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Supergraphics: the book

[THIS WEEK] A beautiful new book charts the Supergraphics movement since inception, writes James Pallister

Supergraphics is the second book from Unit Editions, a new publishing venture from graphic designers Tony Brook, creative director at Spin and Adrian Shaughnessy, director of ShaughnessyWorks. 

The book traces Supergraphics’ history, starting with its late-1960s birth with the work of a Swiss-trained graphic designer, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, who brought oversized modernist graphics to California, transforming a bath house with a paintjob that danced and wove through the building, to the movement’s spread through the US and Europe. Designers and architects, enthused by Pop Art, colour theory and Robert Venturi’s PoMo writings, embraced its techniques to manipulate and distort buildings. As Shaughnessy quotes from a 1968 Lifemagazine piece, ‘the idea of Supergraphics is to knock down walls with paint’.

Unit Editions have pulled off its promise to produce ‘high-quality, affordable books on graphic design and visual culture’ with this. It retails at £25 and the lavish production values – a poster cover-wrap, 322 pages of weighty paper stock with generous pictures, make it good value for money.

The format is straightforward. Two hundred and fifty pages of photography with sparse project descriptions take the reader through Stauffacher Solomon’s 1966 Sea Ranch Project, through to work by Morag Myerscough for Allford Hall Monaghan Morris at Westminster Academy, and Troika’s 2008 electroluminescent wall at Heathrow Terminal Five.

At the end of this visual tour comes a section printed on pink stock with two essays and seven interviews. In the Creative Review’s deputy editor, Mark Sinclair’s piece, he points to the opportunities afforded by technology: now artists and designers can ape the spatial effects wielded by architects with much more at their disposal than just design skills and paint.

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