V&A Illustration Awards 2011 (London Design Festival) – Review

David Craib owner of a Canadian design studio says “Design should never say, “Look at me.” It should always say, “Look at this.” The quote accurately explains why business uses design to sell.

Around this time last year while working on a branding assignment which was more a design and to be specific an illustration assignment with Virgin Mobile in India we were looking for various sources – online, books, portfolio, anything really to understand what goes into managing illustration design that says “Look at this”. This is when we first stumbled upon the London Design Festival through its Facebook page. For a festival that started in 2003 it has grown in stature and participation. Being held in one of the design capitals of the world helps. What’s more commendable though is that it has retained an independent accessible identity and that’s really the reason we feature it.

Categories range across design faculties and are staged across 150 venues all over London.
To slake my year long curiosity (still studying illustration design) I planned on attending the V&A Illustration Awards 2011 at the gorgeous Victoria and Albert Museum which if you’re visiting London should take about 3 days to have a reasonable browse through.
The Illustration awards exhibition was like a tropical cocktail,a bit tangy to start with before the blend of deceptively colourful liqueurs settled in. Like hobos trekking their way to a distant beach we quickly grabbed bar stools under the shack and decided to let them cocktails drown noises of ignorance and amplify the hush of the sea.
These awards exhibit various categories and we best try an offer a perspective on all of them, only makes it worth the trek, don’t you think.
To start with, we looked at the Book Illustration Award which Laura Carlin picked up for her work on Ted Hughe’s “Iron Man”.

Influences in arrangement seem inspired by hieroglyphics and proportions add strength and enormity to the central character. The use of shadow like shapes is intriguing great choice for the protagonist but in its association with other characters in the story makes you think. The underlining thought is perhaps that of living with shadows, your own and that of iron man who selflessly protects.

Next we moved on to Mike Redmond’s work categorized under the Student illustrator of the Year, 2011.
As a student at the Royal College of Art we think he articulates his own process quite well when he suggests
“I am always drawing in my sketchbooks noting down the thoughts, things and events that interest me…I have an idea I want to communicate and let it flow, it’s an intuitive way of working…”.

The nonchalance and intuitiveness mixed with typically British subjects such as those on “before the dive” (check the website)add to the quirk and an original perspective. One would argue that the illustration itself is not much to write home about but again its originality of thought and therefore the caption “hiding things we like and showing things we don’t” has such seducing darkness.
In terms of design there is noticeable observation of how space and time affects different people. Such as the anti-gravity fruits. Judges felt that “the tension Redmond creates commands a second viewing like a thief returning to the scene of crime”.

Next we moved to Book Cover Design category, one of the most challenging in our opinion yet more subjective than perhaps adapting a book to a film. Closer print advertising in its narative.

The challenge for Lorenzo Petrantoni of course was to make Ned Beauman’s BOXER BEETLE stand out on the shelves. And stand out did.

They say “don’t judge a book by its cover” maybe because if this one was even half as good as its cover it would have “bestseller” etched on it. May be the next print, who knows. The judges felt it packed a punch like “..Kafka seen through the eyes of Dashiell Hammett”. Lorenzo Petrantoni’s inspiration is borrowed from 19th century dictionary style illustrations (below):

He describes his signature as “encyclopedic collages”. He’s also has a reputation in the advertising world and did a recent campaign for Nike in China.
Nike hires Lorenzo
One must also observe the flexibility a brilliant brand like Nike offers.
Back to the illustration for which he won the award, also notice the boxing poster type used to bring in what is perhaps a critical element of the story in the novel. I mean you don’t want the customers to ignore the book as just another pretty face in the crowd.

What definitely did not get lost in the crowd was absolute brilliance piece of work that Olivier Kugler churned out while in Tehran.

This won him the Editorial category at V&A 2011 and also the Overall Winner. Creative Review featured him and obviously had some nice words to say about him.
However, couple of observations missed out in the Creative Review are a) the process of his design starts from photographs he took to b) illustration (digital) c) colour (digital) which is evident but not apologetic as you would notice with the randomness of thick rounded black lines all over adding the requisite energy the project he did for French magazine XXI-Vignt et un

Just before closing this post(on 11th Aug 2011) we had the opportunity to meet a number of designers at a meet up (organised by Creative Pool). We’ve encouraged them as we would anyone else in design to go for this exhibition and try not to get lost in the V&A Museum. As most designers seem to be moving or adapting to the web as an almost imperative part of staying competitive, these awards were a refreshing reminder that such desperation is unnecessary. We believe there is more demand for specialists. So we’d like to encourage artists everywhere to break the mediocre orbit and specialize more. Think Rasta.



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