Graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook has pursued a successful career as a commercial designer while at the same time challenging the mechanisms of consumerism and advocating the designer’s role in pushing for social change.
Also a film maker and typographer, Barnbrook trained at Saint Martins School of Art and the Royal College of Art.
Record artwork was an early influence and something he has returned to throughout his career. A long term Bowie collaborator, Barnbrook is behind the sleeve art for Heathen, (2002); Reality, (2003); The Next Day, (2013); and Blackstar (2016) Bowie’s final album, where Barnbrook was able to tap into Bowie’s artistic vision without knowing that he was terminally ill and that the record was his swansong.
In 2016 Barnbrook told Design Week: “He [Bowie] was dealing with this idea of mortality and I was picking up on the universal theme of mortality. I didn’t know exactly what I was designing for but I knew it was something in that area.”
He has been a contributor to and art directed two editions of Adbusters, a social activist magazine, which launched campaigns such as 'Occupy Wall Street' and create “subvertisements” using public advertising space to hold companies to account.
Much of Barnbrook’s work is coloured by a personal response to a political event.
He was a signatory to the First Things First 2000 manifesto, a pledge from graphic designers to “put their skills to worthwhile use” and address the “unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises” the world was facing. In 2001 he produced an artwork entitled: “Designers, stay away from corporations that want you to lie for them.”
Maher has only been working in the design industry since 2008, starting out with the Design Business Association. Since then she’s rocketed up through the ranks at design consultancies, most recently as managing director at Good and CEO of Pollitt and Partners. Alongside this, Maher has founded Kerning the Gap, an organsisation which started out as a side hustle but this year became her full time job.
Simply, Kerning the Gap is “a collective of like-minded people who want to see more women in design leadership roles, hear their voices and be inspired to create change”.
It’s vital work in an industry where “63% of graphic design students are women; yet only 17% are creative directors”, according to KtG.
Through mentoring, resources and events, as well as satellite groups being set up around the country, the organisation has grown and now positions itself as ʻThe Equality Network for the Design Industryʼ.
The remit of the work has grown to include Black, Asian, Minority and Ethnic groups who collectively account for just 12% of leadership roles.
Maher’s pragmatic view on increasing diversity means that she takes a wholly inclusive stance on solving the problem and encourages anyone and everyone who is engaged with design to get involved.
Design Week has been a long-time supporter of Maher’s work with Kerning the Gap and we hope that this award helps to keep it on the industry’s agenda.