Neville Brody V a bag full of Mayonnaise


This week is decision time for the RCA. Who will take Dan Fern’s mantle on to take the Communication Arts course into the 21st century. Will it be William Holder, Rick Poynor or Neville Brody?

Below was originally posted in the comments for Michael Johnson’s excellent thought provoking article republished on the CR blog.

Read also Andy Chen’s views on the matter on the Design Observer.

Thanks for the great post Michael. I didn’t even know Dan was retiring.
And that’s where the problem starts for me. The profile of the RCA in the real world outside South Ken is not what it used to be.

I graduated in 1998 from the RCA Graphics course, yes Graphics. It was the last year before Illustration and Graphics was folded into one and renamed to Communication Arts.

And here’s the thing: In 1996/98 no-one in our year did do much graphic design at all.
We had a “band”, staged (quite pretentious) performances, drew, painted and talked. I made a CD-Rom for the fashion department, published a book of a nonexistent world tour, because I could.

I had the most inspiring, crazy two years of my life at the RCA. With all this it’s no coincidence I am now working in advertising – my degree show consisted of a table with a bag full of mayonnaise on it…

Other people in my year like Matt Rudd, Ed Gill or Dan Eatock went on to do their thing with great success. All this is only possible precisely because the course allowed us to fuck around and experiment.

Whether the course is called Graphics or Communication Arts or Mayo On A Table doesn’t really matter. What matters is the quality of the students that are attracted to the RCA in the first place. It’s the students that make it what it is. The spirit of a great bunch of people working together and mucking around with no boundaries. I for one feel very lucky and blessed that I shared studio with so many amazingly talented people – some of whom I still work with occasionally.

Today I am not so sure the quality is there anymore. As an employer 12 years on I have not seen or employed one single student from the RCA. At the same time I haven’t really seen any new talent emerging from the RCA setting up on their own. And I have certainly not been itching to see all the degree shows.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Don’t know. All I know is that now is the time for the RCA to look at where it wants to go. There is a strong argument for a craft led name to come in and turn things upside down yet again by teaching actual Graphics. How mad would that be?

The question is: What does the RCA stand for in 2010?

But what do I know?

I bite my nails.


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