Graphic Thought Facility (GTF) has its roots in a generation of graduates from London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) who found it hard to get employment in the recession of the early 1990s. The solution for many such young designers was to set up shop on their own. GTF, now employing ten designers plus partners Paul Neale, Andy Stevens and Huw Morgan, has steadily grown over three decades to become one of the most successful and admired graphic design practices in London. Their earliest work showed an interest in finding simple solutions to complex briefs, whether giving a unified look and feel to art catalogues and theatre posters, or supplying identity programmes to furniture companies such as Habitat and Vitra.
GTF is not averse to stripping out unnecessarily ‘designed’ elements, and constructing systems that remove aesthetic decisions from the process: their work often displays an unexpected beauty that is combined with common-sense pragmatism – a system that ‘designs itself’. By setting up a framework, GTF allows or encourages the actions of others – or chance – to blossom.
You can see such systems in the annual identity designs they made for the Frieze Art Fair in London between 2003 and 2012, which combined a typographic marque, like gallery labels on the back of a canvas, with beautiful photographs that highlighted the art fair’s location in London’s Regent’s Park, a concept they ingeniously refreshed each year; in their MeBox, a cardboard box with perforated push-out dots that the user can customise; and in their work for Danish textile company Kvadrat, based on a collection of mysterious shapes upholstered in Kvadrat fabrics. When they shot the objects falling at high speed, slowed down the resulting film and rotated it through 90 degrees, the result was a slow-moving, abstract ballet for screens in the company’s showrooms.