Down to the Design Museum last night for the Pentagram talk. It was good, very good.
Introduced by Emily King who curated the Fletcher show. The talk clumsily straddled discussing Fletcher himself and discussing how Fletcher influenced the speakers. Obviously some of the audience just wanted to hear about Fletcher and others just about Pentagram. Of the speakers, Scher easily handled this the best.
Scher kicked off the talk by giving us a lightening run down of the Pentagram partners through the years. Her 'Family of Men' diagram in pictured in the Profile: Pentagram Design book and makes interesting reading. Hard to believe now that Saville was once a partner.
The three partners (John Rushworth, Paula Scher and Harry Pearce) then spoke in what seemed like an order dictated by chronological order of meeting Fletcher. Which was sort of reflected in how they felt about him. From Rushworth who sort of considered him more of a contemporary, to Pearce to whom he was more of a hero. Scher was somewhere in the middle and probably the most interesting speaker because of this.
I like Rushworth's work (especially this for Pantone and this for the Waterways Trust) but he was the speaker I liked the least. I suppose it comes back to bridging the 'Flecther's work / my work thing'. He did remind us all of Fletcher's brilliant quote, "Stroking a cliché until it purrs like a metaphor".
As I've said Scher handled the brief the best. For example, she mentioned how much she loved these gates and how that had made her realise that typography could become architecture.
She then showed us some great, dramtic work inside Bloomberg and of course this.
Do you see what I mean about the 'Flecther's work / my work thing'? Scher made lots of nice little connections like that.
She told us how Fletcher (and his personal work) had inspired her to keep doing personal work and how he had pushed these wonderful maps.
Harry Pearce has just become a Pentagram partner and didn't seem to show much work.
He had lots of charming tales about Fletcher, especially the one about the flip flops, I love that. One summer Pearce turned up at Fletcher's house. It was a hot day and Pearce was wearing flip flops. The first thing Fletcher said, before hello, was 'Fuck. Your shoes have fallen off'. Brilliant.
I don't know if Pearce wasn't allowed to show previous work (I doubt it) or if he didn't feel it was appropriate (he shouldn't have worried) but he kept showing these little word puns.
They're very nice and everything, but I found them a bit, dunno, lightweight? What do you think? This one is Freudian Slip. Clever? Stroking a cliché until it purrs like a metaphor?
Pearce also showed these photographs of signs which are great. Really good fun.
Again there was a great story attached. Pearce had taken two photographs (the other being AVENUE ROAD) and he showed them to Fletcher one day. Fletcher loved them and encouraged Pearce to go and take some more. Which he didn't. Fletcher kept asking about the photos and Pearce would reply that they were coming along fine.
When he was wrting Smile In The Mind Fletcher rang Pearce and asked for all the photographs he'd been collecting. Pearce revealed the truth - he only had the original two. Well, replied Fletcher, in that case you've got 3 weeks to get a double page spreads worth.
I'm never sure what I think about Lippa Pearce, and now Harry Pearce and Domninic Lippa. They've always done great work but there's something I can't but my fingers on. Whilst the puns left me a little cold, this poster by Pearce is one of the best bits of graphic design in the last 10 years.
Powerful, simple, dramatic, clever and touching. The image is perfect, the typography is spot on, the message is clear and the effect is stunning.
Anyway. Afterwards there were questions. I've said it before and I'll say it again. A question is usually a sentence followed by a question mark, Not a long rambling paragraph wihich ends in a CV. Stand up Nico.
There were only three questions, one by Nico and two by us. Did no-one else have any questions? Really? Miserable fuckers.
I asked why Pentagram's obviously successful structure hadn't been copied by more design firms?
Rushworth answered that money was the main factor. In effect existing partners let new partners join an already successful company without any goodwill payment which would be an anathema to most businessmen.
Scher thought that many partners makes for better decision making. Traditional firms with two or three partners can often spend their time fighting against each other. More partners equals more democracy and more equality. She said she thought 5 partners was a good number for a design consultancy which was hilarious as we have 5 equal partners. We thought it was hilarious anyway, not sure anyone else in the audience did.
And that was it.
Good, very good. But then I expected it to be. I suspect the D&AD one will be very different and I hope there are more questions.