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Work / Graphic Design

Tommy Spitters launches Pinko Press showing how design can encourage ideas, rather than isolate them

“I don’t need to tell anyone that things, politically and culturally, are very bad right now,” says designer Tommy Spitters on the subject of his newly launched publishing venture, Pinko Press. “However, there are lots of interesting writers and artists not only making great work in response to the times we live in, but also offering solutions for it.”

Tommy’s work has always been politically focused, crafting a graphic tone of voice that caught It’s Nice That’s eye when we made him a graduate in 2015. Since then, the designer has worked across numerous studios, including Unit Editions, Hato, Lovers and even us too. Yet, brewing away behind his freelance work has been a want to create a platform “for ideas that (I think) are important,” he says. “I wanted to provide a place for those ideas to be put out into the world and hopefully reach people.”

And so he’s set up Pinko Press, an independent publishing house that accessibly dives into these ideas and thoughtfully designs them to be picked up, read, and passed on. “I’m not a great political thinker, I’m definitely not a good public speaker and I’m probably not going to punch a fascist in the face,” Tommy admits. “But, I can design things that might help someone else come across those great thinkers, speakers, fascist punchers, and help them understand why things are the way they are and what can be done about it.”

Pinko Press’ first release is Social Constructs of Social Housing, an essay written by Alfie Peacock taking a look at at the evolving perception of social housing. While the points made in Alfie’s essay didn’t inform the design decisions Tommy made, its academic context did. He took his time over Pinko’s first release, admitting that “I tried to over design it at first; give it loads of design features and quirks, which all felt like they were detracting from the essay itself,” he says. Instead, Tommy decided to tackle the project by utilising a design perspective that would help, not hinder, the person actually reading it. “Part of the point of Pinko Press is to try and provide a platform for interesting writing and ideas that are also accessible. I definitely struggle with academic writing so I wanted to design with that in mind to try and make something that made the process of understanding the writing a bit easier.”

Using design as a means to welcome and encourage ideas rather than complicate or isolate them is a large part of Pinko Press’ upcoming release on the residential estate, Robin Hood Gardens. Built by architects Alison and Peter Smithson in 1972, Robin Hood Gardens has been selected by the V&A to be shipped and displayed at the upcoming Venice Architectural Biennale, a decision Tommy had mixed feelings about: “On the one hand, it felt like further privatisation of public housing and the social cleansing of London,” the designer explains. “Robin Hood Gardens was deemed good enough to be a show-stopping exhibition piece, but not good enough to be restored and maintained in order to prevent the communities who lived there from being displaced. On the other hand, the Smithsons first revealed their design at the Biennale and later recognised its potential failures,” Tommy continues. “They acknowledged that it was an experiment in housing designed with style and innovation, rather than conventional functionality in mind.”

Struggling to come to a fully-formed conclusion on the subject, Tommy decided to use Pinko Press – although in its early days – as a platform for discussion. Recognising that other designers, architects and writers probably feel the same as himself, Tommy is currently asking for written, illustrated or photographic submissions on the subjects of Robin Hood Gardens, gentrification, architecture as art, the commodification of public space and the aesthetics of social housing. The designer’s hopes for the publication’s final iteration are to simply be a collection of “different opinions about Robin Hood Gardens, the Biennale and the ramifications of it all to create a concise place where people can weigh up different opinions and make up their own minds,” he says. You can find more information on how to submit “any responses, creative or academic” to Tommy here.

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Tommy Spitters: Social Constructs of Social Housing

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Tommy Spitters: Social Constructs of Social Housing

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Tommy Spitters: Social Constructs of Social Housing

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Tommy Spitters: Social Constructs of Social Housing

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Tommy Spitters: Social Constructs of Social Housing

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Tommy Spitters: Social Constructs of Social Housing

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Tommy Spitters: Social Constructs of Social Housing

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Tommy Spitters: Social Constructs of Social Housing

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Tommy Spitters: Robin Hood Gardens

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Tommy Spitters: Robin Hood Gardens