Designers’ Inspiration – Beauty in the Making talk

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, space junk, Ladybird books about Public Services and George Bataille’s Story of the Eye.

The Ladybird Printing Processes book
The Ladybird Printing Processes book

These are just a few of the diverse sources of inspiration cited by creatives at the Beauty in the Making 5 x 8 talk last night, hosted by GF Smith and It’s Nice That.

Each 5 x 8 session sees five speakers take to the stage for eight minutes, discussing anything they want – what inspires them, what they think we should know, what they’re passionate about.

First up, Supermundane (known to his auntie and the tax man as Rob Lowe), looks at the power of religion, though from an entirely secular viewpoint.  Lowe cites gospel choirs with their ‘punk-rock-like fervour’, and acts such as Mormon husband-wife duo Low and Sister Rosette Tharpe with her controversially ‘dirty rock ‘n’ roll’ guitar style as exemplifying the force of religion on their work, which is as thrilling to believers and non-believers alike.

Simon Waterfall, creative directory of Fray, also looked to a bigger place for his subject matter – space. He makes the point that he feels that he knows when he sees good design, from the sense that ‘this is slightly  better than I can design it myself’.

Waterfall goes on to explain the mind-boggling notion of thousands and thousands of satellites whizzing around us in space. He’s drawn to the idea of losing the world as we know it, as NASA loses track of the constantly multiplying number of satellites (it can only track 22 000 at any one time, apparently.)

Moving things squarely back to design, rather than astronomy territory, Waterfall concludes by stating that ‘The most terrifying object in my talk is a crumpled blank sheet of paper.’

Photographer Jane Stockdale talks us through her time volunteering at the Lake Victoria Disability Centre – a Tanzanian centre that teaches disabled, in particular young people with hearing impairments, practical skills such as woodwork, dressmaking, metalwork and screen-printing. Stockdale’s uplifting documentary video shows a colourful, hopeful project and its impact on her work.

The Ladybird Printing Processes book
A Ladybird book spread

From East Africa to eBay; publishing platform No Brow’s Sam Arthur’s talk draws mostly on his days of ‘downtime…or unemployment’ when working as a video director, a period that saw him spending what little cash he had on children’s Ladybird books. ‘The ones in the school library that were stuck together with Sellotape, that people threw at each other’, he explains.

Arthur’s quick to point out that the books with the best illustrations, that proved the most inspirational weren’t ‘the nursery rhymes – they’re crap’; but books with titles like Public Services – ‘it’s a miracle these books even exist.’

The Ladybird Printing Processes book
Black Bob sheepdog comic

He cites the Print Processes book, with its simultaneously beautiful and utilitarian diagrams of how the book itself was made as a key tool in creating No Brow press. We’re then shown a series of images of varying degrees of relevance – though all of them lovely – such as the Black Bob sheepdog Comic, a painfully cute Possum from some US fruit packaging labels; and a 1960s Japanese Godzilla annual.

The Ladybird Printing Processes book

The final speaker, Pentagram partner Angus Hyland’s talk focuses on his ongoing project The Purple Book, due to be published in 2013

Hyland’s talk opens with a quote from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, ‘I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.’

Underscoring the Wildean influence, the book’s name references The Yellow Book, a literary journal that ran from 1894-1897 with an iconic yellow and black cover by Aubrey Beardsley, who also illustrated Wilde’s Salome.

The Yellow Book
The Yellow Book

Pentagram’s Purple Book will take the form of a compendium of existing artworks and newly commissioned illustration around texts such as those by Edgar Allen Poe, Christina Rosetti, James Joyce and George Bataille.

The illustrations already submitted are stunning – including work from a Korean typographer and the organic, weaving vegetation from a Russian illustrator which set the tone for what looks to be a sublimely indulgent, ornate collection. Hyland says, ‘You might as well make the book as an object of desire you want to own for it physical presence.’

He returns to Wilde, ‘Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.’

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  • Steve Price November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Wilde also said ‘All art is quite useless.’

    I have two first editions of The Yellow Book – true treasures of a bygone era.

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