Pearcing thoughts

Whatever was happening in Trafalgar Square last night, the student protests didn’t deter creative stalwarts from heading down to London University’s Bloomsbury campus to hear Pentagram partner Harry Pearce’s thoughts on design, creative intervention and dreams.

Harry Pearce
Harry Pearce

The D&AD faithful staged a massive sit-in at the Institute of Education’s Logan Hall, where D&AD president Sanky invited his friend to deliver the third President’s Lecture, entitled The Schizophrenic Road Part 2: A Design Journey from a Road in West London to a tree in Zanzibar. What no one had quite bargained for was the appearance of rock star and social injustice activist Peter Gabriel alongside Pearce to talk about their collaboration over almost 20 years on the Witness charity.

Burma poster for Witness
Burma poster for Witness

Infantry poster for Witness
Infantry poster for Witness

Witness is about giving cameras to people across the world to capture instances of injustice. The aim is to spread the word so the ‘crimes’ cannot be denied by authorities. A body of work created free of charge by Pearce and his team includes the award-winning posters Infantry and Burma, drawing attention to child soldiers on the one-hand and the burning of Burmese villages on the other, as well as the design of The Hub identity for a website where images can be shared.

Alan Fletcher

Pearce himself appeared near to tears at some of the stories Gabriel told – so what chance had we in the audience? But equally poignant were his references to his friend and mentor, the late Alan Fletcher, who effectively gave him licence to keep on seeing and collecting the artefacts from his international travels that inform his work – hence the reference to the Zanzibar tree, where a rickety, skewed sign points upwards the Heaven Café & Restaurant.

It is great that the creative spirit of Fletcher lives on in the work of designers such as Pearce. That Pearce is prepared to promote a particular way of seeing and an almost child-like openness of heart as drivers in great design – and life – bodes well for creativity going forward.

Oh, and if you want a little piece of it for yourself, a limited number of signed Burma posters are now on sale, with proceeds going to the Witness charity. If you are keen and have £30 to spare, contact Tiffany Foster at Pentagram.

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