. Coming in at a whopping width of 84cm per double page spread, this isn’t one you want to read on your morning commute.

Aside from the format, the content of the book provides important provocations for the pedagogic aspects of the studio: “Questioning measures of austerity, and more fundamentally the process of neo-liberalisation that preceded them.” The publication delves into ever-important topics which also read as statements from a manifesto. For example, “Education Against Empire”, “Challenging Imposed Curricula” and “Using the Pedagogies of the Oppressed” – its language is empowering and the analysis is inspiring. By putting forward the notion that social justice is “most definitely at radical odds with the forms of education we are forced to work in today,” within Radical Education Workbook, there are many lessons to be debated, learned and taught.

Annual Show of Emerging Typographic Allstars: Typeforce 3

In the Summer of 2014, during an internship in the heart of Humboldt Park, Chicago, longtime friends and mentors at Firebelly Design gifted us with the third edition of the Typeforce book. At the time, Studio Hyte didn’t formally exist. We were on the cusp of going into the third year of our bachelor’s degree and had not yet encountered the idea of the autonomous designer in action. We were hooked. Firebelly’s design approach of combining ambitious aesthetics with sincere community engagement, in turn, became a foundation to our studio’s ethos and informed the approach of our newly formed studio.

One of the many worlds Firebelly created, in collaboration with Public Media Institute, was Typeforce. A yearly exhibition celebrating the work of emerging lettering and type-based designers and artists. All of which were unified by a “near-fanatical focus on eloquent, exceptionally executed letterforms.”

They created this stunning publication in response to the exhibition, which truly embodies the love of media, method, craft and style that is synonymous with Typeforce. This is seen through the custom die-cut binding, hand wrapped and sealed cover, as well as the beautifully embossed foil blocking. Often within design practice, the restraints of a medium can go unquestioned – the formats become default. This publication very quickly acted as a provocation for us to reconsider how we could find further autonomy as designers by subverting or reimagining the mediums we use. Something which we find ourselves constantly coming back to.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Pluto Press: No Nuclear Weapons

Rescued from a box of to-be-discarded books during a visit to Jake Tilson’s studio, these beautifully constructed remnants of politically active design history quickly became prized possession on top of the studio bookshelf.

Published by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Pluto Press in 1981, No Nuclear Weapons acts as an important reminder of the powerful yet peaceful political movement, in which over 250,000 people in London marched for unilateral disarmament and peace. The imagery throughout the book is masterfully illustrated by the provocative and iconic photomontages of Peter Kennard. And it skillfully weaves memorable scenes of British scenery with the inevitable destruction that follows the use of nuclear weapons. These visions are harrowing and all too close to home, despite the fact its now 38 years old.

Practical Engineering

Practical Engineering is kind of like the Github of its time, except a lot prettier! This 20p find became the start of an obscure collection of engineering publications that date back to the 1930’s. All of which are complete with an agony-aunt-like section where local engineers seek advice to fix their relationships with mechanical counterparts.

The publication encapsulates the movement from a DIY to DIWO (Do It With Others) culture, along with a love for bespoke typography and a passion for the handcrafting of mechanic tools that is marked throughout every edition of Practical Engineering. It resonates with the more generalist nature of the studio and in short, this obscure collection of publications reinforces our belief that visual communication isn’t defined by the mediums used but by the intentions of the work.

Open Editions: Distributed

Distributed by Open Editions is another gift, this time from former-tutor and friend David Blamey. This book has quickly become a hot topic of discussion around the studio, informing frequent projects and debates around the future of money and the subversion of systemic austerity.

As designers we often overlook the distribution of our work, which can be a shame because it’s an integral part of it. What happens when we reposition our work to be the act of distribution in itself? Placing the encounter of the piece, and the piece itself, at equal importance.
By reframing modes of distribution as potential mediums for artists and designers to subvert, hijack or reuse within the creative process, Distributed is a book that is definitely worth the read. From texts such as Rathna Ramanathan’s Vishnu To Vegas, which provides an insightful reflection on the distribution in non-western cultures and society, Distributed highlights the subject of dissemination as something for “serious creative consideration and one of great social and economic importance.”

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.


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