He’d come out of a different route in London. It was an expression of independent individuality, it was a cry against this bland culture. I think Paul Smith had just about started his first store in Floral Street. One is: there is such a high level of conservatism in London.”
Nevill Brody is one of 45 designers and architects featured in Dezeen Book of InterviewsAfter college, Brody took a job at London-based agency Rocking Russian where he worked under prominent art director Alex McDowell, who was responsible for creating some of the period’s most iconic punk t-shirt graphics. While studying at London College of Printing (now part of London College of Communication), Brody got his first taste of a musical movement that was to have a heavy influence on his future work
Artwork by Neville Brody for 23 Skidoo’s Seven songs LP”I was there for three years doing a graphic design course. And everyone passes through even though they aren’t actually based here. It was a huge squat. So people like Malcolm McLaren were around. The London College of Printing was, at that time, 80 per cent local printers’ apprentices, with The Sun newspaper in their back pocket, practising that famous phrase, “You can’t do that, mate.”
I was there for three years doing a graphic design course. London has a particular set of politics and cultural influences that has been absolutely instrumental in developing the work that I do.It’s important here to mention that the music scene in London was so vital. Nick Logan, who started it, had been doing Smash Hits [magazine] at Emap – Emap’s offices were in central London, near Carnaby Street. “It was the most enthralling experience,” he said. Punk came out of that oppressive, repressive space. Alex made all the main T-shirts for the punk period, like Destroy and Fuck Art, Let’s Dance, and this was all out of the same premises. “You’re right in the centre of this collapsing, decaying space, post what London used to be and just prior to its rebuild as this shopping-mall experience.”
“London has a particular set of politics and cultural influences that has been absolutely instrumental in developing the work that I do,” he added. I then went on to the London College of Printing, as it was called. It’s always been my base, even though in the past 20 years less than five percent of our clients have been London-based. There were maybe 150 people living there, and the whole of my first year of college was spent there. It happened at the same time as punk, which was probably the most influential thing to happen to me in London. “There are a number of sources and ingredients for that. That was absolutely vital. One is: there is such a high level of conservatism in London. And if it wasn’t for that, people like myself and other graphic designers such as Vaughan Oliver and Peter Saville out of Manchester and Malcolm Garrett, we would not have survived. There were independent concerts, there was a thriving independent record label scene. This was allowing us to make a living – albeit a minimal living – but to be able to make a living pursuing ideas, explorations and having them published and put out into a public space. It was the most enthralling experience. Vivienne Westwood was at a certain connection distance. There was the Vortex club, which was on Neal Street, then the 100 Club, which was just up the road on Oxford Street. Nick Logan had offered The Face magazine to them and they turned it down. That was a completely separate thing. London was this thriving, humming, inspiring, exciting place to be at that time, where anything was possible. “And if it wasn’t for that, people like myself and other graphic designers such as Vaughan Oliver and Peter Saville out of Manchester and Malcolm Garrett, we would not have survived. “It’s important here to mention that the music scene in London was so vital. A great old friend. I had the whole floor across two houses, above what is now an Abbey National bank, I think. He’d come out of the Tottenham mods. He was very much a part of the mod scene, about flashy dress, the sharpest person on the block. There would have been no support system whatsoever. London has a particular set of politics and cultural influences that has been absolutely instrumental in developing the work that I do. Dezeen Book of Interviews: in this interview from our latest book, influential graphic designer Neville Brody discusses the impact of London’s punk movement on his work. It was amazing. There would have been no support system whatsoever.”
Dezeen Book of Interviews: Neville Brody features in our new book, which is on sale nowMarcus Fairs: You have a strong connection with London. So that’s how I got into all that work. This was before the market was open. I went there to learn the basics and to understand exactly how typography is supposed to work, in terms of the rules,” he said. Brody spoke to Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs during the Super Contemporary exhibition at London’s Design Museum in 2009, in a conversation that spanned his early studies, musical influences and his time as art director of The Face magazine. I started working with 23 Skidoo because the singer was living under me in the squat in Covent Garden. That was located in Elephant Castle, which was probably the worst place to study. London was this thriving, humming, inspiring, exciting place to be at that time, where anything was possible.In my third year of college I moved into a squat in Covent Garden, on the corner of James Street and Long Acre. The punk explosion pushed all of that out the window.”
During his studies, Brody moved into a central London squat, and found himself living next to trendsetting nightclubs and gig venues, as well as the singer from punk band 23 Skidoo, whom he’d later create artwork for. So London’s political and cultural space has been an absolutely vital source of thought and impetus for my work. There was PS, Practical Styling.