Fifty years of graphics at the RCA

The Royal College of Art is set to hold an exhibition showcasing work made by RCA students over the past 50 years.

The GraphicsRCA show will feature work by the likes of John Pasche, who designed the Rolling Stones lips logo as an RCA student in 1971, as well as RCA alumni such as Graphic Thought Facility, Morag Myerscough, A Practice for Everday Life and Troika.

The show is curated by RCA associate dean Teal Triggs, former tutor Richard Doust, deputy head of visual communication Jeff Willis and senior tutor Adrian Shaughnessy.

We spoke to Shaughnessy about how the team curated the show and his favourite works.

Design Week: How easy was it to select works from the archive for the show?

Adrian Shaughnessy: Very easy. There is no shortage of material. The archives have got work going back to the 1950s. The problem is we can only show a fraction of the total in the show. Plus, new stuff keeps coming in. So it’s an editing question – what do we include, what do we leave out? 

DW: Did you aim to get an even chronological spread of works or did you find yourself focusing more on certain periods?

AS: Chronology yes, but we also detected some broad themes: College as client, with student designed show catalogues, etc; College activities such as film societies, sports events and lectures organised by students; Cultural and political activities; Personal projects such as craft and experimental work – letterpress mainly, and some early experiments with digital printing. 

DW: When selecting, were you led by the standard of work or did you aim to focus on big-name designers?

AS: We were blind to fame – although inevitably we’ve got work by Morag Myerscough, Fuel, Jonathan Barnbrook, Why Not Associates and Graphic Thought Facility. But we have much more work by people who are not famous – including some work by people who should be famous.

DW: What is your favourite piece in the show?

AS: This puts me on the spot. There are some austere posters for a series of talks by Herbert Spencer that I really like – very un-RCA. From the other end of the spectrum, there is some wonderful work by Russell Warren Fisher. But the piece that moves me most is an amazing calendar by Karin Dunbar. It’s a multilayered typographic extravaganza. Very much of its time, but with the quality to endure.

GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years is at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7, from 5 November-22 December.

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  • Daniel Alexander Design November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Sounds like it’s going to be an amazing exhibition. Some outstanding and important work on display. Looking forward to it.

  • Anthony Sully November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Grpahics gets too much exposure. Looking forward to the last 50 years of Interior Design.

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