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The wealth in the context

Huw Morgan of London's Graphic Thought Facility casts some designs on Bangkok

Published on August 5, 2007

The wealth in the context

A study in minimalism by Tom Dixon.

Money's nice, but the best designers stay focused on design, and that's the case with London-based Graphic Thought Facility (GTF), whose highly praised work is part of the current overview of the "Love and Money: The Best of British Design Now" exhibition at the Thailand Creative and Design Centre in Bangkok.

Founded in 1990 by Royal College of Art alumni Paul Neale and Andy Stevens and since 1997 joined by Huw Morgan, the firm has come up with new looks for Manchester's art gallery, the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern, and lots of people these days are stowing their stuff in GTF's clever MeBox storage system.

Morgan, 36, has a chat with The Nation.

What is the philosophy of GTF?

I'd say we try to make work that's direct, that's quite grounded, in that it touches on the everyday in some way. We try and make work that is very practical and pragmatic, that's thought out and has a reason for existing.

We're commercial designers, and I think, if anything, it's about trying to take a brief look at all the givens - what the client is expecting, what budget he has, the restrictions on process. Then we look at all the space in between that and try and find a creative opportunity within a framework where the client operates. So, hopefully you end up with something that's creatively significant but also totally appropriate to the designer.

GTF is quite small - only eight designers. Is that part of your strategy for balancing freedom of expression and commercial appeal?

Yeah. We're all first and foremost designers. We're not managers and we're not businessmen by any means, and I think that's always going to be important. We're not spending too much time just managing, so that we can spend part of the time in the design process as well.

You need big clients to sustain a big company. If you're small, your client base can be smaller, and it tends to be the smaller companies that you get a better creative result out of.

You've said your inspiration comes from paintings, but also from your parents' friends, who were printmakers. Was there a shift in interest from painting to graphics?

I've always liked drawing, but I had a friend who was a printmaker and I was really fascinated by the printing process. In college I did printing. There is something about printing - it evens things out, through a process that's often quite mechanical. The actual drawing can be quite organic, but the process can be quite mechanical, and that's what I really love.

I used to love David Hockney. Artists that I like do this, this reinvention. The fact that really good art reinvents itself because you can't turn out the same stuff again and again. I think Hockney did this really well. He was very graphic sort, that's really self-evident, but he also had this sort of philosophical argument about printing.

In one of his books he put together a series of prints, and the only time he saw them was when they were finished - otherwise they were just black and white film. He said, "This is an original piece of work, as original as any other work I've done, because it only exists on this printed page."

For me that really triggered something. That's really liberating because you can make something totally unique and beautiful that can only be that unique and that beautiful in that context.

That's one of the very hard things about talking about graphics, like I did today - that part of the richness of graphic designs is about where it sits, its context. It's not just about looking at it artificially on a screen, it's about you sitting at home with this book and flipping though it and engaging with it, that's when it becomes richer.

What's your favourite museum?

I think Tate Modern is great. The White Cube and the Serpentine are also great, with small exhibitions - very manageable and really contained.

visit www.graphicthoughtfacility.com

Phatarwadee Phataranawik

The Nation

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