Sunday, 22 January 2012

Research project: Rian Hughes

Rian Hughes is a British graphic designer, illustrator, typographer / font designer, advertising designer author & comics artist. He is a brilliant typographer, and has long been one of my favourite designers, having started from scratch doing his own thing, which was doing comic illustrations and designing fonts, to be being described as "One of the most successful and prolific designer / illustrators of the past 20 years" [Roger Sabin, Eye magazine]. His illustrative skills, either vector or hand based, are simply amazing, i would love to be able to work in this format as good as him, or even come close to his skills with the pen or the mac. He has been described as a leader in the comic book area of design, and has worked with large names such as DC Comics & Marvel ComicsHe has a very strong understanding of typography, and how it should be applied and how it can be used through various media, such as books (including his own book 'CULT-URE: Ideas Can Be Dangerous', a brilliant book which I will go on to talk about later), t-shirts, comics & magazines and even iPod apps. He usually prefers to design his own fonts for new projects, usually giving them humorous and occasionally rude names. This has led me to believe, as well as all the interviews and videos I have watched featuring him, that he is a very fun designer, who wants to have fun and give joy through his designs, no matter what format they are in. This is why I like him. His work may be serious, especially as he has some very important clients, like Penguin Books, BBC, FHM magazine, Virgin Airways, A+M Records & The Face magazine, but he seems to have a very broad outlook on culture itself and an ingenius, yet fun way of talking about art, design and type as a whole. Look at all of his designs on his website; check it out, it's a great website! Being a student, it's a great resource for knowledge, tips and inspiration. As design is going into many different formats in this day and age, it is good to eb unique and have your own style, and Rian, in my opinion, excels at giving inspiration in this way. if you aren't a big fan of comic art, then check out the typography, or take a look at the books, posters, and the other wealth of design goodness that is on this site. I may sound too enthusiastic about this man and his website, but I like his work, and it's been a big inspiration for me. 

issues one, two and three of Rian’s self-published comic, 'ZIT'

He graduated from London College of Printing after doing Graphic Design. After leaving, he managed to get work at, and started working with, several advertising agencies, such as 'iD magazine', 'Smash Hits' & 'Conde Nast', and whilst doing this he worked for a series of record sleeve design companies. At the same time, he released his own limited edition small press minicomics called 'Zit', from 1983 to 84. There was only 20 of each ever printed. Between 1983 and 1989, he was a regular contributor to 'Escape magazine', for which he drew among others 'Norm' and 'The Inheritors'. In 1987, he published his first graphic novel, 'The Science Service', with the Belgian publisher Magic Strip.
Logo generations for Batman comics.

'The Science Service'
By the 1980s onwards, Rian was working with many comic book publishers, and by the 1990s, it seemed that he had given his own personal touch to almost every type of comic in the British comic book industry. No easy feat, yet Rian easily pulled it off with his comic design abilities. Wikipedia describes his art / illustrations styles as 'highly distinctive, wearing its design influences on its sleeve, daring to be two-dimensional and bold in its use of large expanses of flat, bold colours' & 'he utilised expanses of flat colour and texture in asymmetric and dynamic layouts, his characters became more elegant and exaggerated, and the type, generally custom designed for each illustration, became an integral part of his image making process'. Though enabled by the use of the mac at this time, Rian considers his combination of design, illustration and typography to be a return to the working methods of the early 20th century with poster designs.

Rian has described typography as “the particle physics of design”. His fondness of typography began at the at of 15 when he discovered letraset catalogue that his father had, as he was ana architect. This is the technique he used in his early design days when he was producing his own custom type. His first fonts were introduced in 1992 as part of the FontFont range, while designs created thereafter were placed on his website.

An example of one of Rian's hand crafted fonts.
Another example of one of Rian's hand crafted fonts.

Whilst going through his earlier career in design, he went under the name 'Device'. In 1994, he started his own studio which he then carried on as 'Device'. So, Rian has been in the design industry for a long time.

The front of the book.
Me with my copy of the book.

On top of all this, he is a well articulated author. His book, 'CULT-URE: Ideas Can Be Dangerous', published by 'Fiell Publishing Limited', has been a big success. I bought this book when it was first released in shops, as I had seen several pages of his book broadcast over various design websites. The actual design of the book itself also captivated me. It is bound in faux leather with a gold trim. Rian has provided a fabric page marker for the reader to keep track of what page they're on. Interestingly, the yellow and black dust jacket barely covers the front. The words 'CULT-URE' on the front are embossed, meaning you can run your finger(s) over the text. 

The synopsis of the book states, 'Today culture has a powerful new vector: the internet. Ideas - from a YouTube video to a viral marketing phenomenon or a fundamentalist religion - are travelling further and faster, and changing the cultural landscape like never before. In a new electronic democracy of ideas, cultural power is devolving to the creative individual. We will soon all have the means to create; we just have to decide whether it be art or bombs. In our symbol-drenched lives we desperately need a way of decoding the messages that bombard us. Written and designed by Rian Hughes, 'CULT-URE' is the culmination of a decade's research into why and how we communicate. 'CULT-URE' provides a thought-provoking exploration into media convergence within our digital age and an insider's guide into the changing nature of communications, perceptions and identities. Set to become a cult publication for the digital generation, 'CULT-URE' is the 21st century answer to Marshall McLuhan's seminal 'The Medium is the Massage'. 'CULT-URE' is your thought-provoking guide to surviving the new media revolution, and a potent inoculation against infection by dangerous ideas.' This makes the book not only an in-depth look at how our society is evolving and changing around us, but also how we, as a mass or as an individual, perceive the world, and it's changes, and how they (may) affect us.

'The Medium Is The Massage'.
It has been described by Peter Fiell, owner of 'Fiell Publishing Limited', on his Youtube video review (under the user 'Fiellbooks') as a 'masterpiece' and defined the book as 'author design'; this means that the designer is the author, making the whole outcome a piece of art. Peter also goes on to describe it as an evolution of previous book that explored the same society parameters of society as CULT-URE; this book was written by a professor from the University of Toronto called Marshal McLuhan, and his book, whose graphics and photography were done by designer Quentin Fiore, was called 'The Medium Is The Massage'. As Peter describes, 'this book was created to show how ideas can be disseminated into the world during the age of the emergence of television'. He goes on to describe CULT-URE as an advancement of that book, showing how society is disseminated through the new age of the internet, and how that has an enormous effect on the way people perceive the world around them, and what ideas mean and how we should be thinking about how they are changing our lives. 

When interviewed about CULT-URE by 'Fiell Publishing Limited', Rian himself said, "I would hope that this would be a very approachable, fun, easily digestible concentrated shot of ideas that I hope people will respond to and will open their eyes in certain ways to look at the world in ways that they may not have before. And I'm hoping that by revealing the structure behind, first of all, the way that designer's symbolism works, and then language and culture works. That people will be much more aware of the assumptions that they may have made and see things more clearly, and I think definitely that as we move forward to a more & more media saturated environment , were science and symbols are enveloping us that the more savvy we are and the less we are going to be taken in by people who want to manipulate us by using these symbols. So I think we've got to be street-wise in the global village". 

Below are several scanned pages from the book, demonstrating the varied usage of formats used to convey each message; these obviously include vectors, photography, typography, optics, and even Rian's comic beginnings.

CULT-URE is a very good read, and very well documented with great uses of graphics, illustrations, photographs and a beautifully presented piece of art in itself. If I can be lucky enough to produce anything like this, I would be a very happy designer. 

Rian was a key guest speaker for the Typographic Circle, a group of prestigious designers who all have a love of typography. One thing the Circle does is invite large firms, or well known designers, to come and give a talk about how they got started in design and typography. Rian was one of the key speakers on November 24th 2011. Unfortunately, I am unable to find a video of this lecture he did. He spoke at JWT for the Typographic Circle, discussing his lettering and logo designs for clients such as Marvel Comics (X-Men) and DC Comics (Batman), and the genesis of some of his most popular fonts.

This poster was created by one of the the Typographic Circle's committee members Sallyanne Theodosiou. On her blog page, she described her design process through the poster; 'I used his logo really really big because I thought the image was unusual and could be read in different ways. Some people see birds, others see hands, what do you see?'

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