The V&A Shop is centered on inspiring excellence in design; we are constantly looking to excite the next new wave of designers. Surfing this vibe is Mark Blamire, aka Blam from Blanka/Print Process. We commissioned Blam to create an exclusive 2014 V&A wall planner. Blam chose to base the finished design around the V&A’s collection and a more general graphic interpretation of popular culture featuring art, design, film and music. Blam drew an object, symbol or pattern for every day of the year to create a final design consisting of 365 unique objects. The following Q&A with Blam helps explain the inspiration and decisions behind the placing of each object.
Could you tell me a little more about the images used – in particular, do they correlate with the dates, or are they a more random selection and why?
The design started out as a random pattern trying to incorporate the content of the V&A’s archive. As I became more obsessed with the detail and researched further, specific objects came up which related to specific dates so the design got jigged around to be more relevant. We then went back and found other objects to fit on certain dates. I didn’t want it to be too obvious about specific dates so that the user will get surprises on certain days of relevance when they use the wall planner. We also used an object to span 2 boxes for every Saturday and Sunday rather than using a graphic box or an alternative graphic device to designate a weekend
Could you give an example of matching an object up with a specific date?
The lyrics of John Lennon and Yoko ‘War is over Merry Christmas’ are down as the 25th icon – I like the idea of wishing peace and goodwill to the planet on Christmas day. Over the Christmas period you can download and print out and display this poster or send it as a post card to friends etc. Being a collector of posters I particularly love this poster and the part it played in history, the impact the original billboard poster that John and Yoko created and published in 1969 [the year of my birth]. I also love the spirit of people being encouraged to do this act of attempting to spread the word of peace and think of others. The cube’s position on the 26th December, is a graphic simplification drawing of a box, i.e. to represent Boxing Day.
And what about the choice of quotes such as ‘we hope you have enjoyed the show’ and ‘please do not bend’?
I think that’s more down to me being a graphic designer than an illustrator so I wanted to include an element of typography within the layout, there are also some objects or themes which you just can’t draw to be in keeping with the generic drawing style of the print, so we used quotes. I think it also probably began as me making notes for myself on the print to draw an object as ideas popped into my head and then it became incorporated into the final visual structure.
How long did the whole process take to put together the Wall planner?
The initial visual I made to show to the V&A Shop took 10 full working days to work up as a rough sketch for the presentation. I basically drew the first 6 months and then duplicated the data for the second half of the year and then went in for a meeting to present the idea. I only showed one idea as I believed it to be the best way forward and I had explained my concept and they were excited by the thinking behind it, thankfully the V&A were impressed so it wasn’t a back to the drawing board moment but it did mean I had to spend another 10+ days of work to finalise the other 180+ days or empty boxes which I needed to draw [or borrow from colleagues] to reach completion. So the whole design took approximately 150 hours to complete.
Could you tell us a bit about the original inspiration behind the design?
When I came upon the idea for the planner it was a difficult idea to explain without physically drawing it so I had to look for a visual reference to match best what fitted with the idea in my head and I needed to show the V&A buyers something to get the ball rolling. I realized it was going to take me many weeks to complete the finished design, my first sketch I showed took me seven whole days to just produce a working rough for the V&A to approve. When I presented the visual the first word said was “Wow”! This was a massive relief as I don’t think I have ever spent seven entire days just making a basic sketch of an idea. Prior to working up this rough, I thought it would help to show something visually similar to my thinking so I could be more confident that my approach was something we would all be happy with producing before spending a lot of design time in the making of it. I became a keen user of Pinterest in 2013, it’s a really good tool for working with as a designer and I refer back to the stuff I pin on my board for inspiration at times like these. I have always loved the work of Dieter Rams and Otl Aicher [who formed part of the Braun design team]. When I remembered the Braun advert I had pinned six months earlier it best fitted the visual direction of how I was thinking about for the final design.