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Ken Garland 
interview in ARQ

The Editors

Ken Garland was recently interviewed by Lucas López, an Argentinian designer and great supporter of Unit Editions. López conducted the interview via e-mail in English but it was published in Spanish in ARQ magazine.

Who were your influences (groups, artist, politics, etc.) when you started with graphic design?

hans schleger (zero), who designed ‘the practice of design’ (1946) and many posters for london transport; herbert spencer, founder and editor of the magazine ‘typographica’; anthony froshaug, lecturer at the central school of arts and crafts, london; aneurin bevan mp, minister of health in the labour government; jmw turner, painter; laszlo moholy-nagy, painter and designer.

In this new century, what would you highlight as a particular point of your manifesto 'First Things First'?

this, from the manifesto: ‘we think there are other things more worth using our skill and experience on. there are signs for streets and buildings, books and periodicals, catalogues, instruction manuals, industrial photography, educational aids, films, television features, scientific and industrial publications and all the other media through which we promote our trade, our education, our culture and our greater awareness of the world’.

Can you tell us briefly about the idea behind the book Structure and Substance?

adrian shaughnessy, the author and initiator, thought that there was a potential readership that would like to know something about the person behind the design, the photography and the writing; I wasn’t too sure but he was persuasive – and I’m glad he was.

What does a typical day in your studio in Camden Town look like?

there is no typical day: I could be assembling a new exhibition of my photography, putting together a lecture or conference paper, co-designing a new title in another one of my ‘a close look at...’ series of books, trying the make order out of incipient chaos; responding to an email questionnaire from a designer in, say, argentina.

As a teacher, and in this new century, what advice would you give to young people who pursue a career in design?

acquire skills; it doesn’t matter if they are obsolescent, as so often happens in our business; what matters is that you get into the habit of acquiring skills, one of which is the skill of knowing how to learn a new, unfamiliar one. if you are not skilful no-one will want to employ you.

one extra thing: don’t be fooled into thinking you will have great power when you have become a graphic designer; your greatest power will always be through your ability (as a voter at the very least) to contribute to political change.


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