• Steven Heller

The Daily Heller: A Memorial Day for Ken Garland (1929–2021)

Ken Garland, who in 2020 was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Medal at the London Design Festival for his "significant contribution to the development of graphic design since the mid–20th century," died on May 20 at 92.

Photo by Marc Eckhardt

The 2020–2021 pandemic year has taken its direct and indirect toll. Fortunately, Garland lived to be honored for his life of work, which included a redesign of the ubiquitous Nuclear Disarmament symbol, and authoring (alongside 20 other designers, photographers and students) the original "First Things First" manifesto—a reaction to the staunch society of 1960s Britain, calling for a return to a humanist aspect of design (and leading to a second FTF in 1999). Also, fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet and correspond with him a few times.


By way of a memorial on this Memorial Day, I am republishing a brief Daily Heller item titled "A Garland for Garland," which I wrote on Jan. 31, 2013, upon the publication of his first—and only—monograph. Suffice to say, he was a major presence in this world in which graphic design can be a powerful tool.


Ken Garland: Structure and Substance by Adrian Shaughnessy (Unit Editions)

From that post:


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 Shaughnessy's publishing company, Unit Editions), did I truly KNOW him and his enviable body of work.


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 60 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.





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