A Garland for Garland (Ken)

Sometimes you can know a person but not really KNOW that person. I have known or known of the veteran British designer Ken Garland for ages. But not until now, with the publication of his stunning monograph, Ken Garland: Structure and Substance by Adrian Shaughnessy, through his publishing company, Unit Editions, did I truly KNOW him and his enviable body of work.

Ken Garland: Structure and Substance

Ken Garland: Structure and Substance

My introduction to Garland was as an agent provocateur, the author in 1964 of the first First Things First Manifesto, which attempted to radicalize designers who were lazily serving the more dubious needs of consumerist culture. It gave rise to the 2000 version (which I signed).  I knew Garland for his anti-nuke and anti-war work, and as the quintessential troublemaker, a role I admired, rather than as a world class midcentury modern designer, which he was. I had no exposure to his exceptional identity work for Galt Toys, his covers for Design magazine, or his various geometric improvisational pieces for the Everyman label of RCA Records.

Ken Garland by Marc Eckhardt

Ken Garland by Marc Eckhardt

Monographs may not always be critical, but they certainly are definitive, more or less. Paradoxically, First Things First does not seem to be mentioned at all. But work spanning over sixty years—graphic design, logos, photos, books—and a useful, concise biography round out the portrait of this octogenarian’s life in design that I now have the pleasure of knowing.

CND Easter March, 1962

CND Easter March, 1962

Galt Toys, 1975

Galt Toys, 1975

1963_Design

Design, 1963

"A Word In Your Eye," 1994

“A Word In Your Eye,” 1994

St. Pancras Poster, 1965

St. Pancras Poster, 1965

1959_Architectural_Review

Architectural Review, 1959

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Shaughnessy,

    Accept my humble apologies, I did not see the reference on page 39. That’s what happens when you look in the Index first. It was left out. But the references are there. And you are right, FTF has been hashed over quite a bit.

  2. Thanks for generous and copiously illustrated appraisal of my book on Ken Garland. You say: ‘Paradoxically, First Things First does not seem to be mentioned at all.’ Not so. It is mentioned in the opening paragraph, discussed in the chapter The Ethical Designer, and both the original 1963 version, as well as the 2000 version, are reproduced.’ I even urge people to read it carefully, because it is not quite the document that popular design folklore dictates. You might be right to expect more on FTF, but it is the one aspect of Ken’s work that has been extensively discussed.
    Yrs fondly,