"Some time in the late eighties I became very excited by the potential of 'desktop computing', having been introduced to a Macintosh, along with software such as PageMaker, FreeHand and PixelPaint. Although somewhat primitive, I sensed that these early digital tools would surely have a devastating effect on writing and publishing, and I readily embraced them as part of my professional practice.
Most aspects of both hardware and software would be deemed unusable by today's standards, so it was as much with a spirit of enquiry, if not simply of wilful and naive optimism, that I set out to both experiment and to evangelise about the new future for communications media that seemed so obvious (and inevitable) to me even then.
In an exuberant bid to raise awareness and hopefully to foster an enthusiasm similar to my own amongst my peers, I posed the question "the book is dead?" in a provocatively titled article written for a design industry magazine. My aim was to encourage the people who concerned themselves with publishing and communication design to recognise these exciting new challenges. I couldn't understand why more designers were not yet embracing and exploring the idea of working creatively with such powerful new technologies.
In some ways this deliberately confrontational, but tongue in cheek, strategy backfired and it was largely remembered for the opposite reasons. The title was for the most part misread or misunderstood, and the article was interpreted as saying that the book should no longer have a role in contemporary publishing, and that it was soon to be completely replaced by the new media.
What I had hoped I was saying was that alongside the exciting opportunities for writers, designers and communicators, traditional publishing in physical forms is nevertheless a living medium and would doubtless not only survive but develop in exciting new ways. It was my belief that the printed word would be liberated from the confines of existing requirements and expectations, and surprise us with new creative expression.
One thing may be replaced by another, but those that are 'replaced' always maintain an evolving existence of their own. Perhaps it was too early for this to be fully appreciated when the article was written, and returning to these themes almost twenty years on seems more appropriate than ever.
In this exhibition I have selected pieces from the Crafts Council Collection which highlight how the physicality of the object can enhance a published work in unusual, unexpected or unique ways, and illustrate that 'conventional' publishing is indeed an evolving space which has a distinctive role to play beyond that of basic vehicle for the printed word.
The themes that the six chosen works represent, also suggest to me questions that are answered in different ways by digital media. In parallel with the ideas explored by the authors and designers in these physical pieces, similar or tangential concepts are explored in quite different ways in the virtual world. As one book closes shut another opens, the Looking Glass is looking back, and Alice now communicates from both sides of the screen.”
Malcolm Garrett is a creative director at the graphic design consultancy Applied Information Group. He made his mark as founder of Assorted Images, working with Buzzcocks, Duran Duran, Culture Club and Simple
Minds throughout the 80s. Early collaborations with Peter Gabriel,
and the Design Museum, fuelled an enduring passion for interactive design, setting up AMX, in 1994, to work exclusively in this field.
AMX was responsible for numerous landmark projects, including the first webcasts in the UK for bands such as Orbital and Oasis, and it pioneered the use of many new digital publishing technologies such as QuickTime, ShockWave, CD-Rom, Enhanced-CD, DVD, and Interactive TV. Clients ranged from record companies such as Virgin, Universal and Warner Music through to Guinness, Saatchi & Saatchi, Barclays Bank, and the Science Museum. More recently Malcolm has led the design of projects for Icons – a portrait of England, The Open Futures Trust, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Sharp Project.
Malcolm was nominated for the Prince Philip Designers Prize in 1998, He is a Royal Designer, and a member of the Science Museum Advisory Committee.