Richard Hollis on being a designer

“I started design as a silkscreen printer in a small room in Holiborn. The first silkscreen job was a poster for Zwemmer Gallery for an exhibition of John Piper and Michael Rothenstein. The style of the poster was nothing like their work. It was my idea of what design was about. Just what I deplore now: the imposition of a designer’s idea on the material. I suppose I now think that design is kind of social service – and a cultural service. The designer’s personality is not important. The designer should be invisible in the graphics, which should be talking about the subject. That is why some of us did not have the designer’s name on, say, a poster.


Design is not a big deal. You are just having fun with a technology and, with any luck, you are putting across the message. Froshaug was important in teaching us to categorize the message and give hierarchies to it, so at least you knew you were putting across the important things first and the person looking at it could find things. With a poster you could see where an exhibition was, give some idea of its character, when it was open and whether it was admission-free. You would take those things for granted, then have fun. Also, the fun is in relating to the people you are working with because they are usually very decent people. Being an artist is a nightmare. In a way, to be an artist is to be a heroic figure. It is a hard life. Not like a designer’s.”

— Richard Hollis (via Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design Since the 60s)