RCA blog celebrates the graphic work of its renown alumni

Published:  May 21, 2014

The Royal College of Art is one of Europe’s — and the world’s — most prestigious and selective art and design post-grad institutions. Founded in 1948, the school is steeped in tradition, yet has always ensured its courses and its graduates are exposed to the most relevant and worthy of education systems. This year marks 65 years since the creation of the Graphic Design Course at the RCA, where the school reports they marked “a break with ‘commercial art’ and heralded a new era in design education,” which they are celebrating with an exhibition of the graphic work of its alumni. Given the standards of the school, this alumni represents some of the most renown designers and studios in Britain, and the world, including Phil Baines, Daniel Eatock and Jonathan Barnbrook, Alan Fletcher, Vaughan Oliver, Graphic Thought Facility, Fuel and A Practice For Everyday Life.

In 1963, the exhibition Graphics RCA celebrated the first 15 years of the department. In 2014 GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years and Beyond will chart the development of the course since 1963 and highlight the many ways that alumni have remained at the forefront of graphic design.

1990 Degree Show poster designed by Jeanne Verdoux

RCA Film Society poster from 1961, designed by ‘Billy Apple’ (Barrie Bates)

In the lead up to the exhibition in October, the RCA has started a tumblr that shares the work of their alumni, contributed from the designers themselves. Still quite a small collection, the posters nevertheless are an exciting premonition of the exhibition, one that international parties can enjoy.

962 poster for a Fine Art exhibition for David Hockney by Jon Hall

Poster for the Graphic Design Degree Show in 1963 by Neville Mankin

Looking through the work, which is mostly paper ephemera, the rigorous nature of the RCA student or alumni shines through, like graphic design is being wrung at the neck for everything it can offer. Visiting professor and critic Rick Poynor describes the RCA style as a result of its art foundations — one that set the graduates apart from the industry so much, they created their own studios instead. “Right from the inception of the Graphic Design course in 1948, under Professor Richard Guyatt, art was always seen as vital to the education of graphic designers. Some industry people came to the College over the years and found projects with a lot of personal content and approaches to communication that you might liken to art. Critical observers have certainly asked whether this was adequate preparation for the world of work and how RCA designers would fit in. But what actually happened, particularly from the late 1980s, was that a lot of students left the RCA and went straight into studios of their own.”

Screen printed poster from 1991 by Jonathan Barnbrook featuring his black letter font ‘Bastard’.

Poster by David Ellis (founder member of Why Not Associates) from 1987.

Keep an eye on the growing collection at http://graphicsrca.tumblr.com/

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