Philip K. Dick: A Day in the Afterlife


Blade Runner turns up in Nicola Roberts’ television documentary but not for long. Back in 1994 it was still possible to discuss a popular writer by concentrating on the books alone rather than padding the running time with film and TV derivations. The BBC’s Arena strand excelled at these 50-minute biographies of significant cultural figures.


The last time I watched this documentary was on a big TV screen in a house in Los Angeles. Stepping out into the California sun a couple of hours later was like stepping into a Philip K. Dick novel, a slippage between the real and the fictional that Dick himself might have appreciated. Among the luminaries discussing the author’s slippery narratives are Brian Aldiss, Jim Blaylock, Elvis Costello, Anne Dick (PKD’s third wife), Tessa B. Dick (PKD’s fourth wife), Thomas M. Disch, Terry Gilliam, Kleo Mini (PKD’s second wife), Tim Powers, Kim Stanley Robinson and Fay Weldon. There’s also video footage of Dick being interviewed in the late 70s/early 80s. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Blade Runner vs. Metropolis

Surrealism, graphic design and Barney Bubbles


Poster for Mademoiselle (1970) by Franciszek Starowieyski.

Work has cranked into overdrive this week so posting will no doubt be minimal until some semblance of normality is restored. I can however mention two essential exhibitions which will be running through the forthcoming months.

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design at the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic, is curated by design writer Rick Poynor and runs to 24 October, 2010. On display is an intriguing mix of work from familiar names such as Jan Švankmajer and Eva Švankmajerová, poster artist Franciszek Starowieyski, graphic designers Vaughan Oliver and Stefan Sagmeister, and many others.

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design uncovers the presence of an alternative tradition in graphic design. The Surrealist movement of the 1920s and 1930s focused on literature, painting, photography and the object, and the Surrealists’ publishing activities provided only hints of what a fully conceived Surrealist graphic design or typography might look like. Many of the most suggestive early examples came from Czechoslovakia, where Surrealism would become a lasting influence. Subsequently, Surrealist ideas and images had a profound impact on image-makers in every sphere of art and design, and by the 1960s the effects of Surrealism were widely felt in international graphic communication. Uncanny traces this intermittent line of development up to the present.

There’s further information at the gallery site including a page of related works.


And launching later in the year is Process: The Working Practices of Barney Bubbles, a very timely exhibition of the designer’s work at Chelsea Space, London. Bubbles biographer Paul Gorman is the curator and the event will also see the launch of a second edition of his study of Barney’s life and work, Reasons To Be Cheerful.

The show will contain many never-before-seen items drawn from private collections, including student notebooks, working sketches, original artwork, paintings, books and photography. These were the raw material for videos, record sleeves, t-shirts and posters created by Bubbles for such performers as Ian Dury, Hawkwind, Elvis Costello, The Damned and Billy Bragg (who is contributing a one-off rug with a rendition of the designer’s Masereel-quoting cover for his album Brewing Up With).

Process opens on September 14 and will run to October 23, 2010.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Franciszek Starowieyski, 1930–2009
Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer

Barney ascendant


Poster by Barney Bubbles for Elvis Costello’s Get Happy!! (1980).

Adelita, the publishers of Reasons To Be Cheerful: the life and work of Barney Bubbles, announced this week that Paul Gorman’s essential collection of BB graphics has been named Book of the Year in Mojo magazine:

Reasons To Be Cheerful – the acclaimed study of the life and work of the late graphic genius Barney Bubbles – has been declared Book Of The Year by the UK’s leading rock monthly Mojo magazine.

Described as “fascinating and definitive” by the Sunday Times and “moving and lovingly researched,” by GQ editor Dylan Jones in The Independent, Reasons To Be Cheerful was written by Paul Gorman (author of style bible The Look and Straight with Boy George) and published by British independent popular culture imprint Adelita (sales and distribution through Turnaround Publisher Services).

Mojo will name Reasons To Be Cheerful Book Of The Year in its January 2010 issue (published November 27) with an exclusive interview with Factory Records designer Peter Saville praising its publication.

A quarter of a century after he took his own life at the age of 41, Reasons To Be Cheerful has transformed Barney Bubbles’ cult status by elevating him into the pantheon of graphic design greats. Among fans of the book are such prominent musicians as Paul Weller, Jah Wobble, Mick Jones, Nick Lowe and Billy Bragg.

Reasons To Be Cheerful is the first and definitive exploration of this important visual artist’s body of work, with more than 600 images including student sketchbooks, private paintings, product, brand, underground and music press and examples of the hundreds of record sleeves, posters, adverts, promotional items and music videos he created for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Hawkwind, Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Squeeze, Depeche Mode, The Specials and Billy Bragg.

Reasons To Be Cheerful has also spawned a spectacular online presence featuring fresh interviews, information and rare and previously unseen images (see and has been well received in the UK and US (where it is distributed by D.A.P). Author Paul Gorman will also curate a Barney Bubbles exhibition to be inaugurated at London’s Chelsea Space gallery during Design Week in September 2010.

By coincidence, two days after Mojo appears the All-Day Barney Bubbles Benefit Memorial Concert will be staged at the 229 Club, Great Portland Street, London. Bands featured include various members of the Hawkwind/Hawklords family led by Nik Turner. There’ll also be the return of Turner’s post-Hawks outfit Inner City Unit, for whom Barney created some of his last designs, and the resurrection of the Imperial Pompadours, a one-off rock’n’roll collaboration between Nik and Barney. That’s happening on 29th November and Turner’s website has all the necessary details.

The Elvis Costello poster above comes from a feature about the Get Happy!! album at Paul Gorman’s BB site. I was never a great fan of Costello’s records but the designs Barney created for those early releases were outstanding and represent the peak of his career. (See the Armed Forces sleeve design for a real eye blast.) Paul’s post shows how much work went into creating a range of integrated graphics for the album, singles and promotional material, and he also has some exclusive material which didn’t make it into Reasons To Be Cheerful. The BB book has been a continual treat to look through this year, and the book design I happen to be finishing has not only been inspired by Barney’s example but also manages to make passing reference to him inside. More about that later.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hawk things
Who is Heeps Willard?
The Sonic Assassins
Reasons To Be Cheerful, part 3: A Barney Bubbles exclusive
More Barney Bubbles
Reasons To Be Cheerful, part 2
Reasons To Be Cheerful: the Barney Bubbles revival
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer

More Barney Bubbles


For those who’ve been eagerly awaiting Paul Gorman’s Barney Bubbles monograph, here’s the latest. Readers in the UK may also like to know there’s a feature about the book in the current issue of The Word. By coincidence, if you turn the page in the magazine there’s another feature about the Rob Gretton book I designed recently, 1 Top Class Manager. And for coincidence overload, designer Peter Saville turns up in both volumes.

Reasons To Be Cheerful: The Life and Work of Barney Bubbles
By Paul Gorman

“Barney Bubbles is the missing link between pop and culture” Peter Saville

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL is a lavishly illustrated celebration of the creative legacy of one of the most mysterious yet influential figures in graphic design: Barney Bubbles.

Bubbles – who died 25 years ago – links the colourful underground optimism of the 1960s to the sardonic and manipulative art which accompanied punk’s explosion a decade later.

Producing extraordinary artwork under the shroud of anonymity and a number of pseudonyms, in the 60s Bubbles created early posters for the Rolling Stones, brand and product design for Sir Terence Conran and psychedelic lightshows for the Pink Floyd.

He was also responsible for the art direction of underground magazines Oz and Frendz and the masthead for rock weekly the NME, and is best known for a plethora of stunning record sleeves, logos, insignia and promo videos for musicians and performers, from counter-culture collective Hawkwind to new wave stars Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, The Damned, Billy Bragg, Squeeze, Depeche Mode and The Specials.

Meticulously researched with 600 images, REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL is the first and definitive investigation into Bubbles’ life and work, with interviews and contributions from family and close friends, college pals and workmates as well as collaborators including pop artist Derek Boshier, author Michael Moorcock and photographer Brian Griffin.

Incorporating many previously unpublished images, REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL is also the only comprehensive collection of Bubbles’ output over a 30-year period: every important record sleeve, poster and advertisement as well as examples of his excursions into abstract portraiture, book design and furniture, supported by student sketchbooks, working drawings, film proposals and personal photographs and correspondence.

Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has contributed the foreword, graphic designer Peter Saville an essay on the significance of Bubbles’ oeuvre and his contemporary Malcolm Garrett a personal memoir.

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL is published on December 4 2008.

Trim size: 280mm x 230mm
Binding: Hardback
Pages: 224
Words: 55,000
Images: 600
RRP: £24.99

And while we’re on the subject, Barney Bubbles enthusiasts Rebecca & Mike left news on the original BB posting about a forthcoming exhibition of work by photographer Brian Griffin.

On show will be the newspaper ‘Y’, the books ‘Copyright 1978′ and ‘Power’, and associated posters, including the ‘coat hanger and scarf’ poster for Brian’s photo show in 1980. All of these (apart from ‘Power’) will be available to buy too (we think)… so, if you want to, you can bag yourself an early Christmas present (and help put some turkey on Brian’s table!)

Here’s the details: Brian Griffin, 15 November – 8 December 2008 , Monday – Saturday 11 – 6, at ‘England & Co.’, 216 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2RH.

The ‘Y’ newspaper’s got a real chunky red button on the cover (in a little plastic bag); symbolic of the nuclear button we-thinks, and there’s a great concentric circle graphic on the cover too, which is reminiscent of a few things, like the back of the not-used Dury ‘4000 Weeks Holiday’ LP sleeve design and also the front of the never released ‘Station BPR’ LP sleeve (which was due to be the second release on Billy Bragg’s ‘Utility’ label). There’s also an illustration in ‘Y’ by Nazar Ali Khan of ICU fame.

The ‘Copyright 1978′ booklet is cool too; with nearly every one of Brian’s photos in it being accompanied by thumbnail graphics by Barney, which contain cryptically encoded comments. The one that always sticks in our mind is the one that questions whether it is good or bad to receive awards for your work.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Reasons To Be Cheerful, part 2
Reasons To Be Cheerful: the Barney Bubbles revival
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer

Reasons To Be Cheerful: the Barney Bubbles revival


My long and rambling post about the work of Barney Bubbles in January 2007 generated a considerable flurry of renewed interest in the great designer and ended by saying “We’re overdue a decent book-length examination of his work and his influence.” Just over a year later, here we are…. Paul Gorman was one of the contributors to the lengthy comments thread and I’m really pleased to see him take up the challenge to bring Barney’s work to a wider and, one hopes, new audience. Reasons To Be Cheerful (title borrowed from an Ian Dury song) is scheduled to be published by Adelita in November 2008.


left: Doremi Fasol Latido by Hawkwind (1972).
right: Ian Dury & the Blockheads logo design (late 70s).

“He was so good I couldn’t have really competed with him.”
Sir Peter Blake

Reasons To Be Cheerful is a celebration of the life and work of one of the greatest designers of recent times: Barney Bubbles.

Bubbles—real name Colin Fulcher—was a giant of graphic design whose prodigious output is revered by musicians, artists, fellow designers and music and pop culture fans.

Reasons To Be Cheerful is published November 2008 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the artist’s death. Author Paul Gorman is also curating a companion exhibition with Sir Paul Smith.

Barney Bubbles’ body of work included early posters for the Rolling Stones, brand and product design for Sir Terence Conran, psychedelic art with poster maestro Stanley Mouse, layouts for underground magazines OZ and Friends and collaborations with many bands and performers, from counter-culture collective Hawkwind to new wave stars Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, The Damned and Billy Bragg.

Bubbles links the colourful underground optimism of the 60s to the sardonic and manipulative art which accompanied punk’s explosion from 1976 onwards, and influenced a generation of design talent including Neville Brody, Malcolm Garrett and Peter Saville.

The lavishly illustrated Reasons To Be Cheerful will contain hundreds of images and many full-colour plates.

About the Author
Paul Gorman is a popular culture historian and author of The Look: Adventures in Rock & Pop Fashion, and the top ten bestselling Straight with Boy George.

Paul Gorman’s The Look: Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion

Previously on { feuilleton }
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer