What do you think 2020 will hold for graphic design?
The past year has seen a trend emerge, which I think will be amplified in 2020. Whereas traditionally the majority kept their politics close to their chest, graphic designers are now making their voices heard, and using what they do to try and effect change. Not since the 60s has there been so much focus by designers on the issues that affect us all, from politics and social issues to the environment. What’s driven this? Perhaps it’s a need for a new generation of designers — as well as creating exquisitely kerned type — to feel that what they do will make a difference. And perhaps social media has played a part, making it easy to share your opinions, connect with like minded people and mobilise groups.
This new-found political and social consciousness among designers has also affected the brands many of them work for. In 2019 it’s no longer enough to just be a brand — in their relentless thirst for authenticity, brands need to be seen to be ‘giving back’ by supporting social or environmental issues. It reminds me of the heady days of Oliviero Toscani’s hard-hitting ad campaigns for Benetton and Tibor Kalman’s groundbreaking Colors magazine in the Eighties. While this new-found social conscience is to be applauded, it shouldn’t be used as just another way to convince us to buy more stuff, or to mask the fact that many companies are woefully behind on their (self-regulated) sustainability targets.
One extremely political brand that’s successfully resisting exploitation is Extinction Rebellion. To stop anyone profiteering from its logo (which is owned by street artist ESP), it doesn’t allow any merchandise but instead invites supporters to bring their own clothes to events and have the logo block printed onto them. It’s a global symbol which has burned itself into the nation’s psyche, but won’t be picking up a D&AD pencil anytime soon.
What is your favourite graphic design project from 2019 and why?
There are too many to choose from, but ones that deserve a mention are the tireless work carried out by Led by Donkeys, and the recent Politics v. Policies free newspaper created for the general election by Rory Stiff and Casey Highfield Smith. My favourite project is an example from a big brand, but one which feels like more of a commitment than a piece of simple greenwashing.
For the second time, Lacoste has created Save our Species, a collection with the Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which sees the brand’s iconic crocodile replaced by ten different endangered species. It’s a lovely idea that’s simple, sweet and effective. And although the shirts themselves are expensive and very limited edition, the publicity surrounding the original campaign caused a significant spike in donations to the charity (even if it did win its creator Havas a few gongs along the way).