Design as virus 12: Barney’s faces


Sleeve for I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass (1978), a 7″ single by Nick Lowe. Design by Barney Bubbles.

Continuing an occasional series. Designer Vic Fieger had a guest post at Reasons To Be Cheerful earlier this week examining Barney Bubbles’ use of the human face in his graphic designs. This is one side of the Bubbles work I really enjoy, he had a remarkable facility for demonstrating a versatility with abstract shapes—or found objects, as in the piece above—while playing games with our pattern recognition. A recurrent playfulness was one of the many notable things about his approach to design.


Story title from The Best of Michael Moorcock (2009).

Fieger’s focussing on the faces in Barney’s work struck a chord for me since I’d deliberately tried something similar last year, taking a cue from Barney’s example. The Colour piece above is one of the story titles from The Best of Michael Moorcock published by Tachyon. For each story I designed a different title in a style which complemented the subject; Colour is a science fiction piece in which card games figure, hence the symbols. Mike Moorcock was friends with Barney during the 1970s so there was an additional reason for the reference.


I don’t know whether anyone has noticed the face on the cover of Booklife but it is there, with the two flowers at the top forming the eyes and the book’s title standing for the mouth. Once again, this wasn’t strictly necessary for the success of the design but it gave a rationale for the arrangment of the flowers. There’s also the hope when something is this subtle that the attraction of the pattern impells a browser to pick up the book in a shop without quite knowing why.

Booklife and The Best of Michael Moorcock are both available from Tachyon. Paul Gorman’s Barney Bubbles book, Reasons To Be Cheerful: The Life & Work Of Barney Bubbles, will be relaunched later this year in a new edition.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Into the Media Web by Michael Moorcock
Design as virus 11: Burne Hogarth
Design as virus 10: Victor Moscoso
Design as virus 9: Mondrian fashions
The Best of Michael Moorcock
Design as virus 8: Keep Calm and Carry On
Designing Booklife
Design as virus 7: eyes and triangles
Design as virus 6: Cassandre
Design as virus 5: Gideon Glaser
Design as virus 4: Metamorphoses
Design as virus 3: the sincerest form of flattery
Design as virus 2: album covers
Design as virus 1: Victorian borders
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer

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