Neville Brody’s RCA appointment is a bold move by the college

Neville Brody’s appointment to replace Dan Fern at the Royal College of Art next year is likely to be controversial. Though Brody is renowned for shaping a generation of graphic designers in the 1980s through designs for The Face and Arena magazines and has a strong international following, his work has become less evident in the UK in recent years.

Comparisons between Fern and Brody are hard to draw. Fern is a highly acclaimed illustrator, with a track record in the ’graphic arts’ of stamp and poster design, while Brody’s Research Studios has broader experience in print, branding and broadcast design, with a penchant for typography and a portfolio of publication designs.

But both share a passion for craft in graphic design that could link their professorships at the RCA. It is also in keeping with the spirit of the college’s Department of Communication Art and Design, the name of which indicates its direction.

It is good to see this concern with the fundamentals of graphic communication being maintained at the RCA. Concerns have been raised about declining levels of craft teaching for undergraduates and it is right for the UK’s foremost postgraduate design college to set the pace.

The timing couldn’t be better either. Brody’s appointment is set to reinvigorate debate about the function of graphic design just as we are seeing a return to strong print graphics among smaller consultancies, perhaps as a backlash to mediocre branding and the advance in digital skills – witness 2010 Design Week Award-winners such as B&W Studio and Purpose.

It also reinforces the fact that it is important for designers to be able to ply their trade, not just act as facilitators, in an age where co-design has become a mantra – a point Design Council chief design officer Mat Hunter will raise at the Designs of Our Time think tank in Cornwall on Friday (see News in Depth.)

It is good to see that view back on the agenda.

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