Richard Hollis at Gallery Libby Sellers, London

Richard Hollis at Gallery Libby Sellers, London

Graphic designer Richard Hollis’s seminal book ’Graphic Design: a concise history’ was hugely influential when it was published back in 1994. The fact that it is still an essential point of reference for students, designers and historians today is proof of its staying power. The 78-year-old London-born Hollis, who is described by exhibition curator Emily King as ’the graphic designer’s graphic designer’ masterfully integrates text and pictures in his work to succintly shape thought. But, despite his significant graphic design career, not much is known about him outside the industry.

Shedding a bit more light on the professional life of the man who has always preferred to downplay his achievements is an exhibition at Gallery Libby Sellers. Spanning four decades, starting from the 1950s, the retrospective presents 200 items drawn from Hollis’s archive.

Skillfully designed by London-based architect Simon Jones, the show draws on everything from Hollis’s travels in the 1950s and 1960s, and his part in founding a new School of Design at University of the West of England in Bristol in 1964, to his design involvement in radical British politics - namely his collaboration with New Society magazine - in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lauded for not only for his writings but for his work with artists such as Bridget Riley and Steve McQueen, Hollis’s mantra of creating ’intelligent graphic design’ is particularly exemplified in his book design for art critic John Berger’s BBC TV series ’Ways of Seeing’. Hollis introduced a revolutionary (if at the time controversial) method for combining word and image in a way that was responsive to the text. Noteworthy too, was his two-decade involvement with the Whitechapel Gallery, begun in the late 1960s, for which he produced countless memorable posters, flyers and catalogues.

Gallery Libby Sellers’s offering hones in on the extent of Hollis’s influence by presenting a holistic view of his work, which also touches on the personal collages he made in the 1950s and the recent graphic framework he developed for Steve McQueen’s ’For Queen and Country’.

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