This is what was happening:
Miners’ protest against Ted
Heath’s Tory Party in 1972.
The man who coined the term
‘documentary film’, John Grierson, died.
The Duke of Windsor died
John Betjeman was appointed Poet Laureate
The Watergate break-in first appeared in the news.
Character actor George Sanders dies leaving a suicide note saying 'Dear World, I am leaving you because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.'
On a personal note, 1972 started off rather dramatically with the premature birth of twin sons. Suddenly, we went from one child to three. It was a worrying time with the boys remaining in hospital for a time encased in little incubators, looking like oven-ready chickens. But in no time they fattened up and came home to our now rather overcrowded house in Epping.
It was also a good year for my time at Heinemann: three of my jackets got into the D&AD Annual and I felt at last I was being recognised. By this time I had met Ken Carroll, who had dropped by my office to show me his work. He was not only very talented but also very engaging, with an air of self-confidence that was unusual in most designers that I’d encountered.
The first jacket that Ken Carroll designed for me in 1972 got into the D&AD Annual the following year.
We found a lot of common ground in design and equally in our love of cinema: we would tend to talk more about that than anything else. He became a regular visitor to my top floor Queen’s Street Mayfair office and, more often than not, we would lunch together at Pizza Express in Coptic Street (the second one to open back in 1972). Our lunches would often be accompanied by several bottles of wine. This would always send me to sleep on my journey back home to Epping, where I lived with my then wife Margaret and our three children…
Me and the newly arrived
twins, Ben and Joe along with my then wife Margaret.
My unofficial mentor, Bill Holden, Heinemann’s publicity director, announced that he was to leave later in the year. I’d grown enormously fond of him, as he was so helpful in assisting me with settling into a world where I felt both educationally and socially inadequate. He’d had some kind of disagreement with the management and decided to call it a day; he had desires to open a bookshop.
Around this time, there was a major US fraud case involving the author Clifford Irving. We had published a book of his called Fake!, about the art forger Elmyr De Hory…
Now Irving had himself been accused of faking an ‘official’ biography on the reclusive eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes. During the trial, the prosecution produced letters from various publishers purporting to be interested in taking the book. In fact, Irving had typed many of them. I recalled that a year or so earlier, Irving had seconded the office of Bill Holden’s secretary, Alana Hornby. It was right next to mine. We didn’t know what he was up to, but there were lots of hushed telephone calls and much typing. But it became clear during the court case that his intricate deceit in fabricating the fake Hughes biography was designed to enable him to secure advances from several major publishers and serial rights from a bevy of international newspapers. However, a little later, it was revealed to be a total scam and he had managed to con $765,000 out of his publishers. He ended up in prison for these antics.
Home life for me had changed wildly now with three children. I was only 28 and
suddenly felt the burden of responsibility and we needed a bigger house.
Towards the end of ’72, there were farewell drinks for Bill Holden. The following week, there was an eerie silence from his room: no sound from the old Remington typewriter or his sudden audible rants, and the smell of whiskey and cigarettes was no more. All was quiet. I missed him greatly.
He was replaced by a much younger and equally personable guy called Nigel Hollis, who took over the reins of publicity. We hit it off pretty quickly and had similar senses of humour and very soon those regular lunchtime drinks reappeared. And 1973 was already looming.
In between all the of the above I was desiging a lot and had also began to illustrate more...
I had got into painting on wood which was ideally suited for the subject of the above jacket.
I also slipped into other styles. There were so many great talents passing through my office I was over stimulated and would want to immediately be them.
My Films for 1972:
Tarkovsky’s response to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was Solaris, which was a slow, rambling story with poetic moments of great beauty.
John Boorman’s perfect thriller Deliverance, with its ‘Squeal like a little piggy’ moment.
Ingmar Bergman’s deeply emotional Cries & Whispers, with a perfect ensemble of Andersson, Thulin, Ullmann and Sylwan.
And my music for 1972:
My job for that year:
For part 9 of Fifty years on click here
It always fascinates me when so-called ‘fine artists’ wander into the commercial scene, such as last year’s Olympic posters by a bevy of Tate-blessed artists with a resulting diabolical set of posters that, had they been under the exacting brief of the commercial arena, would have all been rejected. But regular readers of this blog will know I’ve already had a rant about that.
But what about the other way round, when a ‘commercial’ artist turns fine artist? Well, in the case of Michelle Thompson, it transitions beautifully.
This is Michelle…
Michelle at work – she is rather camera shy.
And this is her material…
Old magazines, books, packaging, comics and catalogues all go into the mix.
And lashings of paint...
Michelle graduated from Norwich School of Art and went on to a postgraduate course at the Royal College of Art under the watchful eye of Robert Mason and Dan Fern: considerable illustrators in their time.
Collage has always been an important creative vehicle for many artists: Picasso, Paolozzi, Rauschenberg, Schwitters and Blake, to name just a few. And in the commercial arena, Cristiana Couceiro has seen great success with her surprising re-assemblages of familiar 20th-century graphics...
Cristiana Couceiro cannibalises immediately recognisable 20th century graphics in her work
And firmly in that camp is Michelle Thompson, with a wonderfully sensitive approach to this age-old genre. And as well as taking on commercial commissions, she produces a regular flow of self-published personal works as limited edition high-quality Giclée prints (a form inkjet printing that has become increasingly popular with photographers, illustrators and artists alike).
A recent piece called Flight, in this case not a Giclée print but a good old fashioned screen print which Michelle started producing in 2010.
In recent years, Peter Blake has unleashed a plethora of Giclée print work available in many galleries up and down the country on an industrial scale.
Above Peter Blake, James Dean at the Albert Hall 2012
I find Michelle’s non-commercial work extremely beautiful, sensitive and even moving.
Take a look…
Above: Michelle’s other activity: selling prints through galleries. In this case her own yearly 'Open Studio'.
It is not surprising that her work has graced many book covers and editorial spreads around the world. It is great to see a working mum of two managing to juggle the pressures of family life with a creative heart; sadly so many women I have known have hung up their creative hats: a great loss to the design world. But, thankfully, not Michelle: long may she continue cutting and pasting.
Related Posts: Fragmented Vision:
Tom Wolsey in 1963
One of the great British (although actually German) editorial art directors, Tom Wolsey (1924–2013), died in New York with little notice earlier this year. Sad because the work he leaves behind is an important part of our graphic history. The magazine that he was instrumental in creating, originally called Man About Town and then refined to About Town and finally to Town, was the stand-out publication of the 1960s. Wolsey used the new young Turks of photography, including Don McCullin, David Bailey and Terence Donovan. The look of the magazine was dynamic in its use of typography, space to breathe and wonderful images, culminating in an enduring design that was to inspire all those that followed.
Town From the early 1960s…
Tom Wolsey was born in Aachen, Germany in 1924. He moved to Britain in 1936 where he started his design career. He was art director of Crawfords Advertising Agency 1948-61. Then became executive director of Cornmarket Press where he was art director of Town magazine. He briefly set up his own agency producing ads for many clients. Later he moved permanently to New York were he died at home on 29th April this year.
This is Rudolph de Harak...
He is one America's greatest, and one of my favourite, graphic designers. His work expresses a no-nonsense minimalist approach. Instantly recognisable for its utter simplicity, his work always employs an array of basic graphic items: dots, arrows, repeated patterns and clean, bright colours.
For me, his album cover work for Westminster Records is as fresh today as when it was produced back in the 60s . Here is a selection of his best...
Sometimes I get so mad I have to vent it, which, I have to admit, has got me into some deep water from time to time. But this week, the sight of this…
on Design Week’s website started my emotional cauldron bubbling.
Why is it that most cities have such bad track records when visually expressing major events? With this example, it would seem that the organisers of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games went all weak at the knees at the thought of ‘Turner Prize-shortlisted Scottish artist Jim Lambie’ being involved.
Now, I have nothing against Jim Lambie; his site-specific work is very dramatic…
but he is an ‘artist’. My understanding of true artists is that they are the ‘client’. By contrast, with the ‘graphic designer’, the client is a necessary component in the mix. In other words, the client has a design problem and the graphic designer solves that problem. Simple.
By the by, a weird coincidence that Lambie's gallery piece above looks remarkable similar to this...
Mexico 1968 logo
So why did the organisers approach Lambie to take on this commission? Presumably thinking that this…
The result is the most awful, cringe-making result, looking like it came out of a bad HND computer course.
If that weren’t bad enough, Lambie’s work had to be integrated into the equally uninspiring logo created by Marque…
The Commonwealth Games Federation Chief Executive Mike Hooper describes the logo as ‘original and refreshing, with a great degree of flexibility’.
And Marque’s Managing Director Mark Noë says: ‘We hope that the identity will
become an iconic symbol celebrating a very special moment in time.’ Really?
We saw the same thing happening when LOGOG unveiled its posters for the 2012 Olympics at Tate Modern, ironically (unconsciously, I assume) on easels…
Tracey Emin clutching here contribution (also below).
Once again, these were the work of ‘artists’, with not a graphic designer in sight. What we were left with was embarrassingly inept typography and meaningless imagery under the sacred tabernacle of ‘art’.
Fiona Banner’s reworking of an 80s design aesthetic
And if you’d still like one of the above, they are all selling at 50% off at Tate Modern
Here's how it should be done...
And as for this...
no, don't get me going!
This is what happend that year:
The beautiful shape of Concord took flight for the first time
The Beatles’ performance on the roof of the Apple building in Savile Row,
causing major chaos
Brian Jones was found dead in a swimming pool after a cocktail of drugs and booze
John and Yoko protested in bed and released Give Peace a Chance
Man stepped on the moon for the first time
Now I’m 25, married, baby on the way, living in my first house on the edge of Epping Forest, painting one of the bedroom walls in a stylish bitter chocolate colour...
Our bedroom in '69
while listening to The Beach Boys’ Smiley Smile album and ferrying furniture from Habitat Tottenham Court Road – the only place to buy affordable contemporary furniture at the time...
These were the paper bags used at Habitat in '69, nice illustrations by Juliet Glynn Smith who produced a lot of textile designs for Habitat at the time. The one below, featuring the fashionable pink and red of the 60's, was my choice for curtains.
– my life was falling into place. Among the very many things that went up on the walls of my house was this...
It was silk screened onto tin and cost just a few pounds
in 1969. Apparently these now go for over £1,000. I wished I’d held onto it.
My new professional life in the highly civilised world of publishing, situated in the heart of London’s Mayfair, was a revelation and a baptism of culture. Until that point, my main interests had been design, film, music and fashion. At Heinemann there was a whole plethora of fascinating people who would expand my view on everything over the coming years.
I was a pretty lazy reader and suddenly had masses of books to absorb and authors to familiarise myself with. I also had to learn the art of ‘persuasive’ presentation. Part of my job involved having to convince the chairman and the sales, editorial and managing directors (the latter being completely colour blind) that the cover designs I’d commissioned or produced myself were right for the job. These people were mostly two or three decades my senior and extremely articulate. I slowly mastered the art. At the same time, I was seeing many designers, photographers and illustrators. It was wonderful to be exposed to such talented and experienced creatives at my relatively young age.
In addition to responsibility for book jackets, I had to handle print production and the design of all publicity material. It was a demanding role. But with the Publicity Director William Holden, my default mentor, right next door, my afternoons would often be spent sitting on a squashy sofa, whisky tumbler in hand, while listening to some hilarious literary stories brilliantly re-enacted by Roland Gant, the editorial director.
a Punch cartoon of Roland Gant by Sherriffs
Drink was very much the order of the day in that ‘60s publishing era. It all seemed so glamorous and sophisticated to me. I would just sit there soaking it all up.
This was the Heinemann's spring catalogue for '69 with illustrations by my old Cato/Peters/O'Brien work colleague Ginger Tilley.
The above cover was designed for me by John Larkin of Larkin May. Back then all beautifully retouched in the old analogue way using a brush and paint.
It was also a pretty male-dominated industry at the top of the tree, with the female members of staff, most of whom were from relatively well-heeled backgrounds, twinsetted and pearled tapping away on large, noisy typewriters, all with perfect RP accents. My first year was an immersion process. Later, I would emerge a more rounded and confident person.
During my first year at Heinemann I was keen to meet other publishing art directors. Nicholas Thirkell was at Macmillan producing some brilliant work and was the first to engage the services of a new outstanding collective called Bentley/Farrell/Burnett.
This is one of the jackets they produced for Thirkell in 1969. It was beautiful and made me as envious as hell. The challenge was on.
That year I was reading:
I became an ardent fan of J.P.Donleavy and read everything he'd pened
And my films for that year:
and the indie Easy Rider directed by Dennis Hopper mostly high as a kite.
The West Coast had a hold that year with all things American.
My second album was the very British Unhalfbricking by Fairport Convention with the angelic voice of the late Sandy Denny
Related post Fifty years on No.6
This is the second mini recording with Michael ('Bernie') Bernard, the brilliant but forgotten 1960s designer. A man who has devoted much of his life to studying the concept of colour and its use and effect on our lives. Unfortunately, it became clear to me during the filming of this piece that Bernie is profoundly colour blind but, because of his infectious enthusiasm, I didn't have the heart to tell him that some of his colours were, well, slightly off. Anyway, here is more from the great man...