Saturday, 22 March 2008

An English Deference


Just to bring my short Tony Meeuwissen season to an end (got to get out in the fresh air) I give you The English Difference. The cover was illustrated by Mr. Meeuwissen, but the design for this and the rest of the book was by John Gorham (1937-2001), and it is this man I want to introduce you to. The Times obituary said of him 'John Gorham was a graphic designer whose supremely individual approach to his craft stood out more and more in a world dominated by the impersonality of the computer...His work will be remembered for its wit, elegance and attention to detail'. It was his work for Penguin Books that first drew my attention to his work, books that I immediately picked-up and turned over to assure myself, yes, it was John's cover design. He was just as much at home designing a honey label or a cheese packet as he was a film poster for Alan Parker. And at home he was, in a little back bedroom with his knapsack and camera hanging on the back of the door. I knew John, a very gentle man, and felt very privileged not only to work with him, but also to spend time in his company, which was always a rewarding and stimulating experience. Find yourself a copy of The English Difference, and you'll understand John's passions about the country he loved. And publishers, get working on a Gorham monograph NOW.

13 comments:

Shakadal said...
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richard gregory said...

The Meeuwissen creation closest to my heart – for mixed reasons – is his pack of playing cards and accompanying book 'The Key to the Kingdom'.

I worked alongside our blogmaster in the late 80s and in that time tried on numerous occasions to commission Mr Meeuwissen on account of his unique brilliance. On each occasion, his long suffering agent would draw a deep breath, avoid eye contact and tell me how "Tony's working on the cards – they're really coming along – perhaps in a month or so…"

So it went. Never did get to hire the man. The cards, little gems, finally emerged long after I'd stopped trying.

Peter Ashley said...

Mr.Gregory, how good to have you amongst us. Oh yes, those playing cards. There was a time when I couldn't stop thinking about what he did for the three of diamonds. The deck is now not only revered amongst designers, but also the playing card collector fraternity. What would the collective noun be for them? There must be a word, like stamp collectors being fellationists.

Jon Dudley said...

Thanks for the reminder of such a wonderul book and designers. The memories of the excitement of unwrapping the Red Star parcel containing commissioned original artwork remain to this day. In vain did we designers look for wobbly hand lettering, marvelled at the quality of the airbrushing or brushstrokes. The Mac, its attendant software and its superlative operators have wrought much magic, but nothing compares to the feel of original artwork. CS10 has gone now and where are the Rapidographs and ruling pens? gone too I suppose along with their steady-handed wielders.

Peter Ashley said...

I'd no idea CS10 board had gone. Along with the slightly nerve-wracking experience of guillotining out a piece the right size for your job. And Rapidographs, getting blocked at the critical moment. But I still keep a Swann Morton knife in my Bird's Custard tin with packets of 10A blades, even though the sharp ends now come wrapped in protective paper marked 'non-surgical'.

Jon Dudley said...

And only 10As would do! So useful for scratching away the overdrawn ink lines on ruled boxes. I still have my 'Cow' tin with corrugated cardboard in it to store the watercolour brushes too. Our young designers are amazed at what WE did, but their faces are a picture when I describe the Monotype keyboard, caster and subsequent composition running parallel for a while to photosetting.

Peter Ashley said...

Oh yes, the Cow Tin with its lovely red swirl. For the uninitiated this was a rubber gum solution used for sticking down type (well, anything really) on to art board. You gradually built up a rubber made from excess Cow, called a Gubungee, for removing overspills. Your status in a studio was often measured by the size of your Gubungee. I can't believe I'm writing this.

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