Calling on the kids to do a double take

If you thought you’d cracked the jargon that surrounds design education, then think again. Michael Johnson of Johnson Banks has coined a new phrase to add to the glossary: pre- design.

According to Johnson, pre- design is the stage schoolkids are at before they start any formal design training. And it was the task of grabbing their interest at this stage that was given to Johnson Banks by the Design Council as part of its Design Decisions initiative.

The initiative aims to encourage primary and secondary school pupils to think about the way things are before they get to look at design per se. Given six themes to consider, Johnson Banks came up with the idea of things that Johnson describes as ‘beautifully wrong’. Each of the six posters picks up one of the themes – signs, light, storage, safety, materials and display – and each involves a ‘double take’.

The goldfish swimming in a string bag looks set to become a topical favourite.

‘The double take factor is stronger because the images are so real,’ says Johnson. ‘You don’t often get the chance to do wrong things.’

To realise the idea he brought in photographer David Stewart and his long-standing collaborator, model-maker Wesley West. They have used devices such as real turf wrapped round chicken wire for the Looking at Materials poster to do the job.

The toughest one, according to Johnson, was the goldfish, which survived a short stay in a string bag as the water was about to gush out.

Another striking feature of the posters is the use of strong colours. ‘Because classrooms are often quite dingy, it’s important that the posters are bright, cheerful and dramatic so they’ll be put up and stay up,’ says Johnson.

Typography for the series uses the Design Council’s corporate type, Quay Sans, which was designed by David Quay and Freda Sack.

A teacher’s pack entitled Turning Looking into Seeing completes the Design Decisions package. The council is sending the pack out to some 2500 primary and secondary schools across the country as a follow- on to its Design in Education Week programme.

Designer: Johnson Banks

Client: Design Council

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