Monday, 20 August 2007

jonathan Barnbrook - 'Friendly Fire'

I recently visited the exhibition 'Friendly Fire' at the London 'Design Museum'. The exhibition consisted of the work of Jonathan Barnbook.

Jonathan Barnbook is a graphic designer with a social conscience. "Barnbrook makes powerful statements about corporate culture, consumerism, war and international politics. Through his work in both commercial and non-commercial spheres he combines wit, political savvy and bitter irony in equal measures" (

Since graduating in graphic design from Saint Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, Barnbrook has developed a multifaceted practice which includes graphic design, typeface design and motion graphics. The exhibition traces Barnbooks career from his early typographic experiments and pioneering motion graphics, in 1990, to more recent work, including his collaboration with Damian Hurst and latest projects with collaborators such as the anti-corporate collective Adbusters

His activities during the past 14 years have generated a great deal of discussion and debate, both favourable and unfavourable. In an interview with 'Typographer' Barnbrook talked about his main influences, "Well the first is an inner anger which is a response to all the unfairness that is in this world. I don't know if this is a strange or embarrassing thing for a designer or typographer to say because the older notions of being a graphic designer are about being an invisible communicator and I believe without having confidence in the way the world is moving forward you cannot be unquestioning and invisible. The second which is a direct opposite is trying to express some of the beauty of the world. My work has been criticised for being too 'depressing' but I am just trying to show the possible beauty of life through showing the immense contradiction of what we have and what is possible." (

Cover of Adbusters designed by Barnbrook

"Graphic design is many things and there are people on both sides, but now there is a general feeling that we have to take a bit more responsibility for what we do. The fact is openly discussed now, where as it wasn’t before when we released the First Things First manifesto with Adbusters in 2000".
Barnbrook was one of 33 figures from the international graphic design community, who signed and backed the publication of the First Things First manifesto. It was first written in 1963 and published in 1964 by Ken Garland. Reacting against a rich and affluent Britain of the sixties, it tried to re-radicalise design that had become lazy and uncritical. Drawing on ideas shared by Critical Theory, the Frankfurt School and the counter-culture of the time it explicitly re-affirmed the belief that Design is not a neutral, value-free process.

Two spreads from the Barnbrook Bible, published in June 2007

Design Museum location:
The Design Museum,
Shad Thames,
London SE1

1 comment:

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