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Culture Lust
Lucienne Roberts 

The Editors 

Lucienne Roberts, designer, writer and educator, is founder of studio LucienneRoberts+ and co-founder of GraphicDesign&, connecting graphic design with the wider world via its publishing and events. 

Who or what from the world of graphic design has caught your eye recently? 

I was enchanted by the e-mail Easter greeting that Homework sent out. No type just a portrait format green rectangle, a white egg like silhouette with a bright yellow square yoke. 

This morning I was uncharacteristically (no pun intended) drawn to an ornate new font called Reina by Maximiliano Sproviero. A teeny bit reminiscent of the handling of the U&lc title in the 1970s, it's a contemporary Modern of sorts. Its thicks are very thick, and its thins are very, very thin and it comes with a brain-teasingly various set of flamboyant swash letters. I wondered if it could be interesting to combine with something equally austere.

I love the animated open book on the site of Berlin's Jung+Wenig. It's anarchic, but non-confrontational, with areas of flat colour that flash and change at irregular intervals in a simple arresting way.

Are you a theatre-goer? 

I was, and I imagine will be again, I went to drama school before going to art school but sadly this area of cultural engagement has dropped off the radar with the arrival of a small child. Typing this I'm reminded of a scene in the TV comedy Black Books, series 3, episode 6. Manny, Bernard and Fran are deliberating what to do one Friday night, it goes a bit like this:

Manny: It's Friday night!
Bernard: Well, it was Friday night last week, it'll be Friday night next week and every week until we're dead, and even then the whole rotten business will go on and on and on.
Manny: Yes, but it's Friday now and we're here and we're young, we're alive!
Fran: He's right you know, we should go out.
Bernard: What are the options?
Manny: Cinema.
Bernard: No smoking.
Fran: Bowling.
Bernard: Can't do the shoe thing.
Manny: Theatre.[pause, all exchange glances, laugh as though it's the most ludicrous idea imaginable]
Fran: What about a restaurant? We could try Yo! Liver...

I like a good public spat or debate and the same goes for talks which are all forms of theatre of less obvious kinds. I've just registered for Julian Baggini speaking on What Does it Mean to be You? at the RSA and am very tempted by Museums are Bad at Telling us Why Art Matters, the Intelligence Squared debate coming up towards the middle of June.

What about cinema or TV – anything absorbing you in this area? 

I thought I'd put in a plea for radio. I'm a big BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 fan... Start the Week, Moral Maze, PM, Front Row, Night Waves... I'm there.

Despite contempt for Andrew Neil and my unsurpassable delight seeing Michael Portillo lose his seat in 1997, I do watch – and enjoy – This WeekEverything and Nothing, BBC4's two-part documentary about the science behind apparent nothingness, was almost beyond my realm of understanding but, as I've long been as interested by the nothing that defines form as the forms themselves, I wanted to at least try and understand this notion from a scientific point of view.

I couldn't hold back the tears (of laughter) when I first saw the depiction of Siobhan Sharpe, Head of Brand from agency Perfect Curve in the mockumentary about staging the London Olympics called Twenty Twelve. A bit too close to home I reckon. Drama wise, The Crimson Petal and the White was captivating but at points almost unbearably disturbing. I've not read Michel Faber's novel about the squalid aspects of Victorian life but the experimental direction of this dramatisation resulted in a visually sophisticated and graphic depiction that left me reeling. 

What are you currently reading? 

This is all horribly revealing and personal. These titles tell you everything you need to know about me: my age, my ancestry, my obsessions and anxieties...

I’m reading The Surprising Strengths of the Middle-Aged Brain by Barbara Strauch; The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal and The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley

I’m also dipping into The Good Book: A Secular Bible by AC Grayling and, having just listened to In Our Time last week, I have ordered a facsimile copy of The Anatomy of Melancholy (with the wonderfully complete full title: The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up) by Robert Burton, first published in 1621. 'I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy. There is no greater cause of melancholy than idleness, no better cure than business', writes Burton which seems pretty current to me.

As a writer of design books, what design books have impressed you over the past year or so? 

Although technically not a design book, as it's not about design, I was intrigued and delighted by Visual Editions' die-cut extravaganza Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer. Unit's Supergraphics filled a gap superbly well. And while a million miles away from my own approach to the handling of text, Marian Bantjes' I Wonder was a bit of a must-have - in part for its nod toward the aesthetics of religion and for its visual dexterity. She's a good writer too of course!

What blogs are you looking at currently? 

All the usual design related suspects, I guess: Design Observer; Eye blog; Creative Review; It's Nice That... and Unit Editions, too, of course! 

I'm just as drawn to political blogs and comment as I am to design. So, New Statesman, Left Foot Forward, Demos, UK Uncut, The F Word... along with The School of Life that constantly offers mental sustenance.

Seen any good exhibitions? 

Yes, Wim Crouwel: A Graphic Odyssey at the Design Museum obviously gets a huge tick as does Dirt at the Wellcome. The latter is tinged with sadness as it's a pitch we didn't win – but I try to be magnanimous...

What music is taking up space on your iPod? 

I don't have an iPod! My music choices are determined by mood, either wanting to enhance it or push it away. So, a bit of disco usually makes me happy, some cool jazz helps me daydream, while the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th Symphony makes me miss my dear old Mum.

May 2011






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