In Signal:01 we were lucky to be able to publish a great interview between a young British designer named Dan Poyner and Rufus Seger, the house designer for Colin Ward’s 1960s Anarchy journal. Here is an excerpt from the interview, and a handful of covers. More can be found in Signal:
I hadn’t realised until just now that you’ve never seen all of the covers brought together like this before.
No, I never saw them en masse. I would just be working—one aheadand one behind. I had a very close focus on the thing. And then, looking at it en masse, you realise how very consistent the ingredients are. You’ve got the one strong image, the title of what it’s about and then the sign off, Anarchy.
But you must remember, it’s an empty room every month, regular four corners, window and a basement. And you would think about it for about a week and you come up with a simple solution.
Do you feel like you had artistic or design contemporaries who were also attempting to articulate politics aesthetically?
I suppose we had friends in the design and illustration world and friends in the London Anarchist Group but there wasn’t any overlap. But for me, the pull between design and politics is strong—they’re indivisible. The reason I stayed with Anarchy for the whole ten years was because I was dedicated to what Colin was doing. I supported him. I was dipped in anarchy before I started designing the covers, then in anarchy that whole decade, and ever since. So the balance between what am I designing and who am I designing for answers itself. So it’s a continuum.
You were working throughout the 1960s and ’70s, but you were out of step with current design trends in many ways. There is little influence of psychedelia or new youth culture trends in the covers. At the time did you feel like you were looking backwards or forwards? Trying to chart new territory?
I don’t think I was trying to chart new territory, or looking backwards or forwards, I was looking at what Colin was doing. I’d get a list of the articles, and I’d have to be completely focused on now! Now was the issue, you didn’t look back to last week or forward to next, just concentrate on what you’re doing and do it as best you can. Get it in, concentrate, boil it up, stick it down and send it to GM Watson on Thursday. You did a half day or a day, really at it, and you put your chin on the line and you did it. No future. No past. It was do the job that minute.
You were blowing up halftones and montaging elements, which predates the xerox style of the 1970s and ’80s, what was your process and your intention?
Well, that’s really about what you do with your visual elements. Blowing up multiple images, particularly typography. Really enjoy your halftones. All that was grist for the mill in the ’60s and ’70s. I pushed that because I could see what graphic design was about. You take the thing and you blow it up until you could see what was going on, then cut a piece out and stick it down. Put it across, something big, something exciting.