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Graphics RCA: Fifty Years


The Royal College of Art is staging an exhibition of graphics from its archives from 1963-2013 and, last night, I attended a lecture by Alan Kitching and gallery tour by Adrian Shaughnessy organised by Creative Review.

It was an evening of inspiration and here are 5 things that struck a cord:

1. Head, Heart and Hand
Alan Kitching mentioned this in his lecture and it sums up the three tools a designer needs. A head to solve the problem and forge a strategy; a heart to bring emotion to the work; and a hand to craft the idea into a powerful piece of communication.

2. Break Free
Anyone who’s been to art school will have heard this mantra a thousand times. But how many of us have followed it into our professional lives? Jonathan Barnbrook’s experimental font, Bastard, is a family of blackletter forms reinterpreted for the screen. You can see the poster here. After leaving the college, other fonts he designed had similarly anarchic monikers and unexpected style: Moron, Sarcastic, Shock & Awe … you get the picture.

3. Concept First
One of the most famous images on display is a pair of huge red lips and drooling tongue. Based on a brief to design something around the Indian god, Kali. John Pasche seized upon the god’s expression and designed The Rolling Stones logo while still a student in 1971. According to Pasche, his time at the RCA taught him “to come up with a concept and a strong idea first, and put an emphasis on a kind of… classical simplicity. It you look at the tongue you can see I tried to make it as simple as possible.”

Which leads to the next point:

4. Pare it back
The poster by Peter Hale for the Bob Gill talk (with pride of place as ‘featured image’ on this post) is a triumph of good typography and visual economy which allows the copy-writing to take centre stage. The most successful work in the exhibition, for me, looked effortless and almost invisible as a design.

5. Smile
I can see why Ray Gregory’s work featured in the design bible, “A Smile in the Mind“. His poster, “Taste the Blood of Dracula”, says it all in a Heinz Tomato Ketchup bottle. I can’t find a link to it online so here it is for your delectation:


‘Taste the Blood of Dracula’ by Ray Gregory

Graphics RCA: Fifty Years is on until 22 December 2014.


Author: Sophie

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