Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. His latest book is Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design. He is Visiting Professor in Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art, London.


Statement

This is a blog about visual culture. It reflects my interests, enthusiasms, concerns and bêtes noires across the spectrum of visual phenomena.

Naturally, I’ll be observing design here, but the blog won’t be held hostage by that task. It can’t be. The area of design that preoccupies me most ― communication design ― is usually a means to an end. It exists in relation to something else. It’s a communicative surface, a connective tissue: the visible part of an object or experience that pulls in the viewer or reader.

We can’t begin to assess graphic communication without also taking an interest in the enterprises and subject matter that it bolsters and interprets. It was my passion for the media to which design gives form ― books, magazines, art, music, and films ― that led me to design in the first place. I became fascinated by the extra dimension of meaning that good design can supply, and aware of the many ways that poor design can hamstring otherwise notable projects.

So expect to find items here about photography, film, art, illustration, collage, visual literature and popular culture, and unusual museums, as well as graphic design topics.

I have always been interested in forms of visual communication that fall between strict definitions of art and design. There will be plenty of unapologetic boundary hopping and shameless category collisions in these pages, too.

The more commerce attempts to corral and confine design and the image world for its own purposes, the more we need to seek out, savor and support work that connects with areas of experience other than lifestyle, consumerism and celebrity ― work that is awkward, offbeat, difficult, socially challenging, strange or fantastical, and that offers vital mind- and spirit-sustaining alternatives to the insidious corporate monoculture.

If any of this sounds like your kind of thing, then please jump aboard.

Rick Poynor
Illustrations by Bohumil Štěpán for Crazy Fairy Tales

Rick Poynor
Posters by Hans Hillmann for Jean-Luc Godard’s Films
09.16.14

Rick Poynor looks at the work of a master of cinematic graphic design


Rick Poynor
Tracking the Locations of J.G. Ballard’s Super-Cannes
09.02.14

A photo-essay on the futuristic marina and business park in the south of France that inspired Ballard’s disquieting fantasy about corporate crime


Rick Poynor
The Mysteries of France:
A Gothic Guidebook

Rick Poynor
The Body as Factory: Anatomy of an Image

Rick Poynor
Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Typewriter
05.28.14

Typewriters are making a comeback and, as a wide-ranging new survey book shows, so is typewriter art.


Rick Poynor
The Conceptual Advertising of J.G. Ballard
04.17.14

J.G. Ballard’s conceptual ads anticipated the emergence of culture jamming, subvertising, design fiction and speculative design.


Rick Poynor
The Filmic Page: Chris Marker’s Commentaires
03.22.14

The French director Chris Marker’s book Commentaires is as innovative as book design as his documentaries are as films.


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Surface Wreckage

Rick Poynor
Why Tatlin Can Never Go Home Again
02.04.14

Raoul Hausmann’s photomontage Tatlin at Home is much pinned on Pinterest, but what has become of the original?


Rick Poynor
The Compulsively Visual World of Pinterest
01.13.14

I have always liked Pinterest’s exclusively visual focus and unlimited boards structure. A week ago I joined.


Rick Poynor
Martin Sharp: People, Politics and Pop

Rick Poynor
The Writings of William Drenttel
12.28.13

Essays from the Design Observer archive show the wide scope of William Drenttel's interests and concerns.


Rick Poynor
Martin Sharp: From Satire to Psychedelia

Rick Poynor
Collage Culture: Nostalgia and Critique
11.11.13

An interview with David Banash, author of Collage Culture: Readymades, Meaning, and the Age of Consumption.


Rick Poynor
Belgian Solutions: The True State of Things?
10.30.13

The foul-ups or “Belgian solutions” in a new book of street photographs are simply the way things are.


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Brian Eno, Artist of Light

Rick Poynor
New York: City of Spectacular Doors

Rick Poynor
Bohumil Stepan’s Family Album of Oddities
09.16.13

Bohumil Stepan’s Familienalbum presents a series of surreally equipped and irreverently modified collages of his family.


Rick Poynor
Bohumil Stepan’s Gallery of Erotic Humor

Rick Poynor
The Hotel that Dreamed It Was a Museum

Rick Poynor
Collage Now, Part 1: Sergei Sviatchenko
08.22.13

In a crowded field, Sergei Sviatchenko’s highly reductive photo-collages look like his own and no one else’s.


Rick Poynor
Collage Now, Part 2: Cut and Paste Culture

Rick Poynor
Keld Helmer-Petersen: Pioneer of Color
08.15.13

An accessible edition of Keld Helmer-Petersen’s 122 Colour Photographs, a landmark 1948 photobook.


Rick Poynor
David Maisel and the Apocalyptic Sublime

Rick Poynor
Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism

Rick Poynor
The Incidental Pleasures of Street Art
07.10.13

Sprawling, evolving, accreting: a collection of recent street art photos from Portugal and Spain.


Rick Poynor
Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 2
07.02.13

In the mid-1990s, Inkahoots became a graphic design studio with its sights set on social causes.


Rick Poynor
Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 1
06.26.13

The Australian design team Inkahoots is a model of community-based graphic design practice.


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Upgrade Yourself!

Rick Poynor
The Irresistible Attraction of Self Storage
06.02.13

Self storage centers are places of private and public fascination and I always knew that one day I would succumb.


Rick Poynor
The Conceptual Posters of Boris Bucan
05.15.13

Boris Bućan’s little known early posters, produced in Zagreb, were reductive, sharply defined, cerebral and enigmatic.


Rick Poynor
The Age of Wire and String Rebooted
05.09.13

Granta’s new edition of The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus is a landmark of experimental illustration.


Rick Poynor
On the Trail of The Eater of Darkness
04.27.13

The Eater of Darkness is a collision of science fiction, murder mystery, Surrealism and experimental typography.


Rick Poynor
The Practical Virtue of Works That Work
04.08.13

Works That Work magazine reclaims the word “creativity” from the stultifying embrace of branding culture and design thinking.


Rick Poynor
Utopian Image: Politics and Posters

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Fin de Copenhague
03.05.13

Asger Jorn and Guy Debord’s book Fin de Copenhague is a Situationist classic and a brilliant piece of design.


Rick Poynor
The Experiential Thrill of Driving in Films
02.22.13

A new book, Drive, shows how the car scenes in movies help us understand the experience of modernity.


Rick Poynor
A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image
02.15.13

An alphabetical guide to graphic designers influenced by Surrealism and to some key Surrealist concepts.


Rick Poynor
Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers
01.26.13

The Book of Numbers by Herbert and Mafalda Spencer was aimed at children, but its intriguing visual approach is more “photobook” than “schoolbook.”


Rick Poynor
Socialism and Modernity: A Hidden History
01.15.13

A new book documents the unfamiliar history of socialism and modernity in graphic design from former Yugoslavia.


Rick Poynor
On My Screen: Shooting the Past
01.03.13

Stephen Poliakoff’s Shooting the Past, set in a fictitious photo library, is a film that could haunt you for years.


Rick Poynor
Dom Sylvester Houédard’s Cosmic Typewriter
12.09.12

Dom Sylvester Houédard: Benedictine monk, champion of concrete poetry, and master of the “typestract.”


Rick Poynor
Herbert Spencer and the Decisive Detail

Rick Poynor
Robert Brownjohn: Photos at Street Level
11.18.12

The Victoria and Albert Museum has put 18 of Robert Brownjohn’s photographs on display for the first time.


Rick Poynor
True Stories: A Film about People Like Us

Rick Poynor
The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
10.14.12

Punk has two new graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw?


Rick Poynor
The Museum of Communicating Objects

Rick Poynor
Demonstrations, Democracy and Design
09.24.12

After demonstrations in 2011, Barcelonas Plaça de Catalunya became a carnivalesque village of protest.


Rick Poynor
Why the Activist Poster is Here to Stay

Rick Poynor
John Stezaker: Images from a Lost World

Rick Poynor
It’s Smart to Use a Crash Test Dummy

Rick Poynor
The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: André Breton’s Nadja

Rick Poynor
Sending Signals about Political Graphics
08.09.12

Issue two of Signal, a journal about the visual languages used around the world to support political protest.


Rick Poynor
Pierre Faucheux and Le Livre de Poche

Rick Poynor
Design a Cover for Eno’s Music for Films
07.06.12

LA architect John Bertram has set a competition to design an alternative sleeve for Music for Films by Brian Eno.


Rick Poynor
What Does Critical Writing Look Like?
06.28.12

A report on work by the first graduates from the Royal College of Art’s Critical Writing in Art & Design MA.


Rick Poynor
Updating the Maps of Graphic Design History
06.18.12

Graphic Design: History in the Writing is a heartening sign that graphic design history is attracting a new generation.


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: A History of the Machine

Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Graphic Metallica
05.31.12

Heavy metal’s extremity, as a set of aesthetic choices and as a way of life, exerts an enduring fascination.


Rick Poynor
Jan van Toorn: The World in a Calendar
05.23.12

Jan van Toorn’s provocative 1972/73 calendar for the printer Mart.Spruijt has been reprinted by a Dutch design company.


Rick Poynor
The Strange Afterlife of Common Objects

Rick Poynor
Career Prospects in the Pain Business
05.02.12

Freedom from Torture’s “torture recruitment ads deliver perfectly calculated moments of cognitive dissonance.


Rick Poynor
Studio Culture: The Materialism of Matter
04.26.12

Studio, print shop, dance club and store: a photographic essay on Matter's design HQ in Denver.


Rick Poynor
Phil Sayer, Designer of Photo-Portraits

Rick Poynor
The Closed Shop of Design Academia

Rick Poynor
The Enduring Influence of Richard Hollis

Rick Poynor
On Display: Museum of Broken Relationships
03.29.12

The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb is a public space consecrated to a universal experience of sadness and loss.


Rick Poynor
The Covers of J.G. Ballard’s Crash: An Update

Rick Poynor
Typographic Stories of the City Streets

Rick Poynor
Motif Magazine: The World Made Visible

Rick Poynor
John McHale and the Expendable Ikon
02.26.12

Artist, graphic designer, information theorist, architectural critic, sociologist, futurist: it’s time to rediscover John McHale.


Rick Poynor
The Unspeakable Pleasure of Ruins
02.18.12

“Ruin porn,” a reductive tag that makes any photograph of ruins seem suspect, ignores the cultural history of the ruin.


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: A Classic by Berger and Mohr
02.08.12

John Berger and Jean Mohr’s A Fortunate Man brilliantly fuses words and photos to examine a doctor’s life.


Rick Poynor
The Evil Genius of David Shrigley
01.31.12

British artist David Shrigley, subject of a major exhibition in London, is forever tempting and testing the viewer.


Rick Poynor
In Response to An Anatomy of Uncriticism

Rick Poynor
Ernst Haas and the Color Underground
01.19.12

Has Ernst Haas, an early master of color photography, received the credit his ground-breaking pictures deserve?


Rick Poynor
Read All That? You Must be Kidding Me

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Jean-Luc Godard Anthologized
01.01.12

Lawrence Ratzkin’s cover design for an early anthology about Jean-Luc Godard is almost an anti-cover.


Rick Poynor
How We Learned to Live with Zombies

Rick Poynor
Saul Leiter and the Typographic Fragment

Rick Poynor
Another Design Voice Falls Silent
12.11.11

As design criticism takes off as a branch of academic study, design publications such as Grafik keep closing.


Rick Poynor
Man in a Bowler: Illustration after Magritte

Rick Poynor
How to Cover an Impossible Book
11.25.11

Tadeusz Borowski’s book This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen poses a visual challenge for designers.


Rick Poynor
The Infinite Warehouse of Images
11.17.11

The more photos we collectively produce, the more ruthless we need to be about bestowing our attention.


Rick Poynor
Literary Horror from the Chapman Brothers

Rick Poynor
This Post has Been Declared a Link-free Zone
11.03.11

Links can greatly enrich an online text, but are they also a counterproductive distraction from reading?


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Continuum’s 33 1/3 Series
10.28.11

The 33 1/3 books about classic albums are a perfect example of how design can help focus an editorial idea.


Rick Poynor
On Display: The Kirkland Museum

Rick Poynor
Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?

Rick Poynor
Should We Look at Corrosive Images?
09.29.11

What do violent photographs of war do to us as viewers?


Rick Poynor
Jan Svankmajer and the Graphic Uncanny

Rick Poynor
Richard Hamilton, the Great Decipherer
09.15.11

The artist Richard Hamilton, who died this week, was an acute observer of design and the contemporary world.


Rick Poynor
A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice

Rick Poynor
Chris Foss and the Technological Sublime
09.01.11

Is cult science fiction artist Chris Foss’s work just highly effective illustration, or can it be seen as a visionary form of art?


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: The Metallization of a Dream
08.25.11

The best designed book about the artist Eduardo Paolozzi was compiled in 1963 by a student at the Royal College of Art.


Rick Poynor
Funerary Portraits: Snapshots in Stone

Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Raging Bull

Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Down with Innovation
08.02.11

Designers have too readily accepted the caricature of themselves as airheaded stylists. Visual form is a vital expression of culture.


Rick Poynor
Andrzej Klimowski: Transmitting the Image

Rick Poynor
J.G. Ballard’s Terminal Documents

Rick Poynor
The House That Design Journalism Built

Rick Poynor
The Dictionary as Art Concept

Rick Poynor
Speculative Fiction, Speculative Design

Rick Poynor
On the Threshold of Sebald’s Room

Rick Poynor
Lost Inside the Collector’s Cabinet
06.14.11

The Collector’s Cabinet at the Frederic Marès Museum in Barcelona is a mind-bending, sense-bedazzling palace of artifactual wonders.


Rick Poynor
Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Stefan Lorant’s Lilliput
06.01.11

Stefan Lorant’s use of photos in pairs could be wry, funny, bizarre, whimsical, satirical and not always kind.


Rick Poynor
A Dream World Made by Machines

Rick Poynor
Unearthly Powers: Surrealism and SF

Rick Poynor
Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read
05.10.11

The Designers & Books website has published my list of 20 indispensable books about graphic design.


Rick Poynor
Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion
05.07.11

For the late Paul Stiff, design educator, writer, editor and skeptic, typography must never neglect to serve the reader.


Rick Poynor
On My Screen: The Back of Beyond

Rick Poynor
Wim Wenders’ Strange and Quiet Places
04.21.11

The massive photographs in film director Wim Wenders’ new exhibition work best when they serve his painterly eye.


Rick Poynor
Stewart Mackinnon: Ruptured and Remade
04.12.11

Why, at the height of his early success, did a brilliant British illustrator decide to walk away and what happened next?


Rick Poynor
Starowieyski’s Graphic Universe of Excess
04.07.11

In Franciszek Starowieyski’s posters, desire, sexuality, monstrosity, madness and death conjoin in some of the most outrageous images found in graphic design.


Rick Poynor
Wim Crouwel: The Ghost in the Machine

Rick Poynor
An Unknown Master of Poster Design

Rick Poynor
Slicing Open the Surrealist Eyeball

Rick Poynor
What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like? Part 2
03.11.11

There is increasing interest in the relationship between the writer J.G. Ballard and the visual arts. Have Ballard’s admirers and critics overlooked the most Ballardian artist of them all?


Rick Poynor
The Secret History of the Edgelands
03.04.11

These transitional zones, places of “possibility, mystery and beauty,” can be found anywhere that urban development meets open land.


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Richard Neville’s Playpower
02.22.11

Martin Sharp’s cover design is a garden of queasily decadent delights where the joke is probably on the reader.


Rick Poynor
Solitude in Dark Trees
02.15.11

Was this structure the idle amusement of some loggers, or an art piece by someone at the academy nearby? Gingerly testing each rung, I climbed up into it.


Rick Poynor
A Journal with No Fear of Flying

Rick Poynor
What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like?

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Nairn‘s London
01.27.11

Inside the architecture critic Ian Nairn’s classic, idiosyncratic guide to London’s buildings and spaces.


Rick Poynor
Discovered by Chance in a Paris Arcade

Rick Poynor
In Praise of the East European Film Poster
01.14.11

Czech film posters of the 1960s are some of the most extraordinary graphic creations ever put on paper.


Rick Poynor
Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies
01.10.11

Graphic design history’s best chance of development now lies in an expanded conception of the rapidly emerging discipline of visual studies.


Rick Poynor
How to Chew Gum while Walking
01.07.11

We go round in circles but the central issue doesn’t change: what can a designer add to a project beyond fulfilling the client’s brief?


Rick Poynor
Surrealism in the Pre-School Years
12.30.10

A poet described postcards as a “Lilliputian hallucination of the world”: he must have seen the surreal babies.


Rick Poynor
W.G. Sebald: Writing with Pictures
12.21.10

How do the great German writer's notoriously tricky visual fictions compare with reality?


Rick Poynor
Everything has Become Science Fiction
12.17.10

Is science fiction's most crucial task to envision the future or to understand the present?


Rick Poynor
Agency or Studio? The Dutch Design Dilemma
12.16.10

Dutch graphic design, once so original and innovative, now looks increasingly similar to everyone else's graphic design.


Rick Poynor
The Impossibility of an Island
12.10.10

Atlas of Remote Islands might look like a celebration of distant paradises. Its beauty masks a darker purpose.


Rick Poynor
On My Screen: Bill Morrison’s Decasia
12.03.10

The avant-garde classic Decasia, assembled from decaying film stock, is a sublime vision of another reality.


Rick Poynor
Where Is Art Now?
12.01.10

Leaving the art world to decide what art is doesn’t resolve the issue of quality.


Rick Poynor
Rethinking Conceptual Type Design
11.22.10

In Copenhagen last week, the organizers of “Conceptual Type — Type Led by Ideas” posed the question: “Where are the idealistic fonts, the fonts that are frontiers of new belief?”


Rick Poynor
What Does H. P. Lovecraft Look Like?
11.11.10

In a gilded age of adaptations: films, TV series, theatrical productions, H. P. Lovecraft’s short novel At the Mountains of Madness, is re-envisioned for a new generation.


Rick Poynor
Adventures in the Image World
11.05.10

This is a blog about visual culture. It reflects my interests, enthusiasms, concerns and bêtes noires across the spectrum of visual phenomena.


Rick Poynor
Danzig Baldaev’s Prison House of Flesh
11.05.10

Fuel’s
Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia, which appeared in 2004, was a shrewdly judged piece of publishing. The meticulous ink drawings of tattoos made by Danzig Baldaev, a prison guard from 1948 to 1986, had a horrible fascination for viewers safe in the knowledge that they would never have to endure anything as harsh, perilous and sadistic as the Soviet penal system.

Rick Poynor
Design Writing from Down Under

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation
11.05.10

This post is the first in an occasional series. The idea is to revisit a book from my bookshelf.


Rick Poynor
An App for the Self-Replacing Book
11.05.10

British artist Tom Phillips’A Humument, must be one of the most successful artist’s books ever published. Now, in an entirely logical development, comes The Humument app for the iPad.


Rick Poynor
Barney Bubbles: Optics and Semantics
12.18.08

The intricately reflexive nature of his work made Barney Bubbles a true original in his time. No previous British designer had produced graphic communications this playful, personal, dense with allusion, or tricksy. Bubbles was a postmodernist before this new category of graphic design had been identified and defined, and he is as significant an innovator as his American contemporary April Greiman.


Rick Poynor
We Found It at the Movies: Part I
06.16.08

Rick Poynor: Looking back, it’s surprising how long we’d known each other before it emerged that we shared an obsession for film. 
Adrian Shaughnessy: Your obsession with film came as a surprise. Before lending you the Herzog box set I had you tagged as a visual arts man, not a cineaste.


Rick Poynor
We Found It at the Movies: Part II
06.16.08

The second installment of Rick Poynor and Adrian Shaughnessy’s conversation about film. Can genre movies express a personal vision? Are films blurring into other media? And what’s the state of film culture today?


Rick Poynor
A Critical View of Graphic Design History
06.02.08

Now comes yet another historical survey, Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide by Johanna Drucker and Emily McVarish. Denise Gonzales Crisp and Rick Poynor have been marking pages, making notes and exchanging views...


Rick Poynor
Lost America: The Flamingo Motor Hotel
02.17.08

I found this old photo in a box at the back of my attic. It shows a motel in Flagstaff, Arizona where I stayed for a couple of nights in May 1978. I was 20, it was my first visit to the US, and for three weeks I had been touring around on Greyhound buses.


Rick Poynor
Dancing to the Sound in Your Head
04.03.07

We might not appreciate advertising conducted like a saturation bombing campaign in public spaces. Yet now, to complicate things, the personal stereo is being used as a way of reasserting spontaneity, exuberance and passion in over-controlled public places.


Rick Poynor
Emigre: An Ending
11.10.05

Issue 69 of Emigre will be the last. In its heyday, it was the most consistently interesting design publication produced by anyone, anywhere. By 1990, it was one of those magazines you simply had to get hold of and read straight away.


Rick Poynor
Where Are the Design Critics?
09.25.05

There is no reason why design criticism shouldn’t take an oppositional view of design's instrumental uses and its social role, but few design writers seem motivated to produce this kind of criticism.


Rick Poynor
The Guardian’s New European Look
09.19.05

The Guardian's choice of the "Berliner" format, half-way between broadsheet and tabloid, is an inspired alternative. The paper is the first British title to adopt this European page size. Elegant, well-proportioned pages make its tabloid rivals look like poor relations.


Rick Poynor
Sublime Little Tubes of Destruction
08.20.05

In a culture otherwise swamped with unregulated branding, the graphic counter-attack on the cigarette packet, on its visual integrity as a design and its brand equity, normally regarded as commercially sacrosanct, is a remarkable sight to behold. In Europe, in the US and around the world, outsized health warnings in ugly typography now disfigure and subvert the best efforts of the brands' designers to embody the fast-fading allure of the cigarette.


Rick Poynor
Vladimir’s House and Garden of Earthly Delights
07.27.05

Spending two weeks in Vladimir Beck's house on the island of Vrnik in Croatia made me question, yet again, rigid distinctions between artist and designer. Here, it's impossible to separate the two. Beck has designed every feature with a high degree of thought for what might make a domicile located in such a setting pleasurable and practical to live in.


Rick Poynor
We Are All Editors Now. Or Are We?
07.01.05

Many designers aspire to be editors. But being an editor is not simply about choosing some things you like and throwing them together. Editing is about deep engagement with content and the construction of meaning.


Rick Poynor
In Memoriam: My Manual Typewriter
06.16.05

The fully evolved typewriter is a 20th-century industrial archetype. It feels inevitable, almost elemental, like one of those object types, such as a chair or a fork, that simply had to exist in this universe of forms.


Rick Poynor
Mevis and Van Deursen: Rueful Recollections, Recycled Design
06.03.05

In their self-edited monograph, Dutch graphic designers Mevis and Van Deursen turn their backs on their professed commitment to ideas and treat the book mainly as an opportunity for undemanding aesthetic play.


Rick Poynor
But Darling of Course it’s Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve
05.20.05

There have been collections of post-punk music and now, finally, there is British music critic Simon Reynolds' 500-page history of the genre from 1978 to 1984. It's a brilliant book. He argues that post-punk music's explosion of creativity equals the golden age of popular music in the mid-1960s, but that it has never received its full due. I think he's right.


Rick Poynor
Getting Louder: Chinese Design on the March
05.05.05

The “Get it Lounder” design exhibition in Shenzhen, billed as the first of its kind in China, reflected the lifestyle aspirations of its participants. Will Chinese design be able to confront social reality in more overtly critical ways?


Rick Poynor
Eduardo Paolozzi, 20th Century Image-Maker
04.24.05

If a visual artist created more concentrated, exhilarating images of science, technology and the media realm during the mid-20th century than British artist Eduardo Paolozzi, then I would like to see them. Paolozzi, who died on 22 April aged 81, was first of all a sculptor, but the screenprints he produced in the 1960s rank as masterpieces of the medium.


Rick Poynor
Wisconsin Death Trip: A Psychic History
04.05.05

Michael Lesy’s book Wisconsin Death Trip documented awful events in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, using a town photographer’s pictures. Years later, it remains a spellbinding piece of literary and photographic alchemy.


Rick Poynor
Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot
03.21.05

Dot Dot Dot is the most stimulating and original visual culture magazine produced by designers since Emigre's heyday in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.


Rick Poynor
Why Architects Give Me the Willies
03.13.05

No matter how central graphic communication might be to our lives, architecture always dominates press coverage because it is very expensive, expresses the conditions of power, and is just plain big.


Rick Poynor
The Ikea Riot: Unsatisfied Excess?
02.12.05

When Ikea threw open the doors of a new store in London, the result was mayhem as customers stampeded. Evidence of social breakdown, or a sign that the utopian argument for low-cost modernist design has been won?


Rick Poynor
The I.D. Forty: What Are Lists For?
01.09.05

How do we measure one kind of achievement in design against another to arrive at a ranking? The truth is we can’t. The real purpose of I.D.’s list was to underscore the magazine’s position as selector and taste-maker.


Rick Poynor
Who's In and Who's Out of the Dictionary
11.11.04

A Dictionary of Modern Design gives exemplary treatment to industrial designers, furniture designers, and the organisations that served them. Once again, though, graphic design emerges as the also-ran of design.


Rick Poynor
Fear and Loathing at the Design Museum
10.29.04

James Dyson has accused the Design Museum in London of ruining its reputation with frivolous exhibitions. For many bemused onlookers, his complaints were out of touch with evolving public perceptions of design.


Rick Poynor
Britain and America: United in Idiocy
07.31.04

What do Brits and Americans think of each other? In Us & Them, a book by the satirical British illustrator Paul Davis, the two countries have one thing in common: they are both equally stupid. That’s not saying much.


Rick Poynor
Where are the Design Intellectuals?
07.03.04

Prospect magazine has published a list of the 100 top British public intellectuals. A handful of visual art and architecture people make the cut, but no from design is included, reflecting its absence from public debate.


Rick Poynor
Modernising MoMA: Design on Display
06.06.04

MoMA is broadening its approach to graphic design. Recovering this material history will assist us in understanding our broader cultural history and help to educate a more aware generation of visual communicators.


Rick Poynor
Critics and Their Purpose
04.23.04

Pulling a 1960s art magazine from the shelf, I opened it at random to find a long list of thoughts about art criticism assembled in 1966 by students at the Royal College of Art in London. Many of these ideas apply to design.


Rick Poynor
Theory with a Small "t"
04.17.04

A critical writing determined by the need to shape practice will be limited in the cultural insights it can offer. This is the last thing that design writing needs when ways to engage a wider public could be opening up.


Rick Poynor
How to Say What You Mean
04.09.04

There is a crucial difference between subtle and complex ideas and needlessly convoluted forms of expression. The challenge now for design writing is to move outwards into a world in which design is everywhere.


Rick Poynor
The Two Cultures of Design
04.03.04

In the past 25 years, graphic design has separated into two distinct strands. On one side there is professional practice in all its forms; on the other a self-directed design culture that is finding a wider audience.


Rick Poynor
Jan van Toorn: Arguing with Visual Means
03.21.04

Jan van Toorn’s designs embody an idea about citizenship. They address viewers as critical, thinking individuals who can be expected to take an informed and skeptical interest in the circumstances of their world.


Rick Poynor
Bruce Mau: The Aura of Power
02.28.04

Bruce Mau has constructed a formidable mystique around himself as a designer whose concerns and apparent brainpower put him in a different league from most other visual communicators. How did he do it?


Rick Poynor
Neville Brody Revisited
02.11.04

Forget passing questions of fashion. When future assessments of graphic design in the 1980s are made, Neville Brody will emerge as one of the most considerable designers of the period, working anywhere.


Rick Poynor
Stephen Gill: Behind the Billboard
01.11.04

Designers are battlers against entropy: a vital task, but taking the long view, often a doomed, quixotic mission. Stephen Gill’s photographs, showing the disorderly zones behind billboards, offer a reality check.


Rick Poynor
Notes on Experimental Jetset
12.21.03

Experimental Jetset’s argument that design should have a certain autonomy and an inner logic separate from tastes and trends makes sense, but as a rationale for defaulting to Helvetica, is it convincing?


Rick Poynor
Adbusters in Anarchy
12.11.03

Adbusters’ once orderly pages are in a state of heaving agitation. The magazine seems to be seduced by the coolness of design as a gesture, even though this is part of the surface-fixated postmodernism it deplores.


Rick Poynor
Remember Picelj
12.02.03

The English-speaking world knows little about the design history of Communist Europe. Few will have heard of the distinguished Slovenian Ivan Picelj. His prints ask us to remember; they are full of yearning.


Rick Poynor
Missing Sleeve Notes
11.24.03

Nick de Ville’s Album: Style and Image in Sleeve Design is the best collection of album cover designs published to date. But where did all of this information come from, and why does he provide no references?


Rick Poynor
Unnecessary Revival
11.16.03

As a first-time enthusiast for American Typewriter, I was happy to see it pass into history. Resurrecting the typeface now that the typewriter has given way to digital technology is just nostalgia ― soft at the core.


Rick Poynor
Those Inward-looking Europeans
11.09.03

Three American design teachers visit London and the Netherlands. European designers, they say, are not paying attention to design history. Maybe the visitors are missing local factors and broader global issues.


Rick Poynor
It's a Man's World
11.02.03

Adam Parfrey’s book shows hundreds of men’s magazine covers from the 1950s painted by artists who specialized in depictions of tough guys abusing terrified women. Have we outgrown this kind of thing? Heck no.



Influences

J.G. Ballard
Walker Evans
Jean-Luc Godard
Richard Hamilton
Brassaï
Max Ernst
Eduardo Paolozzi
Susan Sontag

Books by Rick Poynor

Rick Poynor: Book

Rick Poynor: Book

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Interviews with Rick Poynor

Neshan, 2012
Thought Catalog, 2011
Designers & Books, 2011
Design Taxi, 2007
Emigre, 1995

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Exhibitions by Rick Poynor

Rick Poynor: Book

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Creative Opportunities
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