This text was first published as a pamphlet of the same name in August 2017. It is republished here for the first time online. Copies of the original pamphlet, as a numbered limited edition of 300, are still available on request. Please get in contact if you would like a copy.
This essay introduces the term Graphic Commons as an identifier with which to discuss graphic design within shared public environments. It sets out why a new linguistic term in contemporary graphic design discourse is required, and situates this as part of wider discussions surrounding urbanism and social responsibility.
Much has changed since Henri Lefebvre’s 1974 declaration that: “…there is no architectural or urbanistic criticism on a par with the criticism of art, literature, music and theatre.” (1991, p92) Some 43 years later urbanism is studied in renowned academic centres such as University College London’s UrbanLab. However, graphic design as a discipline is often overlooked as part of ongoing critical urban dialogues. While anti-advertising rhetoric is in rude health within academic, design and political circles, advertising remains its focus. Although a critique of advertising is an important aspect of the Graphic Commons, and therefore appropriate to discuss under the term’s usage, this proposal considers a much wider remit of study. As Lefebvre stated: “There would certainly seem to be a need for such a criticism… We are talking, after all, of the setting in which we live.” (1991, p92)
One publication that caught my eye recently that I wanted to specifically highlight is the House of Common Affairs journal. It comes out of a forum held at the Royal College of Art in London, and moderated by the journal’s editor Paula Minelgaite, that sought to question the relationship between creative practice, current affairs and the way information is communicated to the general public. The journal specifically looks to discuss Fourth Estate utopias.
In the introduction of issue one, Minelgaite says: “HOCA journal provides an opportunity to challenge the niche and yet popular field that exists in the overlap between the arts and journalism. HOCA attempts to address the issues it presents to its readers by avoiding elitist design snobbery that perpetuates discrimination, dogmatism and self-righteousness. It does this this by moving the project outside the RCA and inviting a more diverse range of voices into the conversation.”
I was recently asked to feed into a Creative Review report on creative collaboration. Published this week, it also features educators Tash Willcocks, Joe McCullagh, Pam Bowman and Dr Cathy Gale discussing teaching collaboration. Matthew Beardsell, Tom Harding and Stuart Radford of Music, Made by Many, and Superunion respectively, were asked about the importance of collaborative practice to their studios. The report also publishes the results of the Creative Review Design Employer Survey on what skills matter most to them.
I have had an idea that could help the environment. You are welcome to have this idea for free should you want it.
Recently you announced that you were going to stop selling single-use 5p plastic bags to encourage people to buy reusable ‘bags for life’. Reported in The Guardian, you claim “ending sales of single-use bags will significantly reduce the number of bags sold and would therefore help to reduce litter and the number of bags sent to landfill”.