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Every discipline has its own language and its own narrative. And stories need heroes. Part of getting to grips with design lay in understanding the history and the key players.

Graphic design: visual comparisonsSlowly my awareness of the output of graphic designers was growing. There were exhibitions in college corridors and work adorned the walls where we had lectures and tutorials in the main building. I also observed a book in the hands of some of the older students and noted the title. On my next trip into Manchester I sought the book out in a city centre bookshop –  ‘Graphic Design: Visual Comparison’ by Fletcher, Forbes and Gill. This was a revelation – not least the surprise in knowing that there were actually books on graphic design, but the volume itself was exciting: an eclectic selection of examples drawn from all over the world; one or two to a page with just the briefest of comments below each illustration.

I also had a ‘name’ now – my first graphic designer – Alan Fletcher, which led me to two others – Colin Forbes and Bob Gill – founders of the landmark consultancy that bore all three names. Beginning to read avidly, I found there were also magazines, Graphis and Design – back issues filled racks in the college. I was also becoming impatient: the exercises of my foundation year, originally so exciting, were now becoming tedious as I approached the end of the year. I wanted to get to grips with real graphics.

Two exhibitions in the corridors fired my imagination – the first was from the school of art in Wuppertal which stunned me with how much could be achieved just by putting ink on paper. The second was an exhibition of paperback jackets from Penguin. This was in the era of Germano Facetti who broke the company’s typographic stranglehold by applying compelling graphics and illustration to the imprint. I didn’t fully comprehend the importance of Facetti’s achievement but its impact stayed with me. There was certainly no way I could have imagined that one day I too would be working in that unique 7” x 4” medium.1960s