A couple of weeks ago, two unrelated London art events became connected through design. The first, London's Frieze Art Fair, took over parts of London's Regent's Park for the 10th year in a row, this time incorporating an additional tent offering a unique perspective on the relationship between old and new art. The second, the launch of a new book on the work of M/M (Paris), coincided with a much smaller show at Libby Sellers Gallery featuring woven work by the prolific French designers. Graphic Thought Facility, a 22-year-old design consultancy who light up the latter section of the Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design, have presided over the identity for Frieze Art Fair since its inauguration in 2002. They'd also designed M/M's book.
Run by former RCA graduates Huw Morgan, Paul Neale and Andrew Stevens, GTF have been a mainstay of the London design scene since their foundation in 1990. And rightly so. GTF are the designer's designers. They delight in detail. They craft books, posters, identities and store environments for clients with whom healthy long-term relationships are forged as standard. While others offer hocus-pocus strategy, GTF's no nonsense principles – clarity, simplicity, the conviction that "functional need and emotional response demand equal consideration" – continue to set them apart. They believe in good design, basically, as do their clients.
This year, for the tenth incarnation of the Frieze Art Fair identity, GTF filled the sky above Regent's Park with tightly choreographed daylight fireworks, capturing the results within an ad campaign as visually striking as much of the art on show at the event. Their book for M/M (Paris), authored by design historian Emily King (who, in another connection, is married to Frieze founder Matthew Slotover), is equally impressive, pairing disparate swathes of imagery with countless long-form interviews within a unique structure that provides rationality and visual intrigue.
Two GTF projects are included in the Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: "Stealing Beauty", a 1999 catalogue for an ICA show of the same name that still now reflects the possibility of print; and The/Le Garage, an installation-cum-poster made in collaboration with the British artist Paul Elliman on the event of 2004's Chaumont International Poster Festival in France.
Both projects typify GTF's output. They're unique, original, as aesthetically pleasing as they are conceptually innovative. And considering the breadth of the consultancy's portfolio, there's plenty more in the locker, too.
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