You Say You Want a Revolution?

Last week saw the launch of a major branding project we've been working on for the V&A's autumn blockbuster: You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966–1970*.

We've been working on this for about a year and set about the task of 'gluing' together the many separate elements of the show with a coherent design approach.

The show itself covers a huge range of themes and the multiple revolutions surrounding counterculture in the late 60s: environmentalism, consumerism, individualism, drugs, sex, politics and war, and of course music and fashion. Our task was to find a way to encapsulate all of this visually.

To unify the printed elements and the campaign graphics, we created a series of collages made up from iconic images of the key personalities from the time (with a nod to the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover). These ‘rebel clusters’ became the key to our approach, and allowed us to vary the compositions constantly.

Throughout the book the lead rebel changes to represent each of the essays, from John Lennon, Che Guevara, Twiggy and Jimi Hendrix, to Germaine Greer,  Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and Stewart Brand. In the marketing material, there are multiple forms of the clusters which can be adapted to each application.

This was the era where a key generation rebelled against the accepted norms, and where many of the ideas that form our world today seemingly originated. The internet being just one – Steve Jobs once described the 60s publication The Whole Earth Catalog as being ‘sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions’.

The members of the johnson banks design team who are under 50 have spent the last year swotting up on their history of this period, as we have been working on multiple aspects of the project.

Firstly we designed the 300-page book to accompany the exhibition, which contains nine cultural essays from nine different writers. Secondly we have been busy working on the campaign graphics to promote the exhibition – you may have already spotted some of the ads in the press and on your commute.

Both the book and campaign graphics are visually linked, which is quite unusual when it comes to V&A exhibitions, as effectively each department is a different client. The publishing team have very different requirements to the marketing department, and then the curatorial team often have their own 'take' as well.

For the campaign graphics we took seven of the rebels and led with the most iconic: John Lennon, Twiggy and Jimi Hendrix.

To bring together the typographic elements we commissioned Luc(as) de Groot to create a bespoke stencil weight of the V&A typeface (he created a special version of his famous typeface TheSans for the V&A some years ago).

This gave the graphics a bespoke, 'gritty' feel without formally breaking the V&A's relatively strict design guidelines.

The exhibition launch night was a star spotter’s paradise (If you’re into the 60s that is), with speeches from The Who’s Roger Daltrey, Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis and a performance by one of the founder members of Fairport Convention, before we got a sneak peak at the exhibition.

Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis at the launch

We won’t ruin it for you, as we sure you’ll be checking it out yourselves, but it’s worth going solely for the musical soundtrack which automatically accompanies you as you walk through the different sections.

The exhibition is on until Sunday 26 February 2017.

*‘You Say You Want a Revolution’ being the opening line to the famous Beatles 1968 song ‘Revolution’

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