‘Who the hell is Mr Brockmann?’ is an artistic research project exploring how national design, at the height of its success in the 1950s-60s, can somehow survive and continue to have an impact today. How can typesetting or a grid affect an entire community abroad? How can a typeface create anger and disdain? Which stories are hiding behind the success and failure of a design manifesto? In the end, is the contemporary scene still truly innovative or simply basking in past glories? How does cultural exchange provide new value to the field of graphic design? This research aims to celebrate dialogue and cooperation, but also to accept divergences and conflicts between the rich design scenes of the UK and Switzerland.
A week-long research project will be run by Swiss graphic designer Demian Conrad in a tiny gallery space in Brick Lane, umlaut¨, in collaboration with the Swiss Cultural Fund UK. From this capsule Demian will take a journey through a design community living in London (British and Swiss), consisting of typographers, graphic designers, artists, curators, teachers, writers and many other practitioners active in this field.
Demian will invite each guest to have an informal conversation at the gallery, so the space itself will act as a catalyst and a performative platform. Over a coffee and chocolate, the dialogues will highlight anecdotes, stories or perhaps scandals and jealousies in the relationship between these two opposing “islands”. Maybe the contamination of ideas and styles can go beyond the Alps and cross the English Channel as easily as a bottle of Rivella.
Each day, every guest will bring a trace of their personal memories: a piece of typeface, a postcard, a little story, an article… This material will be reworked by Demian and displayed on the walls of the space, underlining connections and relations.
Among the guests will be Richard Hollis, Holger Jacobs, Giovanna Lisignoli, Michele Jannuzzi, Bruno Maag, Fraser Muggeridge, Stuart Tolley and many others.
The meetings between Demian and the guests are open to the public and part of the one-week research project. Each visitor will be able to enter the space and become an active actor in the performance; the serendipity and surprises are part of the journey and have their own aesthetic role to play.
At the end of the research week the space will stay open as an installation piece, accessible to everyone for consultation until the end of the month. Visitors will also be able to add their own comments to the wall, enhancing the narrative aspect of the project.
Perhaps, at the end of the month, a new ‘English style’ will take shape, attempting to subvert the hegemony of the insensitive Helvetica with the humanistic touch of Eric Gill. Demian Conrad is a graphic designer based in Switzerland. He runs Automatico, a studio specialising in the cultural field. He founded a new laboratory in collaboration with HEAD (Haute école d’art et de design) in Geneva, the Centre for Future Publishing. Demian has been teaching editorial design at HEAD to Bachelor and Master students since 2014.