Grafik / London Design Festival

2009

‘What was your first reaction to designing a poster about boxing?
You think of Warhol and Basquiat’s boxing poster, Francis Bacon, Morrissey, Salford Lads’ Club, Mexican boxing posters, Norman Mailer, Don King reading Nietzsche (“Knee’s Itch”), letterpress red and black text-only posters, coarse photographic out-outs, yellow backgrounds etc. A brief flicker of concern about working with such a brutal bloody sport. But you know badminton just doesn’t have the same thrill or confusion of violence end eroticism. It has been said boxing may be the worst of sports but the best to write about; for this reason it has attracted so many literary pugilists and inspired many more films and artists than other sports.


How did you start the process of distilling the sport into a visual form?
It already has visual form, so the graphic designer’s instinct is how to flatten it, how to make it 2D. Boxing has a long history of being flattened, beginning with Minoan vases from Crete, some showing blood pouring from the boxer’s nose. A bloody pictogram. If I were designing a series I would approach it in an entirely different way. It would be a photographic series of young toughs with broken noses, effectively a large scale version of The Smiths’ album covers and all the homoeroticism that goes with that.

What is the concept behind your final design?
There have been between seven and twelve Olympic boxing weights over the years. This poster equates twelve boxing weights to twelve variants of the reworked extensive Univers type family. Adrian Frutiger originated a unique numbering system rather than names to designate weights and variants. Here the boxing weight categories offer an alternative classification system. Its opposing sides/corners of red and blue meet in a gradient that joins the brutal history of letterpress end silkscreen “text-only” boxing posters.

How did your awareness of Olympic graphics influence your poster design?
I knew the last thing I wanted to do was make a flat pictogram, with Aicher and co looking over my shoulder. The Olympic spirit is evident in those heroic symbolic characters but they are far too wholesome and clinical for our times.’ (Interview from Grafik magazine, 2009)