Neville Brody is advertised as the most influential graphic designer of his generation, which means something in a Britain where we have at last found what we are really good at: charming money out of each other. If appetites are not refreshed, the clothes racked in Next and the produce tumbling from supermarket horns of plenty will be food for the moth and the worm. When the words and images which sharpen desire themselves need sharpening, the graphic artist (or copywriter, or director) is called in to examine the entrails for signs of which dreams will ring tills. If you are losing the style wars, and the true guerrillas of graphics are unwilling to rally to the flag, you can at least borrow their tactics. So Brody, whose launch-pad was the independent fringe of the record business and whose orbiting vehicle was the fashion/art/interview magazine The Face, found his recipes borrowed and his mannerisms aped in work with which he had no sympathy. His revolutionary war-cries and banners were misunderstood and plagiarised at the same time. In his account of Brody's work Jon Wozencroft describes how The Face 'combined pop consumerism with a critique of its culture ... both questioned and celebrated the growing profusion of styles in the same breath - the worst effects of "Style Culture" in the same issue that included items on "radical footwear" and "travelling hats" '. The ambivalence this description identifies shows up in Brody's comments on the place of design in communication. Both The Graphic Language of Neville Brody and The Making of the 'Independent' cast light on the relationship between writing and the medium of print. The magazines Brody has designed and the Independent are at opposite ends of the spectrum of style, but in both cases graphic design allows scanning (as against reading), and allows those buyers who read very little of the continuous text to feel that they have had their money's worth from the paper.
LRB 2 June 1988 | PDF Download