Archive for September, 2009

Kate Moross ♥ Barney Bubbles

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

12in sleeve. Choose Your Own Adventure, heartsrevolution, iheartcomix, 2008.

If proof were needed that Barney Bubbles continues to inspire contemporary designers more than a quarter of a century after his death, look no further than London’s own Kate Moross, the 23-year-old making waves around the world with a remarkable body of work which first started to attract attention while she was still at Camberwell College of Arts.

Poplluxxe, Cutting Pink With Knives, 2009.

10in card gatefold. Back and front, Populuxxe, Cutting Pink With Knives, Isomorph, 2008.

Inner gatefold, Populuxe, Cutting Pink With Knives.

Moross shares Barney’s deft use of colour, concerns for isometry, geometry and architectural form and his appetite for music (operating vinyl-only label Isomorph). She is similarly fascinated by symbols – not least the repeated representation of her trademark three triangles – and applies a serious work ethic across a range of media and disciplines.

Moross determinedly creates at the cross-hatches of fine art and graphic design but, in a similar fashion to Barney, refuses to be pinned down stylistically.

Right: Badges. Left: Logo, Vauxhall Skate roller-disco, 2008.

Her flyers, posters, stickers, record sleeves, t-shirts, art direction, lighting design, stage sets and videos for the likes of La Roux,  Simian Mobile Disco, heartsrevolution and Telepathe  exemplify a dedication to detail and a ready wit.


Music video, directed by Jo Apps and Kate Moross. Audacity Of Huge, Simian Mobile Disco, 2009.

Moross – who has designed for record labels including Allido and Merok Records, created campaigns for such companies as Cadbury’s and a clothing range for Top Shop – was introduced to Barney’s work via his 1977 sleeve for The Damned’s album Music For Pleasure.

12in sleeve, card. Music For Pleasure, The Damned, Stiff Records, 1977.

From left: Back sleeve, both sides of inner, Music For Pleasure.

“It was old and new and confusing,” Moross told us while on the road this summer: last month she took part in Semi Permanent, the international design event in New Zealand, lining up with fellow Brits Harry Pearce (of Pentagram), Sanky (AllofUs) and Tim Beard (Bibliotheque), as well as such design legends as David Carson.

Moross during her Semi Permanent presentation, Auckland, August 15 2009. Photo: Otis Hu.

“I love confusing,” declares Moross. “I love codes and symbols, so Music For Pleasure has everything; graphic and illustrative, pattern and block colours, everything mixed together perfectly.”

La Roux t-shirt, 2009.

Moross says that the coherence within Barney’s disparate methods and styles lies in his ability to “fit the brief, and that’s what every artist or designer’s goal should be. Not everything needs to be the same, but it should always be brilliant, and Barney was brilliant”.

Left: Concert flyer, 2006. Right: Pull-out poster, Super Super, issue 6, 2007.

Moross’s rise coincided with the reawakening of interest in illustration, packaging and graphics in music circles in the Noughties.

Left: Clubnight poster 2007. Right: Test Card clubnight ident, 2008.

Advertising campaign, Cadbury's Dairy Milk, 2009.

“I think that the Sixties and Seventies did wonders, but then the Eighties and Nineties kind of stopped caring; it was the artists that sold the music, not the art,” she believes.

7in card with foil imprint. Into The Galaxy, Midnight Juggernauts, Isomorph, 2009.

“But it came back round. Packaging and design were back, labels and bands started employing illustrators and designers to make something special again.”

Packaging 12in vinyl and jewel case CD. Temporary Pleasure, Simian Mobile Disco, Wichita, 2009.

Moross is particularly keen on the 7in sleeve for Ian Dury & The Blockheads‘ 1978 number one single Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

7in sleeve, paper. Back and front cover, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Stiff Records, 1978.

“I love the way the fractured isometric shapes are broken apart in a bold three-colour composition and then beautifully reconstructed on the reverse,” she said.

10in debossed laser-foiled matt sleeve. Back and front, Switchblade EP, heartsrevolution, ISO 2008.

Sleeve detail, Switchblade EP.

Foil sticker, Switchblade EP.

“To be honest, I didn’t know Barney’s work until recently,” Moross added. “But when I found it, I wished I could have been around at a time of such awesome creativity within musical ephemera. I feel like, with my enthusiasm, I would have fitted in well.”

That may be true. But their loss in the Seventies and Eighties is definitely our gain today.

From Twickenham to Tuscany: the George Snow connection

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

There are a number of parallels between the early careers of Barney Bubbles and video-maker/computer animator George Snow.

Both studied art and design at Twickenham College Of Technology (now Richmond Upon Thames College), though George was there a couple of years after Barney. George also worked for the underground press, designed record sleeves, was stimulated rather than stymied by the punk upheaval of the mid-70s, and went on to direct pop videos (such as Jack ‘n’ Chill’s The House That Jack Built).

By the time Barney took his own life in 1983, George had investigated collage and social comment, as editor of Radical Illustration and as a photo-journalist in strife-torn Northern Ireland for such publications as the Morning Star, Socialist Worker and Black Dwarf.

He also embraced new technology in the form of computer animation and multimedia, and today his establishment 3D3 World leads the way in the training of 3D animation.

George first encountered Barney personally at the offices of Friends in Portobello Road when he art-directed a single issue of the underground paper in 1970.

“I remember Barney as soft-spoken, friendly and somewhat shambolic in appearance,” says George. “I had never heard of him when we first met, but following the decline of the underground press we were all aware of his growing fame as we struggled with Bay City Rollers magazines and other junk.”

Band logo, George Snow, 1977.

George’s music business work included sleeves for UA-signed acts such as The Stranglers and 999, for whom he created the familiar raffle-ticket logo. When the punk act moved to Radar, where Barney was design head, their sleeves were created by another UA alum, Paul Henry.

Back and front cover, 7" single sleeve, Nasty Nasty/No Pity, 999, UA Records, 1977. Design: George Snow.

In the 80s George directed videos for such acts as London Beat and The Art Of Noise, designed book jackets and taught at a number of leading colleges, all the while developing his computer-generated artistry via projects such as his 1988 Channel 4 film based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Assignation. His 1996 film Tall Story – about a building which comes life when struck by lightning – was nominated in the British Animation Awards.

George believes he, Barney and many others benefited from the traditional and multi-disciplinary approach to teaching at their alma mater Twickenham.

“The foundation course was probably the best in the country at the time,” he says. “Observation through drawing and painting were central to it. And it is important to bear in mind that the art school was a part of a larger organisation teaching crafts such as bricklaying and plumbing among other trades. That meant we had access to oxy-acetylene welding gear, a complete chemistry lab (we made tear gas for our closing party) and all the other equipment that had a common purpose for tradesmen and artists.”

George  recalls in particular a visit from Bob Gill, co-founder of Fletcher Forbes Gill (which became design behemoth Pentagram) and author with his partners of one of Barney’s favourite books.

Front cover of Barney's own copy of Graphic Design.

“Bob Gill was a major influence on me,” says George. “He gave us one lecture and a crit and knocked me out. His approach to idea creation was what really hit home. Basically by taking two elements of a situation and combining them he showed how we could get an original ‘idea’: a classic example being his illustration on divorce – a wedding photograph torn in two with the bride on one side and the groom on the other.”

Back cover, 7" single sleeve, Welcome To The Working Week/Alison, Elvis Costello, Stiff Records, 1977. Design: Barney Bubbles.

George believes that Barney’s work was similarly special “because it was subject to his personal whims. We were allowed a great deal of free expression in those distant days; there were no marketing men to tell us what was required. Often enough impoverished record labels let us do what our egos dictated simply because it allowed them to pay us so little”.

As to the creative course Barney would have pursued had he lived beyond 1983, George says: “I feel sure Barney would have continued to develop; that is to say he would have stopped following those roads that bored him or threatened him with repetition.

“Multimedia and computer animation would have attracted him, probably because they were new. He would have picked up on audio software such as Pro Tools and probably composed music himself.”

Among George’s current projects is the virtual world he is creating for an exhibit entitled APES at Den Haag’s Gemeentemuseum next year. This is made up of 10 projections displaying a 360deg panorama of architectural space which draws on Alberti, Piranesi, Escher as well as his own work (hence the acronym).

Such projects underline George’s acceptance that if there is an similarity between Barney and himself, “it would have been a certain restlessness and a desire to prove oneself in another field. Doubtless he would have been into video, web design and multi-media in general. How those areas would have benefited from his sense of humour.”

Front cover, 12" album sleeve, Imperial Bedroom, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, F-Beat Records, 1982. Credit: Sal Forlenza, 1942.

If his hand is forced, George selects the geometric Hawkwind covers,  The Glastonbury Fayre and Imperial Bedroom as his Barney favourites.

“But I don’t think Barney was a man of one work or one particular work of genius,” he emphasises. “Like a colony of ants his work was one single being – with many legs.”