Information Overload

I headed out to Norwich today and got to see a great exhibition of work from the archives of The Design Research Unit, probably one of the first major design consultancies in the UK, but certainly the most influential.

The exhibition covers the period between 1942 to 1973; from it’s early conceptions and through it’s major corporate and urban projects.

I’m not going to write a huge background to DRU as there is already some excellent work that is worth visiting here, here and here so I’ll let the images do most of the work.

There are a number of these beautiful corporate identity manuals included in the exhibition. I have a real fondness for these, as do many designers of a certain age, and was frustrated that I couldn’t flick through – I really enjoy taking in all the minutiae that these contain:

This ICI master logo was also available on sheets of Letraset too!

I baulked a bit at the hyphenation on this poster. Times change.

There are examples of work that reflect a very different era, from the arts and crafts inspired illustrations to this Bauhaus lookee-likee:

Details from a couple of DRU letterheads:

One of the most enduring designs DRU produced was for British Rail and although long since defunct, examples of this identity can still be found on old rolling stock and in forgotten corners of many stations across the country.

The examples of work for photographic company Ilford were interesting to me (I collect old cameras and stuff) and I couldn’t help capturing my own reflection in the image above.

Again, those of a certain age will have fond memories of Watneys – no Northern party was complete without a giant exploding can of Watneys Party Seven (seven pints in a single can!)

There are also a number of personal items produced by members of the team like this christmas card, which helped to give DRU a more human feel:

Here are scans of the brochure and exhibition guide:


It’s open until the end of November and I highly recommend a visit if you have any interest in the history of mid-twentieth century graphics and design. Many graphic design exhibitions seem rather small because the exhibits are largely paper based and quite small, and this exhibition is no different. There is a lot to see here though, and exhibitions like this are not staged as often as I’d like – go and support it – you won’t be disappointed.

Many thanks to NUCA for staging this exhibition and allowing me to take these photographs.


8 thoughts on “Information Overload

  1. Wow, what an amazing exhibition. So glad you had the opportunity to see it and post here. I probably would not have an opportunity to see it in person.
    Thank you, Chris!

    1. No problem Bruce – glad you enjoyed it. As I say, there are not many exhibitions of this kind of work, so we need to spread the word as far as we can!

  2. Ordinarily I’d be embarrassed to make such a remark, but as I’m among friends and fellow sufferers here I’ll assume it’s fairly safe for me to say that some of that stuff looks good enough to eat.

    A brilliant post, much enjoyed. Since I first saw the piece on CR I’ve been waiting for the exhibition to make its way up to Liverpool, displaying all the patience of an excitable child on the run up to christmas.

    1. Hi Stu, I thought you might like this one… It is a real ‘graphic designers’ exhibition – I can’t think of anyone who would get excited over this type of stuff. I love it; it reminds me of a lot of the things I was weaned upon, graphically speaking, most of which I didn’t understand at the time.

      Go to Liverpool when it’s there, but don’t forget your camera…

  3. I’ve just noticed the text on one of those bus livery pages says “Scale 7mm – 1 foot.”

    I assume the DRU were keener on metric than the sign writers.

    What tolerance we have, even to this day, for the uneasy relationship between metric and imperial.

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