Neville Brody is an internationally known British graphic designer and typographer, who is best known for his work on magazines, most notably ‘The Face.’ This magazine transformed the way in which designers and readers approach typography and layout. In addition to his magazine work, he designed record covers for such independent record companies as Fetish, Hannibal, and Phonogram Records in the 1980s.
Along with his other work, Brody created a vast amount of typefaces throughout his career. A few of these types are Arcadia, Industrial, and Insignia. Brody was born in 1957 and grew up in Southgate, which is a suburb of North London.
He commented that he does not remember a time in his life when he was planning to do anything other than art or painting. In 1975, Brody attended the Fine Art Foundation Program at Hornsey College of Art. The school was extremely conservative and at this time Brody decided to pursue a career in graphics instead of the Fine Arts. He says “why can’t you take a painterly approach within a printed medium?” In the autumn of 1976, Brody started a three-year BA course in graphics at the London College of Printing.
Brody says he hated his time there, but that it was necessary to his development as a designer. “I wanted to communicate to as many people as possible, but also to make a popular form of art that was more personal and less manipulative. I had to find out more about how the process worked. The only way possible was to go to college and learn it,” His work was often considered too experimental.
At one stage he was almost thrown out of the school for putting the Queen’s head sideways on the design of a postage stamp. “If tutors said they liked something I was doing, I would go away and change it, because such approval then made me think there must be something wrong with the work.
I think that was a very positive and healthy attitude.” Brody’s attitude on computers has changed a lot since he first started using them. His view had been that if you could do something by hand, you should not use a machine. In 1987, Brody forced himself to play around with a friend’s computer. He says learning to use the Macintosh computer was a slow process.
But in the end, Brody acquired his skills with the mouse by playing a game called Crystal Quest for hours, instead of working. He realized all the ways that he could manipulate his work on a computer that he absolutely could not have done any other way. Although he still believes that “hands on” experience is definitely necessary, he realizes that computers open up a whole avenue that would not be possible without their development.
Dadaism and pop art have largely influenced Brody’s work. Although he says he never sought to copy these styles, he took from them a sense of dynamism and humanism and a non-acceptance of the traditional rules and values of art. These elements can be seen in Brody’s typefaces, which are having a very original and expressive design.
All along the line, Neville Brody has tried to create and use typefaces that go against the grain of contemporary fashion. Others that have influenced Brody are Man Ray and Lazlo Maholy-Lazlo’s photography. Both of these men were able to stretch the limits of their fields, by inventing and manipulating techniques as never before.
After his graduation, in the late 1970s, Brody began to design record covers for British punk music companies such as Fetish and Hannibal. The punk music scene then was more concerned with the ideas behind the music than with the actual music. Brody’s outrageous cover designs were readily accepted by these companies.
Cabaret Voltaire and 23 Skiddo were two bands that he worked extensively for on album covers. In 1981, Brody began working for a magazine called ‘The Face.’ During this time he questioned the traditional structure of magazine design. “Why be inhibited by the edges of the page?”says Brody. His main concerns were to encourage people to have to look twice at a page and to make the magazine as visually interesting as possible.
Brody worked at ‘The Face’ until 1986. Brody also worked with ‘City Limits’ and ‘New Socialist,’ both 1980’s magazines out of London. Brody became well known around the world in 1988, when his biography was published and he displayed his work in several large art exhibitions.
There was a period between 1987 and 1990 when Brody was working for the magazine ‘Arena,’ when he designed mostly minimalistic non-decorative typefaces. Brody felt his work had been ripped off too much. As a result of this, he did not want to make any more new statements what-so-ever. He began to create simple fonts and avoided creating anything too exotic for a period of time. Since 1987 Brody has had his own London studio.
He found that overseas clients were more supportive of his work intentions — to embrace the potential of the computer and to provide companies with the templates that they wanted from his own studio. Commissions from Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, Men’s Bigi and Parco in Japan, and the opportunity to design postage stamps for the Dutch PTT were followed by two major television graphics projects.
His transition to working with electronic images was reflected by Brody’s involvement with the digital type. In 1990 he opened FontWorks with a collogue named Stuart Jenson. Neville Brody became the director of FontShop International, with whom he launched the experimental type magazine called FUSE.
Neville Brody has not only changed the world of typography but that of graphic design as well. His ideas of creating typefaces that are more concerned with being graphically oriented, rather than contemporary or simply readable, have affected both typography and graphic design.
Jon Wozencoft, The Graphic Language of Neville Brody, c 1988 by Rizzoli International Pub. Inc. Takenobu Igarashi, Designers on Mac, c 1992 by Graphic-sha Pub. Co., Ltd. http://www.contrib.com/fuse95/fuse-talk/brody.html Word Count: 1007
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