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Archived posts: Posters

Potter prints

Yesterday, at one of the Clerkenwell Design Week events, we bumped into the very lovely Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who worked on the graphic design for all eight of the Harry Potter films. Collectively known as Minalima, they’ve recently launched The Printorium, an online market place for a series of lovely fine art prints based on their work for the films.

The prints come in two formats – limited editions of 1,000, embossed and signature stamped; and limited editions of 250, hand signed, which have additional hand-worked details like gold foiling. Where possible, they’re delivered by owl.

It’s really great to see this stuff living on after the movies, and heck, they’d make the most amazing gifts for Potterheads (we had to look that up).

The print below features some ads from from The Daily Prophet, the wizarding newspaper in the films.

Miraphora and Eduardo also have a selection of self-initiated prints available on the site, which are equally lovely.

There’ll be an exhibition of their work at The Conningsby Gallery in London from 17 to 28 June.

Wizard.

Poster Art 150

We dropped in to the London Transport Museum over the weekend to check out their truly fantastic new show, Poster Art 150.

Put on to celebrate the 150th birthday of the London Underground, the densely packed show is a collection of 150 of the best posters produced for the tube. It features a stack of brilliant designs from the big names in poster design, including Abram Games, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Frederick Charles Herrick, Tom Eckersley, Edward Bawden, Fougasse (above); as well as a few fine artists, including Man Ray and Howard Hodgkin.

The show is split into six thematic areas, which neatly sidesteps the possible problem that might have occurred had the exhibition been chronological – namely that the more recent designs just aren’t as good. Partly this is due to the rose-tinted nature of nostalgia, but it’s not just that – the earlier designs have an energy, simplicity and wit that seems to have faded away from most of the contemporary designs we see now on the tube. Hopefully this show might serve as an inspiration though, both to the commissioners at the tube, and also to designers.

And you know, it’s interesting to stop there and linger on that word ‘designers’.

It feels like most of the contemporary commissions on the underground are given over to fine artists rather than designers. Witness the Olympic and Paralympic Posters for London 2012, Mark Wallinger’s Labyrinth, and The Roundel: 100 Artists Remake a London icon – all commissioned through the Art on the Underground programme. Where are the commissions for designers? Surely a show like this demonstrates just how brilliant a tradition of design London Transport has – it’d be great to see them embracing that by commissioning more contemporary designers, rather than just fine artists.

Anyway, here are some of our picks from the exhibition:

‘A train every 90 seconds’, the first poster Abram Games designed for London Underground, in 1937.

‘Behind the seen’, one half of a pair poster by James Fitton from 1948.

‘The lure of the Underground’, by Alfred Leete (the chap behind the Britons: Lord Kitchener Wants You poster) from 1927. This is a glorious poster – a fantastic economy of line, with wonderful characterisation, as you can see in the detail below:

Austin Cooper’s poster advertising the V&A’s first major poster show in 1931, and depicting Mercury, the winged messenger of the gods.

One of the highlights of the show is the fantastic array of different and frequently bonkers typographic styles. Here are some lovely ligatures from Frederick Charles Herrick’s ‘The lap of luxury’ poster from 1925:

And two Os getting up close and personal in Charles Paine’s ‘Boat Race’ poster from 1921:

And Alan Rogers’ lovely styling of the word Underground from his 1930 ‘Speed Underground’ poster:

Tasty stuff.

‘For the Zoo’, from 1933, by Maurice A. Miles, one of many posters for London Zoo featured in the show.

‘Away from it all’ by M.E.M. Law in 1932 – has a tube train ever looked so dynamic?

And finally, ‘Cup final’ by Eric George Fraser in 1928, which puts you right in the heart of the action.

The show runs until 27 October, and is really outstanding – do get along if you can.

Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!

So this is rather fine. A facsimile version of the playbill poster that inspired John Lennon to write Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite! from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, printed by the lovely folks at New North Press, with wood engravings by Andy English.

Here are the lyrics:

For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanques’ fair, what a scene.

Over men and horses hoops and garters
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire
In this way Mr. K will challenge the world.

The celebrated Mr. K
Performs his feats on Saturday at Bishopsgate.
The Hendersons will dance and sing
As Mr. Kite flies through the ring, don’t be late.

Messrs K. and H. assure the public
Their production will be second to none.
And of course Henry the Horse dances the waltz.

The band begins at ten to six
When Mr. K performs his tricks without a sound,
And Mr. H will demonstrate
Ten somersets he’ll undertake on solid ground.

Having been some days in preparation
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
And tonight Mr. Kite is topping the bill.

Lovely stuff.

British Design 1948–2012

We nipped along this morning to the big new show at the V&A, British Design 1948-2012, a retrospective of the creative industries in Britain since the end of the Second World War. Timed to make the most of the Olympic hordes who’ll be hitting the capital this summer (the show ends the same day as the Olympic closing ceremony), it’s a clear attempt to grab back some of the glory from the sporting crowd. Which is no bad thing.

This is the first big exhibition of post-war design that the V&A has staged, and it covers fashion, furniture, fine art, graphic design, photography, ceramics, architecture and industrial products. It’s good to have all of that creative output lumped together, even if it does mean that you can only have a few key pieces from each discipline. Pleasingly there’s rather more graphic design than we’d anticipated, particularly from the period just after the war, with work from Abram Games, Edward Bawden, Reginald Mount, and David Gentleman.

The show is grouped into three main areas, Tradition & Modernity; Subversion; and Innovation and Creativity, which run more or less chronologically from 1948 to the present day. The three groupings don’t necessarily help, creating rather forced divisions between periods and styles. But there’s lots of great stuff on display, including four hand-painted maquettes for British road signs by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert; and a page from Design Research Unit’s British Rail Design Manual.

The second section, Subversion, deals mainly with the rise of the art school and a more youth oriented period of design – so you get Jamie Reid’s Sex Pistols posters, Vivienne Westwood’s punk clothing designs, some Beatles album covers, and of course Peter Saville, Barney Bubbles and Neville Brody. Which is all well and good, but unfortunately this part of the exhibition is designed with a rather clichéd underground vibe – lots of black walls and industrial fittings, which really cheapens the work on display, making it feel like we’re walking through some sort of gaudy themed tourist attraction.

The third section focuses more on manufacturing industries, technology and architecture. Somehow the curators have managed to use Apple’s iMac as a pioneering example of British technology design (Jonathan Ive, the iMac’s designer is from these shores, sure, but come on…). Elsewhere there’s a model of Concorde, an E-Type Jag, a Topper sailing boat, and Kenneth Grange’s Brownie Vecta camera.

Meanwhile, graphic design in this section is represented by Wolff Olins’ hideous London 2012 logo (it just doesn’t get any better does it?); their Orange logo from 1994, and Alan Fletcher’s lovely V&A logo from 1989 (rather happily referencing Ian Dennis’s National Theatre logo, which is shown earlier in the exhibition).

Our favourite exhibit though was these Globoots from 1969:

They were unique at the time of their production, being double dip-moulded in two different plastics, so that the translucent uppers and opaque soles were made in one piece, without seams. And crikey, don’t they look like a certain coloured computer designed in the USA by a British bloke called Jonny?

Our only real gripe is that it features way too much art. The show is British Design 1948-2012, not British Art & Design 1948-2012, but we’re treated to work from Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, Allen Jones, David Hockney and Damien Hirst. Obviously there’s crossover between the disciplines, and many of those artists worked in design as well as art, but the pieces shown are their artworks rather than their design pieces. So for example, we get Hockney’s We Two Boys Together Clinging painting rather than any of his fantastic stage designs. This seems like a real shame, given how much great design has had to be left out to make room for the art.

Overall though, it’s a great show, and anyone interested in design should get along quick smart.

The show opens on Saturday 31 March, and runs until 12 August.

Picture credit for top image: Children crossing sign, by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir for the Ministry of Transport, 1964 © Margaret Calvert

Aldwych Underground Station

Last week we got the chance to take a trip down into one of the many hidden parts of London, courtesy of the London Transport Museum’s Station Open Day at the now-closed Aldwych underground station. The station, on a little branch line off the Piccadilly line, has been closed since the early 90s. It originally opened in 1907 (though it was then named Strand station, being renamed Aldwych in 1915), and right from the start is was rather underused. So underused in fact, that the eastern platform wasn’t used at all for train services from 1914 onwards.

Though it, and the other platform, did operate as air raid shelters for the citizens of London during both wars, and also, during the First World War, for 300 paintings from the National Gallery. In the Second World War, the British Museum even used the station to store the Elgin Marbles. After the war the Eastern platform was used by London Transport to create full scale mock-ups of proposed station designs, and more recently the entire station has been used for film and TV productions, as well for Emergency Response Unit training sessions.

Because of all the film and TV work, it’s rather tricky to work out which bits of existing signage and advertising are real, and which are bits left over from various film art departments.

This roundel, which was leaning against one of the walls, looked fairly authentic though. It features Edward Johnston’s iconic Johnston Sans typeface, (and the roundel itself is Johnston’s design – read more about the roundel’s history), interestingly with the alternate version of the W. Possibly from around the mid 1930s?

There were also some genuine posters from the early 70s on one of the walls – check out the mind-expanding Planetarium poster:

Lovely stuff.

Wim Crouwel at Woodbridge & Rees

We nipped downstairs last week to catch the opening of the second instalment of the Wim Crouwel poster show at Woodbridge and Rees.

This second part of the show features twenty-three original posters, all of them for sale, from Crouwel’s time at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam – they’re all from a collection owned by the fantastic Nijhof&Lee bookshop in Amsterdam.

The show is open from 12pm to 6pm daily (from 1pm on Saturdays, closed Sundays), and runs until 27 April. Well worth a look.

Reverting to Type

We nipped across to the private view of the fantastic new letterpress show Reverting to Type at the Standpoint Gallery in Hoxton last week. The private view was rammed, so we popped back the following day for a proper look, and to take some pictures.

The show has been curated our friends by Graham Bignell of New North Press (with whom we made the posters for the Twickenham Carnival), and Richard Ardagh of Elephant’s Graveyard (we worked with him on the London Design Guide). It features contemporary letterpress work from studios right across the world, as well as a selection of UK letterpress folk including Justin Knopp of Typoretum (that’s his Rustic Fete poster above), Hand & Eye Letterpress, The Hi-Artz Press, Flowers & Fleurons, and Mr Smith’s Letterpress Workshop (that’s his Damaged Letterpress print below; check out Creative Review’s film of their visit to his studio).

The show is really extensive, the walls packed with fine examples of work, ranging from seasoned professionals to students from local art colleges; and there are also a series of prints that have been created specifically for the show. Nearly all the work is for sale, either as one-off originals, or limited edition prints; both framed and unframed.

There’s also a range of cards and artists-books on sale, including the stunning The Travelling Bar Maid by Lisa Rahman, printed by Graham Bignell.

Take a look at all our shots from the show on Alistair’s Flickr set. The show is open daily from 10-6, running from now until 24 December, then re-opening from 4 to 22 January 2011.

Nobrow

We trundled over to Great Eastern Street yesterday to have a chat to the folks at Nobrow about a rather exciting project we’re working on (more on that mighty soon), and to check out their lovely shop, which opened in the summer.

Nobrow has fingers in various tasty pies: there’s Nobrow Press, the small independent publishing company which specialises in low edition illustrated books; Nobrow Small Press which creates extremely limited edition screenprinted books; a magazine (called Nobrow, naturally enough); and now the shop, which stocks all their publications, as well as a range of delicious silk-screened prints.

We particularly like Jack Teagle’s Jeff: Job Hunter, the story of a man who’s forced to retrieve the skull of the half-man half-beast from the dungeon of terror, just so that he can claim his job-seeker’s allowance.

Lovely stuff.

100 Years of Iconic Posters

This looks like it could be an interesting talk: London Transport Museum’s Senior Curator Claire Dobbin is giving a talk, 100 Years of Iconic Posters, at Covent Garden’s new Apple Store, on Wednesday 27 October. “The illustrated talk will show highlights from a century of outstanding design, which transformed the Tube into London’s longest art gallery. Featured artists include Man Ray, Graham Sutherland, Howard Hodgkin and Sir Peter Blake.”

The poster above is The Lure of the Underground by Alfred Leete, from 1927.

(Thanks to Alex for the heads up.)

The Art of War

We were doing a bit of research this morning, and stumbled across a really fantastic archive of wartime poster art and illustration, courtesy of the National Archives’ Art of War online exhibition. There’s a wealth of beautiful stuff on display, featuring a lot of original artwork, including Patrick Keely’s 1940s Road Safety poster (above), a Carless Talk Costs Lives poster by Reeves (below left), and Reginald Mount’s Hawker Hurricane poster (below right).

That then reminded us to post about (and order our own copy of) Paul Rennie’s rather lovely book Modern British Posters, published recently by Black Dog Press, which features a vast range of 20th Century British posters, including the three below.

Mmmm. Posters.