First, some images of Milpa; a pamphlet designed by Edward Wright in 1988.
And the whole thing in sequence:
I’ve just finished reading a short volume on the typographer Edward Wright, beautifully designed and produced by the Department of Typography at the University of Reading to accompany an exhibition a couple of years ago. Although I enjoyed what his friends, students contemporaries wrote about him, I found myself thinking about how little I knew about him and his work, and tried to recall other books, articles or interviews that featured Wright, or even mention him. So I ‘Googled’ him. Lots of references to the three words individually, but only a handful of them combined to be relevant, and they added little beyond what I already had read. Check them here, here, here and here.
As a typographer, Wright appeared to be one of those rare people who simply ‘understand’ type. This is obviously a very clumsy statement, and I need to use an analogy to make my observation a little clearer. There are those who write beautiful and uplifting symphonies, and there are those who can arrange the music to get the best from an orchestra. Wright, to me, is one of the latter. I suppose many would consider this a slur on the fine work he created and those he influenced, but I mean it with the highest praise.
As a lecturer I need pitch my teaching level at post 16 students and know that there are a number of graphic designers and typographers that will appeal to most of them, strike a chord with a few others and hopefully give one or two a kick start into a project. There are quite a few ‘stars’ to gaze at during the 20th century, with some others rising as we draw the first decade of the 21st to a close, and there always will be, as we designers, despite not really wanting to admit that we are inspired by anyone in particular, will aspire to, emulate or be jealous of.
Most of my students over the last few years could probably assemble quite a list of my ‘favourites’, that is, the ones I refer to the most to students. There are others though, and Wright is one of them; influential but not showy; studious and academic; driven but not obsessed. Someone who followed his intellectual interests out of a desire to develop and a love of the process. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to see Ken Garland (who was at one time one of Wrights students) speaking at the St.Brides Conference. Here he put forward his nominations for unsung heroes of British design:
and unusually, Alfred Wainwright, who wasn’t a graphic designer, but a casual flick through one of his meticulously hand drawn walking guides will surely convert you.
Graphic design history is generally undisputed. One history book generally confirms the other, and most of us are content with this. I am also interested in those who simply did their job – I’ve already touched on this subject here – all those commercial artists and early graphic designers, whose work is sometimes remembered and often collected, but always attributed to Anon. At the exhibition of propaganda posters at the Imperial War Museum in London I was surprised to see such a high proportion of work, whose originators gave their talents to the war efforts on all sides without laying claim. Beautiful, admirable and honest. So who are the other unsung heroes? Any more for the list…?