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In conversation with Neville Brody at the V&A

Neville Brody spoke with Design Week editor Lynda Relph-Knight about the student protests, the Anti-Design Festival, Arena Homme+ and the future of graphic design…

Written by Gavin Mackie

Neville Brody, illustrated by Anna Hancock-Young

On the wonderful Friday evening of the 12th of the 11th of the 10th I managed to make my way to the V&A for the third week running. This time it was to attend a talk with seminal graphic designer Neville Brody, in conversation with Design Week Editor Lynda Relph-Knight. The subject of conversation moved away from Brody’s work and instead centred on this week’s student protests and the future of creativity in the present political and social times, neatly summised by Brody as “a bunch of cuts”. You can make your own decision to whether he was refering to the cuts or the government making them.  

The conversation was loose and while Brody was well prepared (despite his own claims he wasn’t) he allowed the evening to take its own course, flipping between pictures of the student march, the Anti-Design Festival, Brody’s exhibit in Tokyo, his work on Arena Homme+ and other work by Research Studios. Here is an attempt to sumarise this flow of thought…

Coming to fame in the 1980s as Art Director of The Face magazine, Brody took the march on Whitehall as an opportunity to reflect on events of the 1980s and the explosion of creativity that the similarly troubling times let loose. With current cuts including a 30% budget slash in the Arts Council, a huge figure that will likely see museums charging entry amongst other things, Brody is looking for new ways to secure creativity in the UK. He took the evening’s talk to announce his work with the Alternative Arts Council, a new initiative that Brody is intimately involved with. The Alternative Arts Council’s aim is to not only support alternative arts, but to also find new ways of supporting the arts, especially in the channeling of corporate funding.

This is reflective of Brody’s Anti-Design Festival, held earlier this year. This was attended by over 10,000 people who became involved in the exhibition; having ideas, changing things and becoming part of the exhibit. This, for Brody, demonstrates the importance of the physical space for interaction – both with the space and between people. He wants to ensure that creativity remains inventive and does not become an elite space, reserved for those who can afford increased tution fees. 

Overall Brody feels the future is very exciting. He sees the present as the largest step we have taken since the industrial revolution, which Brody terms the ‘knowledge revolution’ (rather than a digital revolution). With the speed of upload of video and images to the web, Brody sees a near future where anything, from anytime will be available to anyone, anywhere – everyone is connected. In such a sphere, Brody claims that “graphic design is dead”. By this he means graphic design as a vertical skill set. Instead he sees design as moving increasingly towards interactivity, time based media, storytelling and 3D space as “joined up”. Ultimately Brody questions what is the public service for design? 

Illustration by Karolina Burdon

Pretty pictures were also on display as Brody took the audience through the reserach and design process of creating Arena Homme+. Published twice a year, Research Studios have one month to fully research, experiment, design and produce each issue. Each issue produces on average six bespoke typefaces and Brody showed the experimenting and design process for font development for two issues, showing how he attempts (rather successfully) to make typography part of the story in a rather painterly manner. Typography is used to pull readers into the words and to reflect shapes and tone of photographic layouts. 
Brody, who declares himself as a punk who ended up smack in the middle of the establishment, has deservedly done rather well for himself. He has just this week been awarded the Prince Philip Designers Prize and in 2011 will be joining the Royal College of Art, heading the Visual Communication programme. With this new post, let’s hope Brody is able to continue and increase his influence in British design.

Read our review of the Anti-design Festival here.


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