GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years and Beyond

05 November 2014
22 December 2014

An exhibition of Graphic Design from the Royal College of Art (1963-2013)
In 1963, the first exhibition of graphic design took place at the Royal College of Art featuring the work of current and former students.‘GraphicsRCA: Fifteen Year's Work of the School of Graphic Design’ looked back to the founding of the School in 1948, and at the same time attempted to capture the new direction of the profession as it had emerged post-war. Under the guidance of Professor Richard Guyatt the School had promoted a decidedly fine art approach but one that was closely aligned to a commercially determined framework. This marriage between aesthetic sensibilities and industry was signaled through the courses taught at the time: publicity design, television and film design, typography, book production, bookbinding, and illustration (which forged strong links with printmaking). Guyatt explained in the exhibition’s accompanying catalogue, ‘It is on this interplay of the faculties of head and heart and hand that the training programmes in the School of Graphic Design are based.’ (Guyatt 1963: 23) The exhibition heralded an era that saw graphic design emerge as a major force in both British industry and popular culture.
Over fifty years later, graphic design education and the profession again finds itself at a crossroads. The complexity of our contemporary social and technological landscape means the role of design has by necessity evolved. A new kind of industry has emerged predicated on big data, social communication and behavioral change; and, with this, curricula that foster agility and interdisciplinarity. ‘GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years Beyond’ tells the story from the point where the 1963 exhibition left off by tracing the history of the impact students and tutors at the RCA have had on design and the visual landscape internationally up until today.


Under various names, the graphic design course at the RCA has produced a range of innovative practices including those that celebrate the designer as theorist, the designer as author, the designer as researcher, and the designer as collaborator. This is evidenced through student work housed in the RCA Graphic Design Archive including the design and production of the RCA’s Film Society Posters, Stamps for Royal Mail, ARK/ARC magazine, Lion and Unicorn Press, numerous college-commissioned exhibition catalogues and prospectuses as well as collaborative and individual student projects.
As a part of the exhibition, a historical and contextual timeline is included, designed by current RCA students mapping significant dates, events, plus details of staff and student work. The exhibition features many graduates of the RCA who are leading graphic design practitioners on the world stage including Alan Fletcher, Jonathan Barnbrook, Graphic Thought Facility, Why Not Associates, Fuel, Daniel Eatock, Sophie Thomas, A Practice for Everyday Life, Frith Kerr, Amelia Noble, Liza Enebeis (Studio Dunbar) and John Pasche. Equally, the significance of the role that tutors and heads of programme have played in fostering a unique and creative experience for students should not be downplayed. Many have also been at the leading edge of design and artistic practice, critical debates, and design education such as Richard Guyatt, FHK Henrion, Anthony Froshaug, Ken Garland, Alan Kitching, Derek Birdsall, Gert Dunbar, Margaret Calvert and Neville Brody.

With its international outreach, RCA’s students, tutors and alum have played a significant role in pushing forward the boundaries of what we understand graphic design to have been, what it currently is and where it will be in the future. ‘GraphicsRCA’ captures this vitality, and asks important questions about the raison d’etre of the field. Here’s to the next fifty years.
GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years and Beyond will be held at the Royal College of Art, Upper Gulbenkian Galleries from 5th November-22 December 2014.  A catalogue will accompany the exhibition.
Curators:  Professor Teal Triggs, Adrian Shaughnessy, Jeff Willis, Richard Doust (Tutors) and Abbie Vickress, Natasha Trotman (Students).

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