Chitter-Chatter presents… Jonathan Barnbrook

The Chitter-Chatter series ended on a high Wednesday, with a brilliant talk from Jonathan Barnbrook.

Students were really keen to hear Jonathan talk about his work and he didn’t disappoint. He began by talking about ethics in Graphic Design – something he has very strong and interesting views on. He believes that ‘big budgets don’t make good work’ and considers how intellectually beneficial a project would be for the studio before deciding to take it on.

He also discussed the effects of a recession on Graphic Design, explaining a
recession is an opportunity to be part of a massive change in society. Which lead on to the identity work for Occupy London – they began with a pastiche of a
underground symbol:

Jonathan’s pitched logo stayed clear of cliche imagery whilst being simple and dynamic. He explained that his response ‘wasn’t the most amazing logo ever designed, but it does the job as a logo should’. All pitched logos were put to
public vote and Jonathan’s was victorious.

The logo was used on banners:

This simplified version gave it a raw, organic feel and Jonathan explained that the logo was designed to work in this method. Two students started up the Occupied Times using Jonathan’s font, Bastard saying: ‘We didn’t buy it, we occupied it.’

Jonathan explained he was so impressed with their initiative and passion, that he employed both of them!

Next he spoke about his work for David Bowie. Describing music as his ‘main driving force’, he said that working on the Bowie cover was great but a lot of pressure – ‘the thought of 5 million people looking at it thinking “well that is shit”.’

The cover for ‘The Next Day’, which uses a white square over the top of Bowie’s Heroes album, has been met with both criticism and praise. He talked us through some of the opinions expressed by the public, one ending in: ‘suggests a 1st year art student trying to be all that.’ – harsh!

But on the flip side, the white square became an brilliant advertising tool and icon:

Used over the top of other albums and spreading on to social networking:

Jonathan talked about keeping the Bowie album a secret – he couldn’t even tell the rest of his studio and had to use codewords when talking on the phone!

Jonathan then showed the development of the corporate identity for Roppongi Hills in Tokyo. Meaning 6 trees in Japanese, the logo was created by 6 circles and encased within the type:

Interestingly, the branding was taken so seriously that it was even drawn onto cardboard boxes used by the street cleaners:

To finish, Jonathan discussed some of his most popular work – his fonts. From Mason to Exocet:

‘Typeface design is not for everybody, lets be honest. Typography is not about grand gestures – it’s about detail.’

Jonathan explained the reasons behind his fonts, from being an expression of language to improving our society. He showed the inspiration behind his letterforms, using the past to create something new:

As well as some of the odd situations he has found his fonts being used – Disney and a menu:

It was a thought-provoking and insightful yet entertaining talk – a massive thank you to Jonathan. He even signed the Barnbrook Bibles that the boys had brought with them:

Afterwards, a group of students gave Jonathan a tour of Lincoln’s Cathedral and he kindly treated us to a drink, offering more advice and anecdotes about Bowie. Next time we’re in London, we owe you Jonathan!

Thanks again to Jonathan and also to the Chitter-Chatter team (Sam, James and Talveer) who have organised a great series of talks. Sadly that is the end!

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