Our appraisal of film title design throws up an interesting question. Why, in a world obsessed with the cult of personality, are designers not more fÃªted?
Everyone from the director and producer, via a movie’s stars to its writers and musicians can hope to vie for a high-profile award. Not so for the humble designer, whose work in setting the scene for the audience is integral to a film’s success.
There is a flurry of popular interest from time to time, as the media looks for new ideas to celebrate old cinematic icons. Ken Adam’s sets and titles by Robert Brownjohn and Maurice Binder for James Bond movies got more than their usual airing last autumn when the media world commemorated Bond’s 40th anniversary on screen, while the deaths of the likes of titles giant Saul Bass usually provocate a passing interest. But it’s really only the serious film buffs who might be expected to know who created most sets or titles.
Of course, movies aren’t the only area where design remains largely unsung. As Michael Johnson of Johnson Banks said recently, being a graphic designer doesn’t help at a dinner party where you’re being judged by what you do as no one can put a value on graphics. Given the emphasis on business-to-business work, especially in communication design, so little of it is in the public domain, and however well known you are within the design community, no one will have the faintest knowledge of you beyond it.
Johnson’s plight is common, even to those whose work is public – stamps, posters and the like – because as a nation we don’t ‘name’ designers outside fashion brands, architecture and occasionally furniture design.
Perhaps during his British Design & Art Direction presidency Johnson should take the issue on board to build designers’ individual standing. He is, after all, a rare champion of the small, creatively-led consultancy at D&AD. Perhaps new Design Council chief executive David Kester should, meanwhile, add promoting public-facing design to his extensive list of tasks in his new job.
With the Iraq crisis reaching new heights, we look set to see an escalation in Anglo-American hostilities, despite international public protest against a war. Sadly, this tragic state of affairs is likely to bring communication design to the fore as World War ll did through the posters of Abram Games and others. Alan Kitching’s stunning black and white ad in The Guardian for Richard Rogers’ bid to enlist support for Saturday’s march is a start point.
How much better if the power of graphics could be better appreciated in peacetime than just as a call to arms – or home-grown produce – in war?