"This week is an important one for the future of graphic design in the UK, writes Michael Johnson. The Royal College of Art, the world's only post grad art and design school, interviews the shortlist of candidates to run its Communication Art and Design course. But with CA&D a decade old, has Art proved too much of a distraction from Design? ...
Communications graduates have been at pains to present their work within the context of white walled galleries, not grubby old commerce. Work has often been presented as 'work in progress', never finished. The 'process' has become the king, not the problem to be solved. ...
The roots of this was the self-immersion/self expression phase of British design prevalent in the nineties, fuelled by then-zeitgeist collective Tomato. This found an eager audience in South Kensington. Rightly or wrongly, a collection of part-time tutors were gathered to support the course with performance, video art, experimental film and art specialisms. Coupled with the merger of the traditional disciplines, the ground was laid for a new generation of crossover graphic artists to bloom.
But they haven't. By all accounts the department is just as silo-ridden as it ever was. If you don't believe there's an art bias, just a brief interrogation of the department's website reveals that of the dozen or so current MPhil and PhD students, the vast majority describe themselves as artists (and only two as graphic designers).
In the meantime, the better undergraduate courses like Glasgow, Kingston and St Martins* (in the UK) have successfully incorporated these 'conceptual' leanings into their courses, whilst still producing graduates capable of the basics of craft and typography. Students from these courses may not glean much more from two more years at college, apart from more room to experiment, and have often chosen simply to start work and get on with their lives. ...
Meanwhile, post-grad courses are the only growth area left in education and are springing up on a monthly basis - soon the 'MA in design' might be as ubiquitous as an 'A star at A-level'. In short, there's a lot of competition and the RCA needs to clarify exactly why a student should spend two more years there. At present it's pretty blurry, apart from avoiding a recession-hit industry just a little longer and the undoubted kudos of those letters after your name."
(Michael Johnson, Creative Review, 8 March 2010)
"A series of three tv commercials made to promote the spoken word on radio. Each spot focuses on a sound recording from on-location reporters that unfolds over thirty seconds. We chose the final three recordings from dozens, supplied by the radio station, before setting out to visualize the stories"
(tomato, 1995, UK)
Fig.1 Motion graphic spot directed by UK design collective 'Tomato'.