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Rick Poynor
Recent Essays | Biography | About | Books | Other Essays | Public Speaking | Uncanny | Other Exhibitions | Contact

Books


Rick Poynor: BookNo More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism
Rick Poynor
Laurence King Publishing/Yale University Press, 2003; new edition, 2013

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Portuguese edition >>
German edition >>
French edition >>
Spanish edition >>
Korean second edition >>

The past thirty years have seen profound changes in the field of graphic communication. As the computer became a ubiquitous tool, there was an explosion of creativity in graphic design; designers and typographers jettisoned existing rules and forged experimental new approaches. No More Rules is the first critical survey to offer a wide-ranging overview of the graphic revolution during the postmodern period.

The book tells this story in detail, breaking down a broad, multifaceted field of design activity into key developments and themes: the origins of postmodern graphic design; deconstructionist design and theory; issues of appropriation; the revolution in digital type; questions of authorship; and critiques of postmodern graphic design. Each theme is illustrated by spectacular and significant examples of work produced between 1970 and 2000 that changed the way in which designers and their audiences think about graphic communication.

“In the hurly-burly world of design publishing, where word-counts are minimal, and ‘never before published’ images are reputed to be what the punters want, it’s a treat to be presented with such a tightly constructed narrative.”
— Liz Farrelly, Blueprint

“Poynor eases us through the theoretical forest with lucid prose and his profound knowledge of the history of graphic design.”
— Adrian Shaughnessy, Creative Review

“The most comprehensive collection of graphic design work under the rubric of postmodernism yet... Poynor’s undertaking brings clarity to a confusing subject.”
— Armin Vit, Speak Up

“Indispensable... Beautifully printed and bound, lavishly illustrated, comprehensive, and important... Highly recommended.”
— Choice



Rick Poynor: BookUncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design
Rick Poynor
Moravian Gallery, 2010

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Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design, curated by Poynor for the Moravian Gallery in Brno, in the Czech Republic, is the first major exhibition to explore the influence of Surrealism on graphic image-making and graphic design.

The catalogue, like the exhibition, is divided into thematic sections: Birth of the Marvelous; The Polymorphous Image; The Surreal Body; Cabinets of Wonder; and The Liberated Letterform. The book includes work by Karel Teige, Jindřich Štyrský, Jan Švankmajer, Josef Vylet’al, Roman Cieslewicz, Jan Lenica, Franciszek Starowieyski, Bronislaw Zelek, M/M (Paris), Andrzej Klimowski, Vaughan Oliver, Quay Brothers, Elliott Earls, Edward Fella, Jonathon Rosen, and many others.

Most graphic design conforms to an underlying grid, a sense of structure and good taste, which brings order but also imposes limits. The images and designs collected in Uncanny break free from these restrictions and follow the impulses of a wayward, subjective, dreamlike logic to arrive at their own kind of equilibrium and form. They show that graphic design can also sometimes be a place to encounter the strange, the fantastical and the uncanny, to rediscover our lost sense of mystery, and to experience the convulsive beauty and capacity for enchantment and wonder that the Surrealists called “the marvelous.”



Rick Poynor: BookJan van Toorn: Critical Practice
Rick Poynor
010 Publishers, 2008

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Jan van Toorn is one of the most significant and influential Dutch graphic designers to have emerged since the early 1960s. While graphic design often does little more than give unthinking visual form to the status quo, Van Toorn focused on meaning rather than smooth stylistic expression and developed critical alternatives to the usual design world conventions.

Van Toorn aligned himself with the reflexive tradition of art and communication exemplified by Brecht and Godard. His designs persistently call attention to their status as visual contrivances, obliging the viewer to make an effort to process their complexities. Van Toorn wanted the public to measure the motives of both the client and the designer who mediates the client’s message against their own experiences of the world. He hoped in this way to stimulate a more active and skeptical view of art, communication, media ownership and society.

“Rick Poynor’s essay provides a thoughtful analysis of the designer’s work that helps the reader to make sense of it... Van Toorn is first and foremost a designer, and in that capacity he is well served by this outstanding survey of his illustrious career.”
— Victor Margolin, Print

“This book is not only a commendable contribution to design history but a rare example of a graphic design monograph that celebrates forms and comprehensively presents a body of work that is deeply engaged in issues of social consciousness.”
— Peter Bil’ak, Eye

“This monograph is more than a record of fascinating career. Van Toorn’s output is dissected with the insight and attention to detail only a justly lauded design critic like Poynor could manage. An excellent addition to any designer’s library.”
— Step Inside Design




Rick Poynor: BookDesigning Pornotopia: Travels in Visual Culture
Rick Poynor
Laurence King Publishing/Princeton Architectural Press, 2006

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Korean edition >>

Design is the new recreation. Compulsively visual and tactile, it offers a realm of sensual gratification based on luxurious interiors, magical technology, trendy graphics, and shops built like temples. Poynor’s third collection of essays about design and visual culture directs a critical eye at brands, billboards, magazines, architecture, tattoos, and trends in cosmetic surgery. Along the way he considers Björk’s cyber-image, Rem Koolhaas’s “junkspace”, Stefan Sagmeister’s fame, W.G. Sebald’s photographs, and book cover interpretations of J. G. Ballard’s Crash.

A key target is the pervasiveness of sexual imagery in the marketplace and the media’s symbiotic relationship with porn. Poynor shows how commerce exploits the blurring of art and advertising, and paints a vivid, not always comfortable picture of where 21st-century design culture is heading. Designing Pornotopia challenges the climate of mediocrity that dominates much of our commercial environment, highlights alternatives, and considers the way forward.

“Cultural theorists so often come up with sexy-sounding ideas and then kill them dead with dull writing. Not Rick Poynor, whose latest book... is a collection of sharp essays that move from our obsession with sex to interviews with Rem Koolhaas and discussion about the rekindling of our affair with modernism.”
— The Guardian

“Poynor’s delivery is fluid, surprisingly visual, emotional, tough where he needs to be, yet sensitive generally. He offers us food for thought with no intellectual arrogance (damn him) or dictatorial solutions or answers.”
— Blueprint


“Hugely varied content... a bit like National Geographic on speed... rewarding as a thought-provoking insight into the fast-changing nature of today’s creative culture — exciting and energetic but troubling as well.”
— DAMn

“Poynor’s prose is witty and direct, his ideas provocative, and his observations utterly on the mark.”
— Metropolis

“Poynor’s writing is vigorously intelligent.”
— Financial Times



Rick Poynor: BookCommunicate: Independent British Graphic Design since the Sixties
Edited by Rick Poynor
Laurence King Publishing/Yale University Press, 2004

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Communicate explores the work of British graphic designers who maintain their independence as a key principle. It examines the influence of youth culture, pop music and new wave aesthetics on design from the 1960s to the present. Featured projects range from era-defining early classics to the work of today’s leading design teams, including album covers, concert posters, political protest posters, typeface projects and signs, and designs for books, magazines, and film.

Focusing on work from small, highly motivated studios where creative freedom is paramount, Communicate includes projects by more than 80 outstanding designers, including Derek Birdsall, Ken Garland, Neville Brody, Why Not Associates and Graphic Thought Facility. An introduction by Poynor and essays by other contributors trace how and why British graphic design has developed as it has, and interviews with 15 designers — Richard Hollis, Julian House and Margaret Calvert among them — provide insider views on the design world.

“As an exhibition, Communicate was a glorious reflection of British design’s progress. The book captures the spirit of that undertaking, adding rich background details and critical insight to the history.”
— Print

“An inside look at how an aesthetic deeply influenced by popular culture, fine art, and fashion has evolved... The reader will come away with a clearer understanding of the power, reach, and eloquence of visual communication... A valuable reference not only for graphic design libraries but also for collections that seek titles exploring the history and language of visual communication.”
— Library Journal



Rick Poynor: BookObey the Giant: Life in the Image World
Rick Poynor
Birkhäuser, 2001

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French edition >>
Korean edition >>

In the 21st century, commerce and culture are ever more closely entwined. This collection of essays takes a searching look at visual culture to discover the reality beneath the ultra-seductive surfaces. Obey the Giant explores the thinking behind the emerging resistance to commercial rhetoric among designers, and offers critical insights into the changing dialogue between advertising and design.

Other essays address the topics of visual journalism; brands as religion; the new solipsism; graphic memes; culture jamming; death in the image world; the pleasures of imperfection; and the poverty of “cool”. The worldwide dominance of huge corporations is invariably expressed by visual means. Obey the Giant challenges this monoculture by offering inspirational evidence of alternative ways of engaging with design.

“An articulate and poignant set of essays... Poynor is a sensitive, often brilliant writer on visual design in graphics, advertising and commercial visual culture.”
— Art Monthly

“His eloquence, intellectual rigor, and ability to penetrate to the heart of complex cultural issues with surgical precision have won him many admirers... a must-read for anyone with an ounce of interest in widening his understanding not just of design and brands, but of the nature of the contemporary world.”
— Print

“A lucid analysis of the current situation... Poynor claims the right to a design criticism comparable to that of literature or film.”
— Domus

“A terrific book. Essential. After you’ve read it, you really can’t look at the world in the same way, which is also one definition of art.”
— Douglas Coupland



Rick Poynor: BookTypographica
Rick Poynor
Laurence King Publishing/Princeton Architectural Press, 2001

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Typographica magazine (1949-1967), founded, edited and designed by the renowned British typographer Herbert Spencer, was one of the most extraordinary and distinctive arts publications of the last 60 years. It was unusual for its originality of editorial vision and for its exceptional standards of design and production.

Spencer’s magazine played a pivotal role in introducing modernist approaches into British graphic design, but it was most remarkable for the eclectic synthesis of its subject matter. Alongside groundbreaking articles on modernist pioneers and examples of the new typography and design, Spencer showed traditional printing history, vernacular images from the city and street, and avant-garde innovation in the fine arts. Typographica’s boundary-blurring approach anticipated many of the preoccupations of contemporary designers, artists and cultural commentators.

“A long overdue assessment of what is arguably the most influential design and typographical magazine ever produced... Poynor’s thorough book is worthy testament to Spencer’s energy and vision, and should find its way on to the bookshelves of any designer worth their salt.”
— Graphics International

“It would be hard to find anyone better placed than Poynor to write this long overdue book... [he] brings to his study a keen familiarity with the nuts and bolts of graphic practice, and a thorough understanding of the wider issues.”
— Eye

“A superb account of Typographica and its brilliant editor Herbert Spencer. A must for anyone interested in design history.”
— Victor Margolin

“A loving dissection of an influential journal.”
— Wallpaper*



Rick Poynor: BookDesign Without Boundaries: Visual Communication in Transition
Rick Poynor
Booth-Clibborn Editions, 1998

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In the late 1990s, it was widely recognized that art and design were moving closer together — that design in at least some of its forms was taking on the characteristics of art. Poynor’s first collection of essays, gathering a decade of critical journalism, documents and analyses these controversial developments. Design Without Boundaries assesses the work of Neville Brody, Peter Saville, Studio Dumbar, 8vo, David Carson, Irma Boom, Jonathan Barnbrook, Tomato, and many others, and traces the development of ideas about authorship in graphic design and applied image-making back to the 1960s and earlier.

“No British writer has done more to promote graphic design as a subject of interest and importance... The clarity of the writing and the author's evident passion make it an illuminating entry into contemporary graphic design.”
— Patrick Cramsie, “Top 10 Graphic Design Books,” The Guardian

“Poynor has made a substantial and undeniable contribution to the fledgling discipline that is design journalism/criticism/theory/history...  Design Without Boundaries is a much needed document... Poynor shows us how visual/textual analysis is to be done... a self-motivated investigation into how acts of reading, writing, looking, image-making and designing generate experience and/or understanding.”
— Liz Farrelly, Blueprint

“One of the elder statesmen of design criticism... an informative, inspiring and entertaining read.”
— Graphics International

Rick Poynor: Book The Designer as Author, Producer, Activist, Entrepreneur, Curator & Collaborator: New Models of Communicating
Steven McCarthy
BIS Publishers, 2013

An interview with Rick Poynor appears in this book.

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Rick Poynor: Book Multiple Signatures: On Designers, Authors, Readers and Users
Michael Rock 2 x 4
Rizzoli, 2013

Two dialogues with Rick Poynor about design criticism appear in this book.

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Rick Poynor: Book Notes from the Cosmic Typewriter: The Life and Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard
Edited by Nicola Simpson
Occasional Papers, 2012

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book:
"DSH's Typestracts: Horizons and Spirit Levels"

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Rick Poynor: Book The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art
Edited by Octavia Reeve
Royal College of Art, 2012

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book:
"The Useful Art of Graphic Design"

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Rick Poynor: Book The Transdisciplinary Studio
Alex Coles
Sternberg Press, 2012

An interview with Rick Poynor appears in this book.

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Rick Poynor: Book Stedelijk Collection Reflections
Edited by Jan van Adrichem and Adi Martis
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam/nai010 Publishers, 2012

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book:
"Utopian Image: Politics and Posters"

Read the essay here on Design Observer

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Rick Poynor: Book 39 Steps to the Genius of Hitchcock
Edited by James Bell
British Film Institute, 2012

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book:
"Step Thirty-One: Graphic Images"

British Film Institute >>



Rick Poynor: Book Writing and Research for Graphic Designers: A Designer's Manual to Strategic Communication and Presentation
Steven Heller
Rockport, 2012

An interview with Rick Poynor and an essay appear in this book:
"The Death of the Critic"

Read the essay here

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Rick Poynor: Book Graphic Design: History in the Writing, 1983-2011
Edited by Sara De Bondt and Catherine de Smet
Occasional Papers, 2012

A dialogue with Rick Poynor and an essay appear in this book:
"A Critical View of Graphic Design History"
Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies"

Read the dialogue here on Design Observer
Read the essay here on Design Observer





Rick Poynor: BookPostmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990
Edited by Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt
V&A Publishing, 2011

Two essays by Rick Poynor appear in this book:
“Big Magazines: Design as the Message”
“True Stories: A Film about People Like Us” 

Read the "True Stories" essay here on Design Observer

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Rick Poynor: BookDutch Design Yearbook 2010
Edited by Antoine Achten et al
NAi Publishers, 2010

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book.
"Agency or Studio? The Dutch Graphic Design Dilemma"

Read the essay here on Design Observer

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Rick Poynor: BookNow is the Time: Art & Theory in the 21st Century
Edited by Jelle Bouwhuis et al
NAi Publishers, 2009

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book.

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Rick Poynor: BookDesign in Britain
Edited by Deyan Sudjic
Conran Octopus, 2009

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book.

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Rick Poynor: BookDesign and Art
Edited by Alex Coles
Whitechapel and MIT Press, 2007

An essay by Rick Poynor appears in this book.
"Art's Little Brother"

Read the essay here

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Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, media, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. His latest book is Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design.


Recent Book


Uncanny Surrealism and Graphic Design
Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design
Rick Poynor
Moravian Gallery, 2010
More books by Rick Poynor >>


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