Beautifully Simple

Words for design exhibits + accompanying brochure


Beautifully Simple is an exhibition of ten extraordinary designs, each of which is the embodiment of a design philosophy that governs everything we think, believe and do: the art of the beautifully simple.

<Select texts>

Radiohead – No Surprises (Video) by Grant Gee 1998

When filmmaker Grant Gee was first commissioned by Radiohead to write a treatment for OK Computer’s No Surprises, he laboured over ‘something dreadful.’ A year of working on a documentary of the OK Computer tour, and of staring at an image from Space Odyssey 2001 over his desk, his second attempt took seconds. The result is the most unpop video you are ever likely to see. Made in just a day, using one fixed shot, with very little post-production, and no special effects, it’s a breathtakingly quick and brave piece of filmmaking. A man’s helmet fills with water. Lyrics rise illegibly up the visor. Lights reflect on the helmet. Thome York’s performance is a suffering. It’s terrifyingly beautiful.

Victory by Shigeo Fukuda 1971

If Victory is one of Japanese artist Shigeo Fukuda’s most well-known works, it is also one of his best. As a form of communication, it is unfailingly direct. Leaving intact almost everything – image, words, colour – that would normally characterise a pro-war propaganda poster, Fukuda makes a single change, and in so doing confounds all expectations. It’s witty, sly, even cartoonish, and it makes us smile. However, its real power emanates from the sheer economy of effort with which Fukuda subverts the message. It’s quick and it’s sure and so efficient as to leave us in no doubt as to the terrible irony of a war won. There is nothing here that could ever have been made differently. Design-wise, it’s an evolutionary endpoint. It’s perfect.

Sheila Hicks – Weaving as a Metaphor by Irma Boom 2006

The story of the making of artist Sheila Hick’s book Weaving as Metaphor sees the book reinvented as a work of information-art. Designed by Irma Boom, it is a book made to be seen and held, its form a physical incantation of the beauty it seeks to transmit. It took four years to make, and required that Boom resist anyone or anything that threatened to compromise her vision for a book that does more than simply represent its subject. Everything – the quality of the binding, the paper, the etched edges, the unexpected front cover, the layout of the introductory essay – is designed to bring us face-to-face with an artist renowned for the restrained and tactile beauty of her work. Hold it and we inhabit the world of Sheila Hicks. The book is the message.

<For more, see exhibition>