A matter of taste
Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at the Glasgow School of Art 2nd year study day. I was surprised and delighted to be asked to do it last year, and even more surprised to be invited back. In some ways the Art School is the last place I expect to feel welcome as so many of the things I hold dear are well outside the traditional boundaries of "proper" art and design. But that's why I got the gig. The theme for the day was "Dynamic Glasgow" so I tried to focus on what you can learn from wandering around Glasgow and the rest of Scotland.
This is more or less what I was saying, with links to more information. The photos are all on Flickr.
- I like started 5 years ago as a practice space when I was working as a librarian and learning about web design. It's a scrapbook for whatever I'm interested in, be it sweet wrappers, John Hinde postcards, great illustrators, matchbox labels, Soviet bus stops and much more. Anything goes.
- It's interesting how there's an accepted canon of things that it's okay to like, like antiques and opera, but other things, like pop music or postcards are less acceptable. Gradually these lines are blurring, which is a good thing. Everything is interesting (to me anyway).
- You can find beauty in unexpected places like power stations, signs, and derelict buildings.
- In all areas of design there a lot of stuff that flies under the radar. Some aspects of typography are well-documented (Penguin book covers, the Helvetica movie) but others aren't mentioned. You can find beautiful type anywhere - in museums, on trains, in old iron work.
- Traditionally, "good" design is slick and understated and but there's a time and a place for being brash and imperfect.
- As advertising becomes more abstract and conceptual (Sony Bravia, Cadbury's Trucks) the simplicity of a hand-painted sign is refreshing. It tells you all you need to know.
- Living fragments of the past like seaside shelters or classic cafes are like walk-in history lessons. The Val D'Oro at Glasgow Cross is like walking into the 1920s, The Ritz Cafe in Millport is the 1950s and Boni's in Clarkston the 1970s.
- Tunnock's do branding brilliantly
- Sometimes you can stumble across somewhere that has a fantastic sense of place like Footdee in Aberdeen. There are towns and cities wondering how to regenerate themselves who would kill for something as atmospheric as this.
- A visit to East Kilbride will tell you a lot about modernism and inventive town planning.
- Folk art is a rich and fascinating thing. Storybook Glen in Aberdeen, the Ukranian POW Chapel in Hallmuir and The Knitted Village in Lancaster are remarkable, unique places.
- The world is full of inspiring things so it's easy to get out and find something that interests you.
It's tricky to organise all these random thoughts into a vaguely linear sequence and make some salient points but hopefully there was something useful in there. It was a great day out for me as I got to hear some of the other speakers and there was a lot to think about. Thanks to everyone who came to listen, and to Bruce and Patsy for looking after me so well.