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John Abbott: Portrait of a Plasterworker

This guest post has been contributed by Jenny Saunt, a recent graduate of the V&A/RCA Course in the History of Design.

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Playing God: architects and railway models

This guest post has been contributed by Stephen Knott, a PhD student at the Royal College of Art. Find his own blog here.

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Designing Postmodernism, Part 4: Lighting and AV

There are many ways to look at an exhibition. For curators like me and my colleague Jane Pavitt, it's mainly a matter of objects, and the narrative we create around them. For our 3D designers Carmody Groarke, it's about a sequence of spatial experiences, each with its own character.

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Designing Postmodernism, Part 3: Graphics

Here's something I've learned while working on the upcoming Postmodernism show at the V&A: there are rough sketches; there are more accurate renderings; there are still more exact production drawings; and then there is graphic design. In no other field of design practice does the preparatory study approximate its finished product so closely, especially when the designer is working digitally. As a result, graphics are an art form calling for precision and intense attention. This means that graphic designers produce many, many preparatory studies, and they care about them… a lot. Of the 36 typefaces above, all of which have …

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Designing Postmodernism, Part 2: The Model

An exhibition is a three-dimensional experience, so despite all the help that drawings can provide – as discussed in the last post – sometimes what you really need is a model. This means you need a completely different set of skills, and materials. Not pen and paper, but plastic and glue. Fortunately our designers for the Postmodernism exhibition have one staff member who is an outstanding model-maker, as well as a skilled designer: Ana Maria Ferreira. Before working at Carmody Groarke, Ana was trained as an architect in Portugal, at the Universidade de Coimbra. She learned her model-making skills there. …

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Designing Postmodernism, Part 1: Concept Drawings

Image: April Greiman with Jayme Odgers, poster for Cal Arts, 1978

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Your Name Here

One quick definition of graphic design: putting images and text together. Of course, not every graphic includes words, but most do – and it's one of the most challenging, and therefore creative aspects of the discipline. The basic problem is that images and letters obey completely different rules – of legibility, rendering, even the way they sit on the page (lettering always seems flat, images tend to create an illusory sense of depth). This fact was exploited by Picasso in his collages. A great example is the one below, where the artist playfully cut off the title of a newspaper …

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Signs of the Times

This guest post has been contributed by RCA/V&A History of Design graduate Charlotte Austin. How would you describe your location in a world without house numbers? What if those looking for you couldn’t follow written aids, due to poor street lighting or their own illiteracy? Before the introduction of the numbering system in the eighteenth century, addresses were given like this: To be let, Newbury House, in St. James’s Park, next door but one to Lady Oxford’s, having two balls at the gate, and iron rails before the door. From strikingly-painted houses, doors, door-posts and balconies, to candles and coloured …

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Getting Plastered

This guest post has been contributed by Jenny Saunt. As a second-year student on the RCA/V&A History of Design MA course, I’m currently in the thick of dissertation research. My subject of study is stucco of the seventeenth and eighteenth century. If you are not yet acquainted with the glories of ‘stucco’ or ‘decorative plasterwork’, here is a fine eighteenth century example from the Royal Fort in Bristol. Designs for stucco schemes from the seventeenth and eighteenth century do survive, but the exact role of these drawings is sometimes unclear. A 1763 William Chambers ceiling design (below) in the V&A …

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Earning their Stripes

Stripes: the simplest design in the world, right? All you need to do is draw straight lines, over and over, and fill in the spaces between. In the below 18th century technical drawing for a Lyon silk, for example, the designer had to work hard to render the flowers and landscape vignettes. The stripes came easy by comparison – in fact, they almost seem like they were generated automatically by the crossing of warp and weft threads in the fabric. But like any other basic design procedure, it's possible to raise stripes to a fine art. One way is through …

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