James Goggin Royal College of Art London United Kingdom – I Used to Be a Design Student

BRITISH (BORN AUSTRALIAN)

James Goggin

STUDENT YEARS

6

A PIECE OF SOUND ADVICE + A SINGLE WARNING TO A DESIGN STUDENT

Keep studying + Beware of graphic design

FAVOURITE FOOD THEN

Japanese

YOUR MOST VALUED POSSESSION THEN

My Ricoh GR 35mm camera

YEAR OF PROJECT

1998

STUDENT PROJECT BRIEF

Open brief, edition of 5×50 postcards printed during letterpress classes at RCA with Alan Kitching. My idea was to take the grid of a revolving postcard rack (5 columns by 10 rows = 50 cards) and place it over a map of the world. From each grid square, a major city or body of water was chosen. Each name was typeset letterpress – cities printed with red, waters with blue. Five sets of 50 postcards were produced, and then set out geographically onto the rack, top to bottom (north to south) and around the five columns, east to west. A 51st card was also printed, titled In Transit. This was the name of the project, but also documented the unseen transit of a postcard navigating its way from the sender to the recipient.

COLLEGE

Royal College of Art, London (United Kingdom)

TUTOR(S)

Alan Kitching

TECHNOLOGY

Letterpress

TIME SPENT

2 weeks (approx.)

TYPEFACE

Helvetica

WHY DO YOU LIKE THIS PROJECT?

This is a project I could still imagine doing today; there is nothing I would change. A lot of my work relies on serendipity and chance. Here it involved coming across an old postcard rack in the Holborn area of London, outside a pharmacy that had closed down. I eventually pulled it in to my studio at the RCA, and it sat there for many months before I came up with a project to make use of it. The postcard project involved many themes that recur in my work: the postcard as a valid medium, alternative carto-graphic representations of the world, attempts at making graphic manifestations of a sense of place, and at making the intangible visible (the transitional state of a postcard between dispatch and delivery).

OUTCOMES

An appreciation for letterpress, and the basic act of actually printing the work you’ve typeset as a designer. The project was one of several I made at the RCA that connected printed matter to a conceptually logical spatial situation: here, a revolving postcard rack, suggesting a spinning globe.

FEEDBACK

No negative feedback.

PROJECT SIMILARITIES THEN AND NOW

There is a certain consistent logic in typeface choice, which you can find in a lot of my projects. For In Transit, I wanted the postcards to feel generic, the idea of the postcard as a touristic proof of location (‘I was really here’) distilled to its logical graphic conclusion: just a place name printed on a blank card, no picture necessary. Helvetica Bold worked for this, and, if I recall correctly, the main reason could well have been the fact that the set of Helvetica lead type contained enough characters for me to set up all 50 postcards without having to take the settings apart for different place names. The two colours of red for cities and blue for seas were borrowed from general map and atlas colour palettes. For Interstate, the road signage of the USA and The Netherlands dictated type choice without having to really think about it. The colours were an admittedly obvious combination of stars and stripes, Dutch flag and a slight De Stijl reference with the yellow. Again, these self-determined parameters set up a rational system that allowed me to avoid worrying about such design distractions as typeface and colour choice.