Rick Poynor


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.


Rick Poynor: BookNo More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism
Rick Poynor
Laurence King Publishing/Yale University Press, 2003; new edition, 2013

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The past thirty years have seen profound changes in the field of graphic communication. As the computer became a ubiquitous tool, there was an explosion of creativity in graphic design; designers and typographers jettisoned existing rules and forged experimental new approaches. No More Rules is the first critical survey to offer a wide-ranging overview of the graphic revolution during the postmodern period.

The book tells this story in detail, breaking down a broad, multifaceted field of design activity into key developments and themes: the origins of postmodern graphic design; deconstructionist design and theory; issues of appropriation; the revolution in digital type; questions of authorship; and critiques of postmodern graphic design. Each theme is illustrated by spectacular and significant examples of work produced between 1970 and 2000 that changed the way in which designers and their audiences think about graphic communication.

“In the hurly-burly world of design publishing, where word-counts are minimal, and ‘never before published’ images are reputed to be what the punters want, it’s a treat to be presented with such a tightly constructed narrative.”
— Liz Farrelly, Blueprint

“Poynor eases us through the theoretical forest with lucid prose and his profound knowledge of the history of graphic design.”
— Adrian Shaughnessy, Creative Review

“The most comprehensive collection of graphic design work under the rubric of postmodernism yet... Poynor’s undertaking brings clarity to a confusing subject.”
— Armin Vit, Speak Up

“Indispensable... Beautifully printed and bound, lavishly illustrated, comprehensive, and important... Highly recommended.”
— Choice

Rick Poynor: BookUncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design
Rick Poynor
Moravian Gallery, 2010

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Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design, curated by Poynor for the Moravian Gallery in Brno, in the Czech Republic, is the first major exhibition to explore the influence of Surrealism on graphic image-making and graphic design.

The catalogue, like the exhibition, is divided into thematic sections: Birth of the Marvelous; The Polymorphous Image; The Surreal Body; Cabinets of Wonder; and The Liberated Letterform. The book includes work by Karel Teige, Jindřich Štyrský, Jan Švankmajer, Josef Vylet’al, Roman Cieslewicz, Jan Lenica, Franciszek Starowieyski, Bronislaw Zelek, M/M (Paris), Andrzej Klimowski, Vaughan Oliver, Quay Brothers, Elliott Earls, Edward Fella, Jonathon Rosen, and many others.

Most graphic design conforms to an underlying grid, a sense of structure and good taste, which brings order but also imposes limits. The images and designs collected in Uncanny break free from these restrictions and follow the impulses of a wayward, subjective, dreamlike logic to arrive at their own kind of equilibrium and form. They show that graphic design can also sometimes be a place to encounter the strange, the fantastical and the uncanny, to rediscover our lost sense of mystery, and to experience the convulsive beauty and capacity for enchantment and wonder that the Surrealists called “the marvelous.”

Rick Poynor: BookJan van Toorn: Critical Practice
Rick Poynor
010 Publishers, 2008

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Jan van Toorn is one of the most significant and influential Dutch graphic designers to have emerged since the early 1960s. While graphic design often does little more than give unthinking visual form to the status quo, Van Toorn focused on meaning rather than smooth stylistic expression and developed critical alternatives to the usual design world conventions.

Van Toorn aligned himself with the reflexive tradition of art and communication exemplified by Brecht and Godard. His designs persistently call attention to their status as visual contrivances, obliging the viewer to make an effort to process their complexities. Van Toorn wanted the public to measure the motives of both the client and the designer who mediates the client’s message against their own experiences of the world. He hoped in this way to stimulate a more active and skeptical view of art, communication, media ownership and society.

“Rick Poynor’s essay provides a thoughtful analysis of the designer’s work that helps the reader to make sense of it... Van Toorn is first and foremost a designer, and in that capacity he is well served by this outstanding survey of his illustrious career.”
— Victor Margolin, Print

“This book is not only a commendable contribution to design history but a rare example of a graphic design monograph that celebrates forms and comprehensively presents a body of work that is deeply engaged in issues of social consciousness.”
— Peter Bil’ak, Eye

“This monograph is more than a record of fascinating career. Van Toorn’s output is dissected with the insight and attention to detail only a justly lauded design critic like Poynor could manage. An excellent addition to any designer’s library.”
— Step Inside Design

Rick Poynor: BookDesigning Pornotopia: Travels in Visual Culture
Rick Poynor
Laurence King Publishing/Princeton Architectural Press, 2006

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Design is the new recreation. Compulsively visual and tactile, it offers a realm of sensual gratification based on luxurious interiors, magical technology, trendy graphics, and shops built like temples. Poynor’s third collection of essays about design and visual culture directs a critical eye at brands, billboards, magazines, architecture, tattoos, and trends in cosmetic surgery. Along the way he considers Björk’s cyber-image, Rem Koolhaas’s “junkspace”, Stefan Sagmeister’s fame, W.G. Sebald’s photographs, and book cover interpretations of J. G. Ballard’s Crash.

A key target is the pervasiveness of sexual imagery in the marketplace and the media’s symbiotic relationship with porn. Poynor shows how commerce exploits the blurring of art and advertising, and paints a vivid, not always comfortable picture of where 21st-century design culture is heading. Designing Pornotopia challenges the climate of mediocrity that dominates much of our commercial environment, highlights alternatives, and considers the way forward.

“Cultural theorists so often come up with sexy-sounding ideas and then kill them dead with dull writing. Not Rick Poynor, whose latest book... is a collection of sharp essays that move from our obsession with sex to interviews with Rem Koolhaas and discussion about the rekindling of our affair with modernism.”
— The Guardian

“Poynor’s delivery is fluid, surprisingly visual, emotional, tough where he needs to be, yet sensitive generally. He offers us food for thought with no intellectual arrogance (damn him) or dictatorial solutions or answers.”
— Blueprint

“Hugely varied content... a bit like National Geographic on speed... rewarding as a thought-provoking insight into the fast-changing nature of today’s creative culture — exciting and energetic but troubling as well.”
— DAMn

“Poynor’s prose is witty and direct, his ideas provocative, and his observations utterly on the mark.”
— Metropolis

“Poynor’s writing is vigorously intelligent.”
— Financial Times

Rick Poynor: BookCommunicate: Independent British Graphic Design since the Sixties
Edited by Rick Poynor
Laurence King Publishing/Yale University Press, 2004

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Communicate explores the work of British graphic designers who maintain their independence as a key principle. It examines the influence of youth culture, pop music and new wave aesthetics on design from the 1960s to the present. Featured projects range from era-defining early classics to the work of today’s leading design teams, including album covers, concert posters, political protest posters, typeface projects and signs, and designs for books, magazines, and film.

Focusing on work from small, highly motivated studios where creative freedom is paramount, Communicate includes projects by more than 80 outstanding designers, including Derek Birdsall, Ken Garland, Neville Brody, Why Not Associates and Graphic Thought Facility. An introduction by Poynor and essays by other contributors trace how and why British graphic design has developed as it has, and interviews with 15 designers — Richard Hollis, Julian House and Margaret Calvert among them — provide insider views on the design world.

“As an exhibition, Communicate was a glorious reflection of British design’s progress. The book captures the spirit of that undertaking, adding rich background details and critical insight to the history.”
— Print

“An inside look at how an aesthetic deeply influenced by popular culture, fine art, and fashion has evolved... The reader will come away with a clearer understanding of the power, reach, and eloquence of visual communication... A valuable reference not only for graphic design libraries but also for collections that seek titles exploring the history and language of visual communication.”
— Library Journal

Rick Poynor: BookObey the Giant: Life in the Image World
Rick Poynor
Birkhäuser, 2001

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In the 21st century, commerce and culture are ever more closely entwined. This collection of essays takes a searching look at visual culture to discover the reality beneath the ultra-seductive surfaces. Obey the Giant explores the thinking behind the emerging resistance to commercial rhetoric among designers, and offers critical insights into the changing dialogue between advertising and design.

Other essays address the topics of visual journalism; brands as religion; the new solipsism; graphic memes; culture jamming; death in the image world; the pleasures of imperfection; and the poverty of “cool”. The worldwide dominance of huge corporations is invariably expressed by visual means. Obey the Giant challenges this monoculture by offering inspirational evidence of alternative ways of engaging with design.

“An articulate and poignant set of essays... Poynor is a sensitive, often brilliant writer on visual design in graphics, advertising and commercial visual culture.”
— Art Monthly

“His eloquence, intellectual rigor, and ability to penetrate to the heart of complex cultural issues with surgical precision have won him many admirers... a must-read for anyone with an ounce of interest in widening his understanding not just of design and brands, but of the nature of the contemporary world.”
— Print

“A lucid analysis of the current situation... Poynor claims the right to a design criticism comparable to that of literature or film.”
— Domus

“A terrific book. Essential. After you’ve read it, you really can’t look at the world in the same way, which is also one definition of art.”
— Douglas Coupland

Rick Poynor: BookTypographica
Rick Poynor
Laurence King Publishing/Princeton Architectural Press, 2001

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Typographica magazine (1949-1967), founded, edited and designed by the renowned British typographer Herbert Spencer, was one of the most extraordinary and distinctive arts publications of the last 60 years. It was unusual for its originality of editorial vision and for its exceptional standards of design and production.

Spencer’s magazine played a pivotal role in introducing modernist approaches into British graphic design, but it was most remarkable for the eclectic synthesis of its subject matter. Alongside groundbreaking articles on modernist pioneers and examples of the new typography and design, Spencer showed traditional printing history, vernacular images from the city and street, and avant-garde innovation in the fine arts. Typographica’s boundary-blurring approach anticipated many of the preoccupations of contemporary designers, artists and cultural commentators.

“A long overdue assessment of what is arguably the most influential design and typographical magazine ever produced... Poynor’s thorough book is worthy testament to Spencer’s energy and vision, and should find its way on to the bookshelves of any designer worth their salt.”
— Graphics International

“It would be hard to find anyone better placed than Poynor to write this long overdue book... [he] brings to his study a keen familiarity with the nuts and bolts of graphic practice, and a thorough understanding of the wider issues.”
— Eye

“A superb account of Typographica and its brilliant editor Herbert Spencer. A must for anyone interested in design history.”
— Victor Margolin

“A loving dissection of an influential journal.”
— Wallpaper*

Rick Poynor: BookDesign Without Boundaries: Visual Communication in Transition
Rick Poynor
Booth-Clibborn Editions, 1998

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In the late 1990s, it was widely recognized that art and design were moving closer together — that design in at least some of its forms was taking on the characteristics of art. Poynor’s first collection of essays, gathering a decade of critical journalism, documents and analyses these controversial developments. Design Without Boundaries assesses the work of Neville Brody, Peter Saville, Studio Dumbar, 8vo, David Carson, Irma Boom, Jonathan Barnbrook, Tomato, and many others, and traces the development of ideas about authorship in graphic design and applied image-making back to the 1960s and earlier.

“No British writer has done more to promote graphic design as a subject of interest and importance... The clarity of the writing and the author's evident passion make it an illuminating entry into contemporary graphic design.”
— Patrick Cramsie, “Top 10 Graphic Design Books,” The Guardian

“Poynor has made a substantial and undeniable contribution to the fledgling discipline that is design journalism/criticism/theory/history...  Design Without Boundaries is a much needed document... Poynor shows us how visual/textual analysis is to be done... a self-motivated investigation into how acts of reading, writing, looking, image-making and designing generate experience and/or understanding.”
— Liz Farrelly, Blueprint

“One of the elder statesmen of design criticism... an informative, inspiring and entertaining read.”
— Graphics International

Rick Poynor: Book The Designer as Author, Producer, Activist, Entrepreneur, Curator & Collaborator: New Models of Communicating
Steven McCarthy
BIS Publishers, 2013

An interview with Rick Poynor appears in this book.

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Rick Poynor: Book Multiple Signatures: On Designers, Authors, Readers and Users
Michael Rock 2 x 4
Rizzoli, 2013

Two dialogues with Rick Poynor about design criticism appear in this book.

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Rick Poynor: Book Notes from the Cosmic Typewriter: The Life and Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard
Edited by Nicola Simpson
Occasional Papers, 2012

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book:
"DSH's Typestracts: Horizons and Spirit Levels"

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Rick Poynor: Book The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art
Edited by Octavia Reeve
Royal College of Art, 2012

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book:
"The Useful Art of Graphic Design"

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Rick Poynor: Book The Transdisciplinary Studio
Alex Coles
Sternberg Press, 2012

An interview with Rick Poynor appears in this book.

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Rick Poynor: Book Stedelijk Collection Reflections
Edited by Jan van Adrichem and Adi Martis
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam/nai010 Publishers, 2012

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book:
"Utopian Image: Politics and Posters"

Read the essay here on Design Observer

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Rick Poynor: Book 39 Steps to the Genius of Hitchcock
Edited by James Bell
British Film Institute, 2012

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book:
"Step Thirty-One: Graphic Images"

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Rick Poynor: Book Writing and Research for Graphic Designers: A Designer's Manual to Strategic Communication and Presentation
Steven Heller
Rockport, 2012

An interview with Rick Poynor and an essay appear in this book:
"The Death of the Critic"

Read the essay here

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Rick Poynor: Book Graphic Design: History in the Writing, 1983-2011
Edited by Sara De Bondt and Catherine de Smet
Occasional Papers, 2012

A dialogue with Rick Poynor and an essay appear in this book:
"A Critical View of Graphic Design History"
Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies"

Read the dialogue here on Design Observer
Read the essay here on Design Observer

Rick Poynor: BookPostmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990
Edited by Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt
V&A Publishing, 2011

Two essays by Rick Poynor appear in this book:
“Big Magazines: Design as the Message”
“True Stories: A Film about People Like Us” 

Read the "True Stories" essay here on Design Observer

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Rick Poynor: BookDutch Design Yearbook 2010
Edited by Antoine Achten et al
NAi Publishers, 2010

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book.
"Agency or Studio? The Dutch Graphic Design Dilemma"

Read the essay here on Design Observer

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Rick Poynor: BookNow is the Time: Art & Theory in the 21st Century
Edited by Jelle Bouwhuis et al
NAi Publishers, 2009

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book.

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Rick Poynor: BookDesign in Britain
Edited by Deyan Sudjic
Conran Octopus, 2009

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book.

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Rick Poynor: BookDesign and Art
Edited by Alex Coles
Whitechapel and MIT Press, 2007

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book.
"Art's Little Brother"

Read the essay here

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Articles + Essays

This list is regularly updated with both new and older writing available online.


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


Photo Critique: Empathy and Doubt in Arles
Eye, July 2013

See all Eye Critique columns

Observer: Picture This
Print, April 2013

See selected Print Observer columns


Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read
Designers & Books, 2011

Notable Books of 2011
Designers & Books, 2011

Notable books of 2012
Designers & Books, 2012

Screen Prints: 1960s Posters from the Royal College of Art
Eye, 2013

Critique: Commitment to Content (on Criterion Collection covers)
Eye, June 2011

Critique Commentary (Criterion Collection cover images)
Eye, June 2011

Interview with Robin Kinross
Eye, 2011

Metahaven: Borderline
Eye, 2009

Love of Lexicons
Eye, 2010

Critique: Graphic and Grotesque
Eye, 2012

Surrealism and Design, Part 1: Dark Tools of Desire
Eye, 2007

Eye, 2011

Eye, 2011

The Death of the Critic
Icon, 2006

Presented at Looking Closer: AIGA Conference on Design History and Criticism, 2001 

The Graphic Grab

The Guardian, 2004

The Soul of Design
Icon, 2006

Down with Innovation
I.D., 2008

Observer: Raging Bull
Print, 2005

Creative Review, 2010 

Creative Review, 2009

Creative Review, 2006 

First Things First Revisited
Emigre, 1999

Design Conferences: Time We Demanded More?
Creative Review, 2008

Canonical Design: Absolutely the “Worst”
Eye, 2008

We Need More Galleries
Print, 2010

In Praise of the Imperfect
Graphis, 2000

Critique: British Posters – All Mouth and Trousers?
Eye, 2010

Collapsing Bulkheads: The Covers of Crash
Ballardian, 2007

Henry Cohen: The Shape of a Pocket
Eye, 2011

Henry Cohen: Bright Idées
Eye, 2011

Richard Hamilton: Typotranslation
Eye, 2000

Herbert Spencer: Obituary
The Guardian, 2002

Romek Marber: Penguin Crime
Eye, 2004

Romek Marber: Survivor
Eye, 2010

Germano Facetti: Underneath the Covers
The Guardian, 2006

Metropolis, 2005

Will Burtin: Forgotten Master of Design
Creative Review, 2007

Unimark: When Designers Wore Lab Coats
Creative Review, 2009

Tibor Kalman: Obituary
The Independent, 1999

Tibor Kalman: Maintaining Tiborocity
Print, 2002

Edward Fella: Out There
Frieze, 1992

Elliott Earls: A Designer and a One Man Band
Eye, 2002

Graham Rawle: Paste-up Ladies
Eye, 2005

Stefan Sagmeister: Brilliant, Engaging, But Modest It’s Not
Metropolis, 2008

Reza Abedini: A Man Apart
Creative Review, 2007

Look Inward: Graphic Design in Australia
Eye, 2002

Public Speaking

As a speaker about design, visual culture and visual communication, Rick Poynor aims to challenge, provoke, inform and inspire.

The subjects of recent talks include design ethics and responsibility, design thinking and critical design, the possibilities of visual writing, curating and criticism, the potential of the art and design interface, and the relationship between Surrealism and the graphic image — a continuing research project.

Poynor has given public lectures and taken part in speaking events in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States.

A regular visitor to the USA, he has been invited to talk in many cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.

To arrange a lecture or other event, email Rick Poynor.


Dom Sylvester Houédard (Letters in Space)
Lecture, May 2013, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK

The Space of the Page: Some Possibilities of Visual Writing
Lecture, April 2013, Christine Brooke-Rose: Remade symposium, Royal College of Art, London, UK

What Does Design Criticism Want? (And Who Wants Design Criticism?)
Keynote lecture, April 2013, Blunt: Explicit and Graphic Design Criticism Now, AIGA conference, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Writing with Pictures
Lecture, April 2013, School of Visual arts, New York, USA

Dom Sylvester Houédard (Letters in Space)
Lecture, March 2013, Bold Italic, conference, Ghent, Belgium

Writing with Pictures
Lecture, November 2012, Personal Views series, Escola Superior de Artes e Design, Porto, Portugal

The Inescapable Politics of Design
Lecture, October 2012, Graphic Knowledge Fair, conference, Warsaw, Poland

Films within Films: The Evolution of Hitchcock's Titles
Lecture, September 2012, Hitchcock & Design, study day, British Film Institute, London, UK

Uncanny: Surrealism and the Graphic Image
Lecture, May 2012, Grafist 16, conference, Istanbul, Turkey

Uncanny: Surrealism and the Graphic Image
Lecture, March 2012, Blokovi, Belgrade, Serbia

Uncanny: Surrealism and the Graphic Image
Lecture, March 2012, Zgraf 11, conference, Zagreb, Croatia

Postmodern Legacy
Panel about graphics (with Glenn Adamson and Teal Triggs), October 2011, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

We the Undersigned: A Manifesto about Manifestos
Lecture, October 2011, School of Visual Arts, New York, USA

What Could We Mean by Design as Politics?
Conference keynote lecture, September 2011, Cumulus conference hosted by RMCAD, Denver, Colorado, USA

In Beauty We Trust?
Panel (with Stefan Wagner, Cornel Windlin, Catherine Hug, Wendelin Hess), June 2011, The Most Beautiful Swiss Books, Helmhaus, Zurich

Uncanny: Surrealism and the Graphic Image
Lecture, June 2011, OFFF Year Zero, conference, Barcelona, Spain

Graphic Design in the Netherlands: Wim Crouwel in Context
Lecture, May 2011, Design Museum, London, UK

Is Curating the New Editing?
Lecture, May 2011, Graphic Design: History in the Making, conference, St Bride Library, London, UK

Wim Crouwel and Mels Crouwel
Interview, March 2011, Design Museum, London, UK

Redesigning Design
Lecture, February 2011, Making/Crafting/Designing: Perspectives on Design as a Human Activity, conference, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany

Art and Design: Friends or Foes?
Panel (with Alex Coles, Scott King, Matthew Darbyshire), February 2011, Saatchi Gallery, London, UK

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design
Lecture, January 2011, Pompidou Centre, Paris, France

Bureau or Studio? The Dutch Graphic Design Dilemma
Panel (with Max Bruinsma, Tirso Francés, Luna Maurer, Antoine Achten), December 2010, Items Live, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Vortex of Signs: The Typographic Experiments of the 1990s Reassessed
Lecture, November 2010, Conceptual Type — Type Led by Ideas, conference, Copenhagen, Denmark

All Art Aspires to the Condition of Music (or vice versa)
Lecture, September 2010, annual Birket Williams lecture series, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, USA

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design
Lecture, June 2010, International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno, conference, Brno, Czech Republic

First Things . . . When Exactly?
Lecture, May 2010, Respons_ability: Ethics and Sustainability in Design Education, AIGA conference, Toledo, Ohio, USA

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design


Guest curator: Rick Poynor
Moravian Gallery curator: Marta Sylvestrová
Exhibition design: Šárka Ziková
Exhibition graphics: Adam Machácek and Sébastien Bohner

Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic
23 June to 24 October 2010

Kunsthal, Rotterdam, Netherlands
24 September to 4 December 2011

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design, conceived and curated by Poynor for the Moravian Gallery in Brno, is the first major exhibition to explore the influence of Surrealism on graphic image-making and graphic design. Featuring more than 250 items — posters, prints, books, magazines, record sleeves, typefaces and films — Uncanny investigates the profound impact of Surrealist ideas and images on visual communication from the 1930s to the present.

The exhibition presents this material in seven sections. “Birth of the Marvelous” uncovers the origins of Surrealist design. “The Polymorphous Image” shows diverse examples of fantastical transformation. “The Surreal Body” focuses on treatments of anatomy, including the body in fragments and the eye. “Cabinets of Wonder” traces the influence of the Wunderkammer on graphic image-making. “Obscure Objects of Desire” considers the portrayal of woman as Surrealist muse. In “The Liberated Letterform” the alphabet assumes bizarre new shapes and words become as malleable and potent as other kinds of surreal image. “Dream Cinema” shows short films made by graphic artists under the spell of Surrealism.

Uncanny includes images and designs by Karel Teige, Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen, Jindřich Heisler, Jan Švankmajer, Eva Švankmajerová, Josef Vylet’al, Karel Teissig (Czechoslovakia); Roman Cieslewicz, Jan Lenica, Franciszek Starowieyski, Bronislaw Zelek (Poland); M/M (Paris), Marion Bataille, Laboratoires CCCP (France); Andrzej Klimowski, Vaughan Oliver, Quay Brothers, Graham Rawle (UK); Elliott Earls, Brian Schorn, Edward Fella, Jonathon Rosen (US), and many others.

This cornucopia of images shows that graphic design, too, can sometimes be a place to encounter the strange, the fantastical and the uncanny, to rediscover our lost sense of mystery, and to experience the convulsive beauty and capacity for enchantment and wonder that the Surrealists called “the marvelous.”

Uncanny is available to tour internationally from Barbican International Enterprises.

Uncanny, Moravian Gallery

The Polymorphous Image: sculpture by Jan Švankmajer (foreground)

The Polymorphous Image

The Polymorphous Image: The Secret by Andrzej Klimowski (main wall)

The Surreal Body: Laboratoires CCCP and Stefan Sagmeister (main wall)

Cabinets of Wonder

Obscure Objects of Desire: Galerie by Bohumil Štěpán

Photographs: Moravian Gallery

Uncanny, Kunsthal

Exhibition entrance and title

The Polymorphous Image: collages (left) and sculpture by Jan Švankmajer

The Polymorphous Image: posters by Franciszek Starowieyski

The Surreal Body and Cabinets of Wonder

The Liberated Letterform: Les manifestes du surréalisme designed by Pierre Faucheux

The Liberated Letterform: alphabet by Roman Cieslewicz used on Ray Gun by David Carson

Photographs: Kunsthal

Other Exhibitions


Guest curator: Rick Poynor

Kemistry Gallery, London
11 September to 31 October 2009

Typographica (1949-1967), founded, edited and designed by the renowned British typographer Herbert Spencer, was one of the most extraordinary and distinctive arts publications of the past 60 years. The magazine was unusual for its originality of editorial vision and for its exceptional standards of design and production. Spencer’s boundary-blurring approach anticipated many of the preoccupations of contemporary designers, artists and cultural commentators.

This exhibition at Kemistry Gallery in London was the first to focus on Typographica since the 1960s. It set out to evoke the experience of turning the magazine’s exquisitely constructed pages by presenting key page sequences and, in some cases, entire articles. Three thematic sections explored Spencer’s principal concerns as editor. “The Camera as Pen” examined his use of photography both as subject matter and as a tool for “writing” the magazine. “The Liberated Page” looked at his commitment to experimental typography and page design. “Lettering, Print, Ephemera” focused on examples of traditional printing history and vernacular material shown in Typographica’s pages.




Photographs: Rick Poynor

Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design since the Sixties

Guest curator: Rick Poynor
Barbican Art Gallery curator: Jane Alison
Exhibition design: Azman Associates
Exhibition graphics: Nick Bell

Barbican Art Gallery, London
16 September 2004 to 23 January 2005

Guangzhou Museum of Art, Guangzhou
29 April to 15 May 2005

Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre, Shanghai
2 June to 19 June 2005

Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing
29 July to 14 August 2005

The China Millennium Monument, Beijing
16 September to 9 October 2005

Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich
18 March to 7 May 2006

Communicate, created by Poynor for the Barbican Art Gallery in London, explored the work of British graphic designers who maintain their independence as a key principle. The exhibition, featuring more than 500 items, offered the first panoramic survey of the huge impression made by these communicators on the visual landscape of Britain in the past 50 years.

Communicate was organized in seven sections: Publishing, Arts, Music, Politics and Society, Identity, Self-Initiated Projects, and Web Design. Featured projects, many of them iconic designs, included record sleeves for Led Zeppelin, Sex Pistols, New Order and Primal Scream; book designs for Penguin, Faber and Monty Python; graphic identities for the Biba department store, BBC2, Big Brother and Paul Smith; magazines such as Oz, Nova, Time Out and i-D; protest posters for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Anti-Nazi League; and websites for The Guardian and Donnie Darko.

The exhibition celebrated the achievements of British designers as diverse as Alan Fletcher, John Sewell, Ken Garland, Derek Birdsall, Raymond Hawkey, Richard Hollis, Robert Brownjohn, Margaret Calvert, Michael English, Hipgnosis, Pearce Marchbank, Katy Hepburn, David King, Barney Bubbles, Peter Saville, Neville Brody, The Designers Republic, Tomato, Fuel, Graphic Thought Facility, Lucienne Roberts, Julian House, Daniel Eatock, Åbäke, Scott King, and many others.





Photographs: Barbican Art Gallery


With a mission is to champion humanity-centered design, emphasizing the rights and well-being of all people and the shared ecosystem we call “the earth,  the Don Norman Design Award and Summit (DNDA) is now open for applications.

This Friday, March 1—to kickoff Women's History Month—Mellissa Huber, co-curator of the exhibition Women Dressing Women, will moderate a conversation at the Metropolitan Museum in New York on fashion, accessibility, sustainability, and design. Panelists include designer and educator Grace Jun, and the event will be livestreamed on the museum's YouTube channel.

Some seventy contemporary artists from the Middle East and North Africa are presenting the heritage of Arab design at the inaugural Design Doha Biennial, which began on February 24. “Recognizing that there are far too few platforms in our region for designers to present their work." observes Qatar Museums Chair Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, “the inauguration of Design Doha is a testament to the excellence and innovation of our region's design community”.

“Now and then, Mica Levi’s nearly absent score of serrated synthesizers rears up and snags your ear like a loop of razor wire, with long trails of reverb left hanging in the air like plumes of black smoke.” How sound design reaches in and grabs the senses, without letting go.

The creative minds at Swift Creatives are designing security systems that look like art. They call this sculptural surveillance.

Sara Little Turnbull was tiny but fierce (she stood a not-very-towering 4'11). The designer once described as “corporate America's secret weapon” was a leading practitioner for more than six decades, and remains an inspiration to countless women in design, technology, and (notably) in science. On her podcast, Lost Women of Science, American journalist Katie Hafner discusses the woman, the legend—and the N-95 mask.

Following President Biden's  2021 executive order to transform the customer experience, agencies have been rethinking how they can create organizational change and best practices—even at NASA—where design is leveraged in an effort to both build and sustain trust.  

In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer. During a biopsy, a sample of her cancerous cells were collected without her knowledge. Education around Lacks has increased recently, and a statue and historical marker were dedicated to her last year in her birthplace of Roanoke. Now, a statue design contest is underway: they'll be accepting submissions until March 15. 

Goodbye war rooms, corner offices and—yikes—physical libraries, which have allegedly “gone the way of the landline and the Dictaphone” in law offices. Post-pandemic, with remote and hybrid work on the rise, a more collaborative, equitable spatial allocation means a more flexible, and some say more productive workplace. 

Can design be a catalyst for societal progress? Asmita Kerkar thinks it can. Her design philosophy is hinged on nurturing spaces that foster empathy and facilitate community engagement, grounded in a commitment to sustainability and inclusivity. She channels her passion into creating equitable environments, bridging the gap between design and social change

I love it. What is it?

Following the light. Letting the actors move. Envisioning—and sculpting—a mood. Jack Fisk, the production designer behind There Will Be Blood, The Revenant, and Killers of the Flower Moon, among many other award-winning films, explains it all

Tyler Perry puts the planned $800 million expansion of his studio in Atlanta on hold after seeing OpenAI’s text-to-video model Sora, which debuted Feb. 15. “Being told that it can do all of these things is one thing, but actually seeing the capabilities, it was mind-blowing,” he said. With AI, there’s no need to travel to locations or build specialized sets. The future impacts are concerning, he says. “[A]s I was looking at it, I immediately started thinking of everyone in the industry who would be affected by this, including actors and grip and electric and transportation and sound and editors, and looking at this, I’m thinking this will touch every corner of our industry.”

The racism in the yield curve: Groundbreaking research from Destin Jenkins, an assistant history professor at Stanford University, reveals how the $4 trillion municipal bond market has historically excluded Black taxpayers and disproportionately benefited infrastructure projects in white communities. (Jenkins’s research focuses on the American state, racial capitalism, and the built environment; you can watch him explain his research in a recent fireside chat with bond professionals here.)

Tesla is recalling 2.19 million vehicles because of a problem with a font. If you don’t think design matters at this point, you can’t be helped.

There’s a lot of plastic hidden in our clothes. Like, a lot.

Singapore is set to require all flights departing the country to use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2026.

What’s in a label? Well, the truth, mostly. Lawsuits filed against  Gorton’sALDIConagraBumble Bee Foods, Mowi, and Red Lobster are challenging Big Fish to back up the sustainability and eco-friendly labels they put on their seafood products and brands. “From what I see, there’s a good chance at least some of the companies defending themselves are engaging in false advertising, although they may not realize what they’re doing,” says Arlin Wasserman, the founder of sustainability consultancy Changing Tastes.

Nex Benedict, a transgender teen from Oklahoma, died the day after their peers assaulted them in a school bathroom. They had been bullied for ages, but the assaults began in earnest a few months after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill in 2022 that required public school students to use bathrooms that matched the sex listed on their birth certificates. This piece from the Independent provides essential context for the assault and details of Benedict’s life.

Chatbot versions of Adolph Hitler, Donald Trump, and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski are among 100 chatbot “characters” on the busy far-right social network Gab. Most of the characters are playing to type, spewing conspiracies about COVID-19, vaccines, U.S. elections, climate change, Holocaust denial, and more. It goes downhill from there.

“People came here or already lived here, young people with lots of energy and ideas and ideals who wanted to start things,” observes Syd Staiti, Executive Director of Small Press Traffic, a Bay Area poetry organization and archive. They're turning 50 this year—and they're not alone! Bravo to all the hard-working artists and arts organizations on this list—and here's to the next 50.

Self-disruption allows companies to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating and responding to changing market dynamics rather than reacting defensively; it fosters a culture of innovation, encouraging employees to think creatively and take calculated risks; and it can even open new revenue streams and markets, ensuring long-term sustainability. Sam Aquillano, the former Executive Director of the Design Museum in Boston, explains it all.

In New Jersey, the ballot is structured in a way that favors endorsed candidates. Three candidates are making a persuasive case on why this might be a critical design problem.

TikTok has become a target of parents, policymakers and regulators who are concerned about the company’s data-collection practices and the platform’s effect on young people’s mental health—including whether there is a risk for addictive design.

Australia's first moon rover rover will collect samples of lunar soil known as regolith, from which NASA will attempt to extract oxygen — a key step toward establishing a sustainable human presence on the moon and producing rocket fuel to support future missions to Mars. And they need design help.

Thai graphic designer Chalermpol Jittagasem has created a new typeface family to help immigrants improve their English pronunciations. “I've seen so many Asian Americans subjected to truly cruel shaming for speaking English with a strong accent and incorrect pronunciation, even though they, like me, are living in the most diverse state in the US,” he says. 

Design Justice AI was announced in 2023; the Global Humanities Institute is sponsored by the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes and the Mellon Foundation and is a partnership of four university-based centers at Rutgers, University of Pretoria, Australia National University, and University of Connecticut. Things are gearing up for a summer meeting in Pretoria; bookmark and follow along. 

Marsha Ann Maytum, founding principal of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (LMSA) and longtime champion of environmental, social, and justice causes, has died at 69. “Her quiet, tenacious brand of leadership is notable, especially in a profession where ego often proliferates,” says architect Kim Gould.  “It is as if her enormous humility gave her a change maker superpower, to the point that thinking ‘what would Marsha do’ is something others actually do.”

“But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean.” Miranda Priestly, the deliciously vicious fashion editor from The Devil Wear Prada, will be back in the U.K. spotlight in a new musical adaptation of the novel and film from Elton John. Vanessa Williams will be playing the devil herself

Restoration AI? Architects and designers have been using AI to help manage large data sets and visualize ideas for better decision-making. But can AI tools also help assess structural damage in aging infrastructure and underresourced communities? 

Jobs | February 29