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Rick Poynor
Blog | Biography | About | Books | Articles & Essays | Public Speaking | Uncanny | Other Exhibitions | Contact


Rick Poynor is a British writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, media and visual culture. He is Visiting Professor in Design Criticism and Research Methods at the postgraduate Royal College of Art in London.

He was the founding editor of Eye magazine in London, which he edited from 1990 to 1997, and he has contributed the “Critique” column to Eye since 1999. He has written a regular column for Print magazine since 2000. His articles, essays and reviews have appeared in I.D., Metropolis, Harvard Design Magazine, Adbusters, Blueprint, Icon, Frieze, Creative Review, Etapes, Domus, The Guardian, Financial Times and many other publications. In 2003, he was a co-founder of Design Observer.

Poynor’s first book, with the artist Russell Mills, was More Dark Than Shark (1986), a study of Brian Eno. Typography Now: The Next Wave (1991), the first survey to document the new digital typography, became an international bestseller. Poynor’s books about design and the visual arts include Vaughan Oliver: Visceral Pleasures (2000); Typographica (2001); No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism (2003); Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design Since the Sixties (2004); and Jan van Toorn: Critical Practice (2008). He has published three collections of his essays and cultural criticism: Design Without Boundaries (1998); Obey the Giant: Life in the Image World (2001); and Designing Pornotopia (2006).

He has contributed essays and chapters to many publications, among them Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture (2005); Looking Closer Five: Critical Writings on Graphic Design (2006); Design and Art (2007); Colors Notebook: Violence (2008); Now is the Time: Art & Theory in the 21st Century (2009); Design in Britain (2009); Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990 (2011) and Re-view: New Perspectives on the Collection of the Stedelijk Museum (forthcoming).

In 2004, he was curator of a major survey exhibition, “Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design since the Sixties”, at the Barbican Art Gallery, London. The show travelled to China and Switzerland. In 2009, he curated “Typographica” at the Kemistry Gallery, London. His most recent exhibition, “Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design”, the first international and historical survey of this subject, ran at the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic, in the summer of 2010 and at the Kunsthal, Rotterdam, in fall 2011.

Poynor was a Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Art (1994-1999) and a Research Fellow at the college (2006-2009). He has also taught at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht. He is a frequent lecturer and has spoken about design and visual culture at public events, conferences and design schools throughout Europe, the United States, Australia, and China.

In 2007, he was a featured interviewee in the hit documentary Helvetica.
Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, media, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. His latest book is Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design.

Recent Essay

Exposure: Man with a Bandaged Head

The aftermath of extreme weather

Recent Book

Uncanny Surrealism and Graphic Design
Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design
Rick Poynor
Moravian Gallery, 2010
More books by Rick Poynor >>

Design Observer Essays


Exposure: Portrait of Space by Lee Miller

Frames within frames in the desert


Exposure: H.P. Lovecraft by Lucius B. Truesdell

The master of horror


Exposure: Morandi’s Objects by Joel Meyerowitz

The sublime in ordinary things


Exposure: Tilda Swinton by Tim Walker

The performance of a picture


Exposure: American Hermit by Alec Soth

Alone in the great outdoors


10.13.15: Exposure: Pirelli Calendar Model by Peter Lindbergh
10.06.15: Exposure: Kreuzberg Tower in Berlin by Hélène Binet
09.29.15: Exposure: Marlene Dietrich Billboard by Brassaï
09.22.15: Exposure: Crashed Car by Arnold Odermatt
09.15.15: Exposure: Grace Jones by Jean-Paul Goude
09.08.15: Exposure: Beauty Salon in Kraków by David Hlynsky
09.01.15: Exposure: Crime Scene in Paris by Alphonse Bertillon
08.25.15: Exposure: Children at Play in the City by Shirley Baker
08.18.15: Exposure: Rossellini and Lynch by Helmut Newton
08.11.15: Exposure: Woman Mailing a Letter by Clifton R. Adams
08.04.15: Exposure: James Nachtwey by Antonin Kratochvil
07.28.15: Exposure: Dysturb poster in Paris by Jeanne Frank
07.21.15: Exposure: American Family by Ralph Eugene Meatyard
07.14.15: Exposure: Bookstore in Barcelona by Gabriel Casas
07.07.15: Exposure: Invisible Man by Gordon Parks
06.30.15: Exposure: Kuwait, 1991 by Sophie Ristelhueber
06.23.15: Exposure: Newport Baths by Max Dupain
06.16.15: Exposure: The Eiffel Tower by Germaine Krull
06.09.15: Exposure: Reem-B Robot by Vincent Fournier
06.02.15: Exposure: Salvation Army Barracks by Jack London
05.26.15: Exposure: Flypaper and Flies by Jacques-André Boiffard
05.19.15: Exposure: The Gamble by Peter Kennard
05.12.15: Exposure: Pages from Fabrik by Jak Tuggener
05.05.15: Exposure: Head below Wires by Roger Ballen
04.28.15: Exposure: Surface Transit by Eva Fuka
04.21.15: Exposure: Rue du Temple, Paris by Gail Albert Halaban
04.14.15: Exposure: J.G. Ballard by Brian Griffin
04.07.15: Exposure: Brodsky, the Tie Seller in Paris
03.31.15: Exposure: Lens bookshop in Sutton by Lloyd Rich
03.24.15: Exposure: Luigi Russolo’s Noise Machines
03.17.15: Exposure: Butlin’s holiday camp by Edmund Nägele
03.10.15: Exposure: Cat and I by Wanda Wulz
03.03.15: Exposure: Restaurant de la Réserve by Jean Gilletta
02.24.15: Exposure: Berlin scene by Wolfgang Zurborn
02.17.15: Exposure: Mother and Child by Philip Jones Griffiths
02.10.15: Exposure: The Colossi of Memnon by Francis Bedford
02.03.15: Exposure: The Simulator by Dora Maar
01.27.15: Exposure: El Paso Street by Stephen Shore
01.20.15: Exposure: Rise Up You Are Free by Dominic Hawgood
01.13.15: Exposure: Striporama street scene by Vivian Maier
01.06.15: Exposure: Viktoria Modesta by Nadav Kander
12.11.14: Illustrations by Bohumil Štěpán for Crazy Fairy Tales
09.16.14: Posters by Hans Hillmann for Jean-Luc Godard’s Films
09.02.14: Tracking the Locations of J.G. Ballard’s Super-Cannes
07.28.14: The Mysteries of France:
A Gothic Guidebook

06.11.14: The Body as Factory: Anatomy of an Image
05.28.14: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Typewriter
04.17.14: The Conceptual Advertising of J.G. Ballard
03.22.14: The Filmic Page: Chris Marker’s Commentaires
02.14.14: From the Archive: Surface Wreckage
02.04.14: Why Tatlin Can Never Go Home Again
01.13.14: The Compulsively Visual World of Pinterest
01.03.14: Martin Sharp: People, Politics and Pop
12.28.13: The Writings of William Drenttel
12.06.13: Martin Sharp: From Satire to Psychedelia
11.11.13: Collage Culture: Nostalgia and Critique
10.30.13: Belgian Solutions: The True State of Things?
10.15.13: From the Archive: Brian Eno, Artist of Light
10.10.13: New York: City of Spectacular Doors
09.16.13: Bohumil Stepan’s Family Album of Oddities
09.07.13: Bohumil Stepan’s Gallery of Erotic Humor
08.29.13: The Hotel that Dreamed It Was a Museum
08.22.13: Collage Now, Part 1: Sergei Sviatchenko
08.22.13: Collage Now, Part 2: Cut and Paste Culture
08.15.13: Keld Helmer-Petersen: Pioneer of Color
08.09.13: David Maisel and the Apocalyptic Sublime
07.29.13: Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism
07.10.13: The Incidental Pleasures of Street Art
07.02.13: Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 2
06.26.13: Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 1
06.20.13: From the Archive: Upgrade Yourself!
06.02.13: The Irresistible Attraction of Self Storage
05.15.13: The Conceptual Posters of Boris Bucan
05.09.13: The Age of Wire and String Rebooted
04.27.13: On the Trail of The Eater of Darkness
04.08.13: The Practical Virtue of Works That Work
03.10.13: Utopian Image: Politics and Posters
03.05.13: On My Shelf: Fin de Copenhague
02.22.13: The Experiential Thrill of Driving in Films
02.15.13: A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image
01.26.13: Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers
01.15.13: Socialism and Modernity: A Hidden History
01.03.13: On My Screen: Shooting the Past
12.09.12: Dom Sylvester Houédard’s Cosmic Typewriter
11.30.12: Herbert Spencer and the Decisive Detail
11.18.12: Robert Brownjohn: Photos at Street Level
10.23.12: True Stories: A Film about People Like Us
10.14.12: The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
10.05.12: The Museum of Communicating Objects
09.24.12: Demonstrations, Democracy and Design
09.15.12: Why the Activist Poster is Here to Stay
09.09.12: John Stezaker: Images from a Lost World
09.02.12: It’s Smart to Use a Crash Test Dummy
08.26.12: The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter
08.19.12: On My Shelf: André Breton’s Nadja
08.09.12: Sending Signals about Political Graphics
07.30.12: Pierre Faucheux and Le Livre de Poche
07.06.12: Brian Eno’s “Music for Films”
06.28.12: What Does Critical Writing Look Like?
06.18.12: Updating the Maps of Graphic Design History
06.07.12: On My Shelf: A History of the Machine
05.31.12: From the Archive: Graphic Metallica
05.23.12: Jan van Toorn: The World in a Calendar
05.15.12: The Strange Afterlife of Common Objects
05.02.12: Career Prospects in the Pain Business
04.26.12: Studio Culture: The Materialism of Matter
04.19.12: Phil Sayer, Designer of Photo-Portraits
04.13.12: The Closed Shop of Design Academia
04.06.12: The Enduring Influence of Richard Hollis
03.29.12: On Display: Museum of Broken Relationships
03.23.12: The Covers of J.G. Ballard’s Crash: An Update
03.09.12: Typographic Stories of the City Streets
03.02.12: Motif Magazine: The World Made Visible
02.26.12: John McHale and the Expendable Ikon
02.18.12: The Unspeakable Pleasure of Ruins
02.08.12: On My Shelf: A Classic by Berger and Mohr
01.31.12: The Evil Genius of David Shrigley
01.27.12: In Response to An Anatomy of Uncriticism
01.19.12: Ernst Haas and the Color Underground
01.09.12: Read All That? You Must be Kidding Me
01.01.12: On My Shelf: Jean-Luc Godard Anthologized
12.23.11: How We Learned to Live with Zombies
12.16.11: Saul Leiter and the Typographic Fragment
12.11.11: Another Design Voice Falls Silent
12.01.11: Man in a Bowler: Illustration after Magritte
11.25.11: How to Cover an Impossible Book
11.17.11: The Infinite Warehouse of Images
11.10.11: Literary Horror from the Chapman Brothers
11.03.11: This Post has Been Declared a Link-free Zone
10.28.11: On My Shelf: Continuum’s 33 1/3 Series
10.22.11: On Display: The Kirkland Museum
10.16.11: Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?
09.29.11: Should We Look at Corrosive Images?
09.22.11: Jan Svankmajer and the Graphic Uncanny
09.15.11: Richard Hamilton, the Great Decipherer
09.09.11: A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice
09.01.11: Chris Foss and the Technological Sublime
08.25.11: On My Shelf: The Metallization of a Dream
08.17.11: Funerary Portraits: Snapshots in Stone
08.09.11: From the Archive: Raging Bull
08.02.11: From the Archive: Down with Innovation
07.27.11: Andrzej Klimowski: Transmitting the Image
07.21.11: J.G. Ballard’s Terminal Documents
07.13.11: The House That Design Journalism Built
07.06.11: The Dictionary as Art Concept
06.28.11: Speculative Fiction, Speculative Design
06.22.11: On the Threshold of Sebald’s Room
06.14.11: Lost Inside the Collector’s Cabinet
06.06.11: Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?
06.01.11: On My Shelf: Stefan Lorant’s Lilliput
05.26.11: A Dream World Made by Machines
05.19.11: Unearthly Powers: Surrealism and SF
05.10.11: Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read
05.07.11: Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion
04.28.11: On My Screen: The Back of Beyond
04.21.11: Wim Wenders’ Strange and Quiet Places
04.12.11: Stewart Mackinnon: Ruptured and Remade
04.07.11: Starowieyski’s Graphic Universe of Excess
04.01.11: Wim Crouwel: The Ghost in the Machine
03.25.11: An Unknown Master of Poster Design
03.18.11: Slicing Open the Surrealist Eyeball
03.11.11: What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like? Part 2
03.04.11: The Secret History of the Edgelands
02.22.11: On My Shelf: Richard Neville’s Playpower
02.15.11: Solitude in Dark Trees
02.10.11: A Journal with No Fear of Flying
02.04.11: What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like?
01.27.11: On My Shelf: Nairn’s London
01.23.11: Discovered by Chance in a Paris Arcade
01.14.11: In Praise of the East European Film Poster
01.10.11: Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies
01.07.11: How to Chew Gum while Walking
12.30.10: Surrealism in the Pre-School Years
12.21.10: W.G. Sebald: Writing with Pictures
12.17.10: Everything has Become Science Fiction
12.16.10: Agency or Studio? The Dutch Design Dilemma
12.10.10: The Impossibility of an Island
12.03.10: On My Screen: Bill Morrison’s Decasia
12.01.10: Where Is Art Now?
11.22.10: Rethinking Conceptual Type Design
11.11.10: What Does H. P. Lovecraft Look Like?
11.05.10: Adventures in the Image World
11.05.10: Danzig Baldaev’s Prison House of Flesh
11.05.10: Design Writing from Down Under
11.05.10: On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation
11.05.10: An App for the Self-Replacing Book
12.18.08: Barney Bubbles: Optics and Semantics
06.16.08: We Found It at the Movies: Part I
06.16.08: We Found It at the Movies: Part II
06.02.08: A Critical View of Graphic Design History
02.17.08: Lost America: The Flamingo Motor Hotel
04.03.07: Dancing to the Sound in Your Head
11.10.05: Emigre: An Ending
09.25.05: Where Are the Design Critics?
09.19.05: The Guardian’s New European Look
08.20.05: Sublime Little Tubes of Destruction
07.27.05: Vladimir’s House and Garden of Earthly Delights
07.01.05: We Are All Editors Now. Or Are We?
06.16.05: In Memoriam: My Manual Typewriter
06.03.05: Mevis and Van Deursen: Rueful Recollections, Recycled Design
05.20.05: But Darling of Course it’s Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve
05.05.05: Getting Louder: Chinese Design on the March
04.24.05: Eduardo Paolozzi, 20th Century Image-Maker
04.05.05: Wisconsin Death Trip: A Psychic History
03.21.05: Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot
03.13.05: Why Architects Give Me the Willies
02.12.05: The Ikea Riot: Unsatisfied Excess?
01.09.05: The I.D. Forty: What Are Lists For?
11.11.04: Who's In and Who's Out of the Dictionary
10.29.04: Fear and Loathing at the Design Museum
07.31.04: Britain and America: United in Idiocy
07.03.04: Where are the Design Intellectuals?
06.06.04: Modernising MoMA: Design on Display
04.23.04: Critics and Their Purpose
04.17.04: Theory with a Small "t"
04.09.04: How to Say What You Mean
04.03.04: The Two Cultures of Design
03.21.04: Jan van Toorn: Arguing with Visual Means
02.28.04: Bruce Mau: The Aura of Power
02.11.04: Neville Brody Revisited
01.11.04: Stephen Gill: Behind the Billboard
12.21.03: Notes on Experimental Jetset
12.11.03: Adbusters in Anarchy
12.02.03: Remember Picelj
11.24.03: Missing Sleeve Notes
11.16.03: Unnecessary Revival
11.09.03: Those Inward-looking Europeans
11.02.03: It's a Man's World



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