November’s Nicer Tuesdays saw four esteemed and inspiring speakers talk about how creative projects can spread vital messages. From the Oval Space podium GraphicDesign& asked if graphic design really can save lives, photographer Ewen Spencer took us back in time, Gal-dem explained its important platform, and Dougal Wilson took us behind the Channel 4 block giant. We also welcomed new drinks sponsor The Five Points Brewing Company, which kept the audience hydrated through the evening. Here’s a few highlights from the night.
Graphic design is intrinsic with human health
Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright from GraphicDesign& brought the audience inside the vast Wellcome Collection design archive, which they plundered for ongoing show Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? The challenge was what to leave out, they said, in order to show design’s importance in society’s health.
“As graphic designers we’re as culpable in the proliferation of disease as we are in the battle against it,” Rebecca said, showing fascinating images of vintage cigarette packaging and anti-smoking stamps. Also among their discoveries was an American comic book from 1959 titled Planned Parenthood, and heritage condom packets, though this exhibit needed supplementing. “We ended up buying a lot of condoms on eBay,” smiled Lucienne, “including an army ration condom from the 40s, helpfully labeled ‘not for use’.”
Garage was once the new Mod culture
Ewen Spencer took us through decades of capturing youth culture in clubs, starting where he “found his feet in photography” – the Northern Soul scene. Moving through eras and genres at pace, Ewen showed raw, honest and at times cringe-worthy shots of young people on nights out. “It’s about youth culture, style, these manifestations of Britishness,” he said. At one stage in his career, he says “Sleazenation would send me out with a big bag of film most weekends”, and later, a commission for The Face saw him snapping at South London’s Twice as Nice.
“For me, garage felt as bona fide as the Mods and the Teddy Boys. No one was sitting down, everyone was dressed up. You could feel the energy of what was going on. Then the Ministry of Sound released 100 Greatest Garage Bangers and it was all over.”
Gal-dem proves the power of collectives
Exclusively written and created by women of colour, Gal-dem defines as a collective and recently published its own magazine. At Nicer Tuesdays, editor Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and graphic designer Chani Wisdom spoke about the ethos behind the group and some key features from issue one.
“We want to give a platform to some of the more marginalised voices in society,” said Charlie. “We are feminists, we’re intersectional and we’re really, really woke.” The magazine is themed Home, covered in “a personal and political sense” and begins with features on the Grenfell Tower and Khadija Saye. “It affected mostly people of colour. The higher you go up [in a London tower block] the poorer people are, and the more likely they are to be black or brown skinned.”
Some pages of the issue feature only a quote that is particularly poignant to the community, Chani says, for example, “but where are you really from?”
Channel 4’s giant block character celebrates the best of Britain
“It’s probably hard to believe this, because it was probably before most of you were born, but there was a time in this country when there was only three channels,” Dougal Wilson stated at the start of his talk. Showing the thinking and research behind his recent Channel 4 idents, he showed the iconic launch graphics for the broadcaster from November 1982 by Martin Lambie-Nairn, plus a hilarious satire by Hamlet cigars. He also covered the parallax ads, which he really likes. “Sadly everyone will forever say ‘they’re not as good as those ones’,” he joked.
Then Dougal showed in intricate detail the creative process behind making the heart-warmingly charming idents, starring a new characterisation of the Channel 4 “blocks”, and the reasons for its mischievous personality. “He had to be entertaining, provocative and promote diversity. 4Creative were also really keen on championing what migration can do for this country.” The migration-themed ident he says, stars genuine citizens – a doctor, a scientist, a nurse – so “actually made a point”. After showing the film, Dougal quipped: “Nigel Farage likes that one.”
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Supported by: Park Communications
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Supported by: The Five Points Brewing Company
The Five Points Brewing Company is an independent brewery based in Hackney, London, brewing with a commitment to provenance, quality, consistency and the community since 2013.