The Daily Heller: Eye 100 in 2020 Focus
I can recall being in Den Haag, The Netherlands, for a posh design conference in 1990—what seems like a million years ago—talking with Rick Poynor about a new design magazine he was about to launch. "Would you write for it?" he asked with the solemnity of an Oxford don but the hair of a hipster/punk. Being a sucker for the well-mannered English accent, I said, "You name it, I'll write it," and so began a 30-year relationship with one of the most readable and elegant magazines about graphic design.
It's hard to accept that we've reached the milestone of 100 issues (when many of the designers reading this were barely alive or not yet born) of this quarterly journal and that I've contributed to around 80 of them. It is harder still to realize that out of the various print design magazines I've contributed to or edited over this period, Eye is the only survivor. What's more, under the editorship of John Walters and design leadership of Simon Esterson, the current owners of the magazine, it has not simply retained its high standards of editorial and design impeccability but has grown with (and even ahead of) the times through which the design practice has evolved.
If this sounds hyperbolic, it is! But it is not! In Rick Poynor's closing piece in Eye 100 he notes that Eye entered a world when writing about graphic design writing was indeed mostly about professional self-promotion. While Eye certainly showcased (and often raised the reputations of) designers, it has done so in a manner that sheds light on context with an eye toward chronicling history. While it looks to the past, it focuses on the present with vision toward the future.
Eye 100 is not a self-referential history of Eye (even Poynor's origin story is brief). Yes, it is a special issue, but rather than pat itself or, worse, the graphic design field, on the back, Eye explores the international realm of design as a cultural wellspring. Rather than attempt to belabor with a timeline of contemporary practice, which would be the first instinct at hitting 100, this issue is a fresh reporting of contemporary makers and thinkers (with nods to history where that history impacts and intersects the present). As usual, much of these features introduce people and work previously unknown in my particular bubble. This is Eye's greatest virtue: It does not fly in familiar orbits; it takes different trajectories and discovers unknown or forgotten stars.
Just because it marks a major anniversary, Eye 100 is not a period (full stop) or end, but the 100th example of a virtuoso periodical and what has made this magazine essential to understanding, appreciating and embracing the particular arts and crafts it so diligently, entertainingly and insightfully covers.