Unusually for a graphic designer, Ken Garland, who has died aged 92 of most cancers, was not afraid to broadcast his political beliefs. An influential practitioner, inspiring trainer, photographer, author and performer at design conferences, he was additionally a lifelong socialist and an avid supporter of CND.
He belonged, because the design historian Robin Kinross has famous, to “the primary era of totally fledged graphic designers in Britain”, certainly one of plenty of graduates from the Central College of Arts and Crafts (now a part of the College of the Arts London) who made a considerable affect within the second half of the twentieth century.
Ken was there from 1952 to 1954, and others included Colin Forbes and Alan Fletcher, who went on to assist set up the agency Pentagram, the ebook designer Derek Birdsall and the designer of Nationwide Theatre posters, Ken Briggs.
His research earlier than Central have been interrupted by two years of nationwide service. Remarkably for somebody along with his anti-authoritarian sensibilities and political allegiances, Ken loved his time in uniform: “I met and talked with many fellow troopers from Glasgow, South Wales, Liverpool, Newcastle and Birmingham, and knew much more concerning the situation of the working class in Britain than I had earlier than. Additionally, I had seen by means of the pretensions of the officer class.”
Ken discovered his skilled craft and first made his mark as artwork editor (1956-62) of Design journal – the official journal of the state-funded Council of Industrial Design (from 1972, the Design Council). The journal advocated the social advantages of excellent design, and immediately Ken’s incisive modernist cover designs get pleasure from star standing on graphic design Instagram feeds.
In 1962, as his freelance work grew, he shaped Ken Garland & Associates. Based mostly in Camden City, north London, in the home the place he was to reside for the remainder of his life, he labored with a small staff producing a physique of labor that mixed the clear strains of Swiss typography with the verve of mid-century American graphic expression.
This fusion (he known as it a wedding of construction and substance) is finest seen in his 20-year affiliation with Galt Toys. With the assistance of Ken and his staff, Galt turned the market chief in clever toys. With a playful use of sans serif letterforms and hanging pictures, Ken and his designers produced a physique of labor for the toymaker that stands comparability with the most effective graphic design of the time.
Most of what KG&A did was for small and medium-sized companies, arts our bodies and housing associations. In addition to working for the Labour get together, the studio produced a collection of posters for CND which can be regarded immediately as exemplars of campaigning activist design. In studio downtime, the staff developed their very own board games, of which Connect was taken up by Galt.
Not like his rivals within the booming design business, Ken averted working for giant companies. When he obtained an invite to satisfy the chief govt of IBM UK, Ken selected to tell his potential new shopper that he had by no means had a lot success working with large companies. The IBM boss replied politely that “maybe a gathering was not a good suggestion”.
His outlook was distilled within the manifesto he delivered at a gathering in 1963 of the Society of Industrial Artists (SIA). Sitting in the back of the corridor and annoyed by the discussions going down, he wrote out the primary draft of what was printed the next yr as First Things First.
The doc known as on designers to query their function within the new burgeoning client tradition that was monopolising the occupation: “We’re proposing a reversal of priorities in favour of the extra helpful and extra lasting types of communication. We hope that our society will tire of gimmick retailers, standing salesmen and hidden persuaders, and that the prior name on our expertise shall be for worthwhile functions.” It was signed by a small band of like-minded practitioners – none from the large design teams of the interval.
First Issues First got here to the eye of the Labour politician Tony Benn, who as Anthony Wedgwood Benn was postmaster normal in Harold Wilson’s first authorities. Benn reprinted the manifesto in a column within the Guardian, including: “The duty for the waste of expertise which they’ve denounced is one we should all share. The proof for it’s all round us within the ugliness with which we now have to reside. It may so simply get replaced if solely we consciously determined as a group to have interaction among the ability which now goes into the frills of an prosperous society.”
The manifesto was reprinted in a few magazines in direction of the tip of the century, and a bunch of writers and designers produced an up to date First Things First Manifesto 2000 for publication in a number of journals for the beginning of the brand new one. Artwork faculty college students have been drawn to its polemical and questioning tone, and Ken loved a newfound status as a star turn in faculties and lecture theatres world wide. His lectures have been irreverent and provocative.
Neither dully tutorial nor self-congratulatory, he charmed his viewers with a mix of playful theatrics and significant reflection.
Born in Southampton, Ken was the son of Arthur Garland, a industrial traveller in printed stationery, and his spouse, Gwendoline (nee Veale). When he was 5 the household moved to Barnstaple, Devon. Ken’s announcement that he meant to review artwork prompted a go to to his father’s agency’s design division. However this glimpse into the world of economic design didn’t impress Ken: he needed to be an artist.
In 1945 he enrolled on the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, doing what he known as a “relatively lowbrow two-year course known as industrial design”. On finishing it in 1947, Ken launched into two years of nationwide service within the Parachute Regiment. In February 1948 his battalion was despatched to Lübeck, on the north coast of Germany, and the next yr he made a brief go to to Berlin throughout the last months of its blockade. After the military, he spent two years finding out graphic design on the Sir John Cass Faculty, London, after which transferred to Central.
It was there that Ken met the artist Wanda Wistrich, who had moved from Kraków, Poland, to London when she was 14. They married in 1954. Wanda taught at Central and later turned headteacher at Thomas Buxton junior faculty, Tower Hamlets, east London. In 2012, Wanda and Ken celebrated 60 years since their first assembly by holding a joint exhibition of their work in Camden City.
Lengthy after he stopped being a designer for rent, Ken travelled extensively, amassing a portfolio of images that he printed beneath his personal imprint, Pudkin Books. On the finish of 2011 he was a daily customer to the Occupy London site outside St Paul’s Cathedral, the place he talked to protesters and studiously recorded the various handmade indicators on view.
I acquired to know Ken by means of writing the ebook Ken Garland: Construction and Substance (2012), and we turned pals.
A vastly in style determine, Ken was beneficiant with the eye he gave to youthful designers, and certainly anybody he met or who acquired in contact with him.
He’s survived by Wanda, his kids, Ruth and Ben, granddaughter, Katie, and grandsons Simon and Daniel.