Author Archives: Rick Poynor

Observer: A Report from the Place Formerly Known as Graphic Design

I am in a darkened room queuing behind other people at the back of a building that was once an air-raid shelter in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. We have been instructed to pick up a torch from a basket and look around, but there are so many people pressed into the small space that all the...

Design as Dictator

Is it time to put away the apps and leave a bit more to chance?   Illustration by Philipp Hubert A few months ago, I arranged to meet a designer friend to go to an art opening. Neither of us had visited the gallery before, and I had looked at a map to memorize...

The Complex Bonds Between Design and Surrealism

  This article appears in the August issue of Print.     I have my former English teacher, Mr. Taylor, to thank for my interest in surrealism. During one class, he described Salvador Dalí’s 1931 painting The Persistence of Memory, which is in the Museum of Modern Art collection. I was 14. The soft...

The Missing Critical History of Illustration

  How seriously should we take illustration? I pose the question in this potentially offensive way because I often wonder how seriously illustration takes itself.      Let me say at once that I have always gained a lot of pleasure from illustration. After studying art history, examining the illustrated image was not a...

Observer: We need more galleries that exhibit graphic design

  Exhibition showing the work of James Joyce at Kemistry Gallery, London   On the rare occasions that an exhibition of graphic design appears, it’s a safe bet that one complaint will always be heard. Graphic design, someone will say, just doesn’t work in a gallery. It isn’t art and it can’t possibly be...

Observer: Melt in Your Mouth

Robert Opie’s obsession with packaging began as a teenager, and he remembers the exact day—September 8, 1963—as well as the reason. He was traveling in Scotland and bought a pack of Mackintosh’s Munchies, a chocolate-covered sweet with a caramel and biscuit center, from a vending machine.   “It suddenly dawned on me, while consuming...

Observer: The Life of the Seoul

In the summer of 2008, I was invited to give a week of lectures to a design class in South Korea. Several students were scheduled to make brief presentations at the end of the week on subjects they had been researching, and we had a preliminary chat about the direction their talks were taking....

Observer: Perfect Ten (Or Twelve)

To a certain cast of mind—a cast shared by many designers—lists of preferences are fascinating. Lists offer information in its most elemental form. There is no explicit linkage between the items, no explanation or opinion. Everything comes down to selection and juxtaposition. How do these items relate to each other? Why choose this item...

Observer: Sexy Nextness

There was a time when I was obsessed with the new. The most obvious reason for this is that all journalists are obsessed with what’s new(s). That’s our job. It doesn’t matter how great today’s story is; tomorrow there must be a new one, and another, and another. None of this would be necessary...

Observer: Warm Regards

As I write this in October, there are strong reasons to think that we have arrived at the tipping point of global awareness about climate change and the need to act as a matter of urgency. A recent BBC World Service international survey of more than 22,000 people in 21 countries found that a...