If you’ve laid your eyes on a poster for one of Somerset House’s exhibitions recently then you’ve more than likely been looking at the work of Teo Connor’s eponymous east London design agency. Teo, who previously co-founded No Days Off, has since worked on a bunch of chic campaigns for the cultural institution, not to mention projects for Tate, Nike and the V&A. She’s also co-founder of The W Project, which champions women in the creative industries through a series of events and exhibitions, which means she basically ticks every box. Brilliant woman.
We’ve been itching to have a look around her bookshelves since we stormed in there with a camera to film her talking about the ideal client this time last year, and her selection proves our curiosity to be anything but unfounded. Here she is on Ridley Road Market, Barney Bubbles and her secret past life as a west London rude girl.
Nina Manandhar: WHAT WE WORE: A People’s Style History
This book is special to me for a number of reasons; it was written and conceived by my friend Nina Manandhar and designed by another friend Sara El-Dabi. It’s a joyful celebration of UK fashion culture, and of finding and defining our identity through the things we wear, told through the stories and personal photos of the British public from all walks of life.
I love Nina’s work as a photographer and this book is a brilliant extension of that; a product of her keen curiosity and appetite for human stories and cultural history. She has a gift for seeing beauty in the everyday.
And most importantly, if you look hard enough you might find the odd photo of me back when I was a west London rude girl.
Julie Ault: Come Alive! The Spirited Art of Sister Corita
I’m an optimistic sort of person and perhaps that’s why I’ve been won over by this book – it’s brimming with optimism. Mary Corita was unique. Considered one of the most unusual pop artists of the 1960s, she was a compassionate and talented artist, activist, educator, and perhaps most bizarrely, nun! Influenced by the anti-war, feminist and civil rights movements of the time, her work and was born out of this hugely explosive cultural environment and this manifested itself in the riot of type, colour and image that form her distinctive style.
I love the way she embraced social activism, using her art to break down barriers, challenging political and religious establishments, and all the while experimenting with graphic design and printmaking.
I find her work heartfelt and positive in its rebellion. It has a disciplined freedom about it that results in joy, humour and surprise. A compelling formula that shows how optimism can be a subtle yet powerful form in design.
This book is brilliant not only because of the wonderful artworks inside but because it tells the story of this unusual and remarkable woman, and her gift for powerful visual narrative through humble and honest graphic expression.
Peter Beard: Peter Beard (Special Edition)
I’m a simple kind of girl but sometimes I like a bit of glamour – not all too common in the life of a graphic designer, it has to be said – and that’s probably why Peter Beard has always appealed to me. The photographer, artist and author’s work is largely glamorous and seductive, and yes, perhaps it doesn’t hurt that he was dashingly handsome and lived the chicest of lifestyles, full of people like Iman, Bianca Jagger, Jackie Onassis and Andy Warhol.
But it’s not all glamour. Beard was and is committed to the protection of the environment and chronicling the devastation of nature in east Africa, that sadly continues today.
Designed by one of my heroes, Ruth Ansel, this massive tome is eye-dazzlingly good. It is presented in a rich cloth slipcase with gold foil embossing, in two volumes beautifully bound and typeset in Ansel’s signature style – simple, timeless and elegant. The sheer weight of the thing makes you know it’s something special. I keep it displayed on my bookshelf with the little gold elephant that’s embossed on its cover facing outwards and take it out often to leaf through its pages for inspiration and escapism.
Packed with an explosion of photography, words and scrapbook collages that characterise Beard’s approach, to open this book is to embark on an adventure into Africa in all its majestic wildness and grandeur, and to peek at the intriguing life of a playboy artist.
Reasons to be Cheerful: The Life and Work of Barney Bubbles
If you love music and graphic design then this book is really a must. It traces Barney Bubbles’ career as a graphic designer, mainly focusing on his brilliant record sleeves produced during the 1970s and early 80s. It’s rich with stories and anecdotes about that hugely exciting time in British music history, when the power of the record sleeve was emerging as an art form, and when the imagery on a cover could mean as much as the music itself and often became emotionally tied to you and your experience of that music. I was first introduced to Barney Bubbles and a lot of the records that were adorned with his art by Pat Duffy when we were working together as partners of No Days Off studio. It’s fair to say that I became fairly enamoured and you can certainly see his influence in the work we produced at the studio.
When looking though this book, what amazes me most is how fresh it all looks. It’s hard to imagine it’s over 30 years old. I love the playful energy about his work, it doesn’t take itself too seriously but can still convey a smart narrative and look cool and that’s not easily done.
Lorenzo Vitturi: Dalston Anatomy
This is a recent addition to my bookshelf. I picked it up after seeing Vitturi’s show at The Photographers’ Gallery and being pretty much blown away with what I saw.
I think a lot of people have created work about Dalston’s Ridley Road Market – a true example of a multicultural London neighbourhood, vibrant and bursting with life, but Vitturi, in my opinion, is one of the few that’s pulled it off.
Spilling out over the pages of this book are the portraits of flamboyant local characters, vivid colours, and market detritus made beautiful through surreal still-life and sculpture, that saturate Vitturi’s distinctive work.
Designed by Venice-based design studio Tankboys, each book is uniquely bound in African Batik fabric, a distinctive product of the market, and brilliantly in keeping with its unique and ever-changing nature.
Perhaps it’s because he’s a local and therefore part of the community rather than a spectator, but what I think Vitturi’s work and this book capture so well is the energy and conspicuous diversity of Ridley Road Market, with a sensitivity for a unique way of life that is fast disappearing as Dalston becomes more and more gentrified and begins to look the same as everywhere else.
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