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Rick Poynor

Rick Poynor is a British writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, media, photography and visual culture. He is Visiting Professor in Design Criticism and Research Methods at the postgraduate Royal College of Art in London.

He was the founding editor of Eye magazine in London, which he edited from 1990 to 1997, and he has contributed the “Critique” column to Eye since 1999. He has written a regular column for Print magazine since 2000. His articles, essays and reviews have appeared in I.D., Metropolis, Harvard Design Magazine, Adbusters, Blueprint, Icon, Frieze, Creative Review, Etapes, Domus, The Guardian, Financial Times and many other publications. In 2003, he was a co-founder of Design Observer.

Poynor’s first book, with the artist Russell Mills, was More Dark Than Shark (1986), a study of Brian Eno. Typography Now: The Next Wave (1991), the first survey to document the new digital typography, became an international bestseller. Poynor’s books about design and the visual arts include Vaughan Oliver: Visceral Pleasures (2000); Typographica (2001); No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism (2003); Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design Since the Sixties (2004); and Jan van Toorn: Critical Practice (2008). He has published three collections of his essays and cultural criticism: Design Without Boundaries (1998); Obey the Giant: Life in the Image World (2001); and Designing Pornotopia (2006).

He has contributed essays and chapters to many publications, among them Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture (2005); Looking Closer Five: Critical Writings on Graphic Design (2006); Design and Art (2007); Colors Notebook: Violence (2008); Now is the Time: Art & Theory in the 21st Century (2009); Design in Britain (2009); Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990 (2011); Stedelijk Collection Reflections (2012); The Transdisciplinary Studio (2012); Notes from the Cosmic Typewriter: The Life and Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard (2012); and Multiple Signatures (2013).

In 2004, he was curator of a major survey exhibition, “Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design since the Sixties”, at the Barbican Art Gallery, London. The show travelled to China and Switzerland. In 2009, he curated “Typographica” at the Kemistry Gallery, London. His most recent exhibition, “Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design”, the first international and historical survey of this subject, ran at the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic, in the summer of 2010 and at the Kunsthal, Rotterdam, in fall 2011.

Poynor was a Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Art (1994-1999) and a Research Fellow at the college (2006-2009). He has also taught at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht. He is a frequent lecturer and has spoken about design and visual culture at public events, conferences and design schools throughout Europe, the United States, Australia, and China.

In 2007, he was a featured interviewee in the hit documentary Helvetica.

Contact Information:
rpoynor [at]

Posts by Rick Poynor

DESIGN OBSERVER: Posters by Hans Hillmann for Jean-Luc Godard’s Films (09.16.14)
OBSERVATORY: Tracking the Locations of J.G. Ballard’s Super-Cannes (09.02.14)
OBSERVATORY: The Mysteries of France:
A Gothic Guidebook
OBSERVATORY: The Body as Factory: Anatomy of an Image (06.11.14)
OBSERVATORY: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Typewriter (05.28.14)
OBSERVATORY: The Conceptual Advertising of J.G. Ballard (04.17.14)
OBSERVATORY: The Filmic Page: Chris Marker’s Commentaires (03.22.14)
OBSERVATORY: From the Archive: Surface Wreckage (02.14.14)
OBSERVATORY: Why Tatlin Can Never Go Home Again (02.04.14)
OBSERVATORY: The Compulsively Visual World of Pinterest (01.13.14)
OBSERVATORY: Martin Sharp: People, Politics and Pop (01.03.14)
OBSERVATORY: The Writings of William Drenttel (12.28.13)
OBSERVATORY: Martin Sharp: From Satire to Psychedelia (12.06.13)
OBSERVATORY: Collage Culture: Nostalgia and Critique (11.11.13)
OBSERVATORY: Belgian Solutions: The True State of Things? (10.30.13)
OBSERVATORY: From the Archive: Brian Eno, Artist of Light (10.15.13)
OBSERVATORY: New York: City of Spectacular Doors (10.10.13)
OBSERVATORY: Bohumil Stepan’s Family Album of Oddities (09.16.13)
OBSERVATORY: Bohumil Stepan’s Gallery of Erotic Humor (09.07.13)
OBSERVATORY: The Hotel that Dreamed It Was a Museum (08.29.13)
OBSERVATORY: Collage Now, Part 1: Sergei Sviatchenko (08.22.13)
OBSERVATORY: Collage Now, Part 2: Cut and Paste Culture (08.22.13)
OBSERVATORY: Keld Helmer-Petersen: Pioneer of Color (08.15.13)
OBSERVATORY: David Maisel and the Apocalyptic Sublime (08.09.13)
OBSERVATORY: Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism (07.29.13)
OBSERVATORY: The Incidental Pleasures of Street Art (07.10.13)
OBSERVATORY: Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 2 (07.02.13)
OBSERVATORY: Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 1 (06.26.13)
OBSERVATORY: From the Archive: Upgrade Yourself! (06.20.13)
OBSERVATORY: The Irresistible Attraction of Self Storage (06.02.13)
OBSERVATORY: The Conceptual Posters of Boris Bucan (05.15.13)
OBSERVATORY: The Age of Wire and String Rebooted (05.09.13)
OBSERVATORY: On the Trail of The Eater of Darkness (04.27.13)
OBSERVATORY: The Practical Virtue of Works That Work (04.08.13)
OBSERVATORY: Utopian Image: Politics and Posters (03.10.13)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: Fin de Copenhague (03.05.13)
OBSERVATORY: The Experiential Thrill of Driving in Films (02.22.13)
OBSERVATORY: A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image (02.15.13)
OBSERVATORY: Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers (01.26.13)
OBSERVATORY: Socialism and Modernity: A Hidden History (01.15.13)
OBSERVATORY: On My Screen: Shooting the Past (01.03.13)
OBSERVATORY: Dom Sylvester Houédard’s Cosmic Typewriter (12.09.12)
OBSERVATORY: Herbert Spencer and the Decisive Detail (11.30.12)
OBSERVATORY: Robert Brownjohn: Photos at Street Level (11.18.12)
OBSERVATORY: True Stories: A Film about People Like Us (10.23.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic (10.14.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Museum of Communicating Objects (10.05.12)
OBSERVATORY: Demonstrations, Democracy and Design (09.24.12)
OBSERVATORY: Why the Activist Poster is Here to Stay (09.15.12)
OBSERVATORY: John Stezaker: Images from a Lost World (09.09.12)
OBSERVATORY: It’s Smart to Use a Crash Test Dummy (09.02.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter (08.26.12)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: André Breton’s Nadja (08.19.12)
OBSERVATORY: Sending Signals about Political Graphics (08.09.12)
OBSERVATORY: Pierre Faucheux and Le Livre de Poche (07.30.12)
OBSERVATORY: Design a Cover for Eno’s Music for Films (07.06.12)
OBSERVATORY: What Does Critical Writing Look Like? (06.28.12)
OBSERVATORY: Updating the Maps of Graphic Design History (06.18.12)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: A History of the Machine (06.07.12)
OBSERVATORY: From the Archive: Graphic Metallica (05.31.12)
OBSERVATORY: Jan van Toorn: The World in a Calendar (05.23.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Strange Afterlife of Common Objects (05.15.12)
OBSERVATORY: Career Prospects in the Pain Business (05.02.12)
OBSERVATORY: Studio Culture: The Materialism of Matter (04.26.12)
OBSERVATORY: Phil Sayer, Designer of Photo-Portraits (04.19.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Closed Shop of Design Academia (04.13.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Enduring Influence of Richard Hollis (04.06.12)
OBSERVATORY: On Display: Museum of Broken Relationships (03.29.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Covers of J.G. Ballard’s Crash: An Update (03.23.12)
OBSERVATORY: Typographic Stories of the City Streets (03.09.12)
OBSERVATORY: Motif Magazine: The World Made Visible (03.02.12)
OBSERVATORY: John McHale and the Expendable Ikon (02.26.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Unspeakable Pleasure of Ruins (02.18.12)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: A Classic by Berger and Mohr (02.08.12)
OBSERVATORY: The Evil Genius of David Shrigley (01.31.12)
OBSERVATORY: In Response to An Anatomy of Uncriticism (01.27.12)
OBSERVATORY: Ernst Haas and the Color Underground (01.19.12)
OBSERVATORY: Read All That? You Must be Kidding Me (01.09.12)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: Jean-Luc Godard Anthologized (01.01.12)
OBSERVATORY: How We Learned to Live with Zombies (12.23.11)
OBSERVATORY: Saul Leiter and the Typographic Fragment (12.16.11)
OBSERVATORY: Another Design Voice Falls Silent (12.11.11)
OBSERVATORY: Man in a Bowler: Illustration after Magritte (12.01.11)
OBSERVATORY: How to Cover an Impossible Book (11.25.11)
OBSERVATORY: The Infinite Warehouse of Images (11.17.11)
OBSERVATORY: Literary Horror from the Chapman Brothers (11.10.11)
OBSERVATORY: This Post has Been Declared a Link-free Zone (11.03.11)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: Continuum’s 33 1/3 Series (10.28.11)
OBSERVATORY: On Display: The Kirkland Museum (10.22.11)
OBSERVATORY: Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern? (10.16.11)
OBSERVATORY: Should We Look at Corrosive Images? (09.29.11)
OBSERVATORY: Jan Svankmajer and the Graphic Uncanny (09.22.11)
OBSERVATORY: Richard Hamilton, the Great Decipherer (09.15.11)
OBSERVATORY: A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice (09.09.11)
OBSERVATORY: Chris Foss and the Technological Sublime (09.01.11)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: The Metallization of a Dream (08.25.11)
OBSERVATORY: Funerary Portraits: Snapshots in Stone (08.17.11)
OBSERVATORY: From the Archive: Raging Bull (08.09.11)
OBSERVATORY: From the Archive: Down with Innovation (08.02.11)
OBSERVATORY: Andrzej Klimowski: Transmitting the Image (07.27.11)
OBSERVATORY: J.G. Ballard’s Terminal Documents (07.21.11)
OBSERVATORY: The House That Design Journalism Built (07.13.11)
OBSERVATORY: The Dictionary as Art Concept (07.06.11)
OBSERVATORY: Speculative Fiction, Speculative Design (06.28.11)
OBSERVATORY: On the Threshold of Sebald’s Room (06.22.11)
OBSERVATORY: Lost Inside the Collector’s Cabinet (06.14.11)
OBSERVATORY: Is That a Gun in Your Pocket? (06.06.11)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: Stefan Lorant’s Lilliput (06.01.11)
OBSERVATORY: A Dream World Made by Machines (05.26.11)
OBSERVATORY: Unearthly Powers: Surrealism and SF (05.19.11)
OBSERVATORY: Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read (05.10.11)
OBSERVATORY: Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion (05.07.11)
OBSERVATORY: On My Screen: The Back of Beyond (04.28.11)
OBSERVATORY: Wim Wenders’ Strange and Quiet Places (04.21.11)
OBSERVATORY: Stewart Mackinnon: Ruptured and Remade (04.12.11)
OBSERVATORY: Starowieyski’s Graphic Universe of Excess (04.07.11)
OBSERVATORY: Wim Crouwel: The Ghost in the Machine (04.01.11)
OBSERVATORY: An Unknown Master of Poster Design (03.25.11)
OBSERVATORY: Slicing Open the Surrealist Eyeball (03.18.11)
OBSERVATORY: What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like? Part 2 (03.11.11)
OBSERVATORY: The Secret History of the Edgelands (03.04.11)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: Richard Neville’s Playpower (02.22.11)
OBSERVATORY: Solitude in Dark Trees (02.15.11)
OBSERVATORY: A Journal with No Fear of Flying (02.10.11)
OBSERVATORY: What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like? (02.04.11)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: Nairn‘s London (01.27.11)
OBSERVATORY: Discovered by Chance in a Paris Arcade (01.23.11)
OBSERVATORY: In Praise of the East European Film Poster (01.14.11)
OBSERVATORY: Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies (01.10.11)
OBSERVATORY: How to Chew Gum while Walking (01.07.11)
OBSERVATORY: Surrealism in the Pre-School Years (12.30.10)
OBSERVATORY: W.G. Sebald: Writing with Pictures (12.21.10)
OBSERVATORY: Everything has Become Science Fiction (12.17.10)
OBSERVATORY: Agency or Studio? The Dutch Design Dilemma (12.16.10)
OBSERVATORY: The Impossibility of an Island (12.10.10)
OBSERVATORY: On My Screen: Bill Morrison’s Decasia (12.03.10)
OBSERVATORY: Where Is Art Now? (12.01.10)
OBSERVATORY: Rethinking Conceptual Type Design (11.22.10)
OBSERVATORY: What Does H. P. Lovecraft Look Like? (11.11.10)
OBSERVATORY: Adventures in the Image World (11.05.10)
OBSERVATORY: Danzig Baldaev’s Prison House of Flesh (11.05.10)
OBSERVATORY: Design Writing from Down Under (11.05.10)
OBSERVATORY: On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation (11.05.10)
OBSERVATORY: An App for the Self-Replacing Book (11.05.10)
OBSERVATORY: Barney Bubbles: Optics and Semantics (12.18.08)
OBSERVATORY: We Found It at the Movies: Part I (06.16.08)
OBSERVATORY: We Found It at the Movies: Part II (06.16.08)
OBSERVATORY: A Critical View of Graphic Design History (06.02.08)
OBSERVATORY: Lost America: The Flamingo Motor Hotel (02.17.08)
OBSERVATORY: Dancing to the Sound in Your Head (04.03.07)
OBSERVATORY: Emigre: An Ending (11.10.05)
OBSERVATORY: Where Are the Design Critics? (09.25.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Guardian’s New European Look (09.19.05)
OBSERVATORY: Sublime Little Tubes of Destruction (08.20.05)
OBSERVATORY: Vladimir’s House and Garden of Earthly Delights (07.27.05)
OBSERVATORY: We Are All Editors Now. Or Are We? (07.01.05)
OBSERVATORY: In Memoriam: My Manual Typewriter (06.16.05)
OBSERVATORY: Mevis and Van Deursen: Rueful Recollections, Recycled Design (06.03.05)
OBSERVATORY: But Darling of Course it’s Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve (05.20.05)
OBSERVATORY: Getting Louder: Chinese Design on the March (05.05.05)
OBSERVATORY: Eduardo Paolozzi, 20th Century Image-Maker (04.24.05)
OBSERVATORY: Wisconsin Death Trip: A Psychic History (04.05.05)
OBSERVATORY: Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot (03.21.05)
OBSERVATORY: Why Architects Give Me the Willies (03.13.05)
OBSERVATORY: The Ikea Riot: Unsatisfied Excess? (02.12.05)
OBSERVATORY: The I.D. Forty: What Are Lists For? (01.09.05)
OBSERVATORY: Who's In and Who's Out of the Dictionary (11.11.04)
OBSERVATORY: Fear and Loathing at the Design Museum (10.29.04)
OBSERVATORY: Britain and America: United in Idiocy (07.31.04)
OBSERVATORY: Where are the Design Intellectuals? (07.03.04)
OBSERVATORY: Modernising MoMA: Design on Display (06.06.04)
OBSERVATORY: Critics and Their Purpose (04.23.04)
OBSERVATORY: Theory with a Small "t" (04.17.04)
OBSERVATORY: How to Say What You Mean (04.09.04)
OBSERVATORY: The Two Cultures of Design (04.03.04)
OBSERVATORY: Jan van Toorn: Arguing with Visual Means (03.21.04)
OBSERVATORY: Bruce Mau: The Aura of Power (02.28.04)
OBSERVATORY: Neville Brody Revisited (02.11.04)
OBSERVATORY: Stephen Gill: Behind the Billboard (01.11.04)
OBSERVATORY: Notes on Experimental Jetset (12.21.03)
OBSERVATORY: Adbusters in Anarchy (12.11.03)
OBSERVATORY: Remember Picelj (12.02.03)
OBSERVATORY: Missing Sleeve Notes (11.24.03)
OBSERVATORY: Unnecessary Revival (11.16.03)
OBSERVATORY: Those Inward-looking Europeans (11.09.03)
OBSERVATORY: It's a Man's World (11.02.03)