Today at 12 noon I watched a talk by Malcolm Garrett, the graphic designer famous for his work with Buzzcocks, Magazine and Duran Duran, amongst many others. Hosted by designer Patrick Thomas under the title Icons, this was part of a series of online talks held on Saturdays for art and design students during the current worldwide coronavirus lockdowns.
It was an amazing talk and I got to hear many of the stories behind record sleeves I know intimately. Both Thomas and Garrett were generous with their time—scheduled for 45 minutes, I bailed out needing some lunch at the 2 hour 10 mark. Malcolm still seemed happy to be answering questions when I left, and two hours later as I type this, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still on Zoom chatting away.
Earlier this week I went to Eye’s Type Tuesday, and heard talks from Studio Blup’s Dines, printmaker Dafi Kuhne, illustrator Malka Favre, and MagCulture’s Jeremy Leslie. Each were streamed live from their respective work spaces around the world. On Thursday this week, I unfortunately missed an Instagram live Typographic Circle event with Sarah Boris as I’d had a 10 hour working day staring at a screen and my eyes needed a break, but only two weeks before that, I had managed to tune in to a TypoCircle talk with Stockholm based studio BankerWessel.
To put it mildly, there is an embarrassment of riches of design talks happening at the moment. Since January of this year, I have been to so many that they are starting to blur into one. Alongside other Type Tuesday and TypoCircle events, there was Glug’s Collectors’ Edition II, a Made By Folk talk and Q&A, (and whiskey drinking session), with Glasgow’s d8 Studio, and a Twentieth Century Society lecture on the Festival of Britain. It could be argued that there has never been a better time to hear an inspirational speaker. Many are free, but even those that aren’t are extremely reasonably priced and easily within the financial reach of the vast majority of design students.
In June last year I wrote an article for Eye magazine’s blog about the benefits of such talks being online, (see Virtually speaking). The value of these to students from the regions, who typically can not afford to get to London or other large conurbations where they usually happen, is incalculable. I have had conversations with my students in recent weeks about what they get from attending such events and it is clear the experiences are feeding directly into their studies, making them more worldly wise, and generally invigorating them. Given the difficulties of delivering a practical curriculum online, such online events are an added extra to their general design education and they go a long way to expanding a learning experience that is restricted by necessity.
The point of this post though is not to repeat what I have written elsewhere, but to urge the hosts of such talks to consider keeping at least some online events as we, (hopefully), head out of lockdown and into some sort of normality. As the vaccination programme rolls out and we can look to a post-Covid-19 society, there is an obvious desire to get back to live, in-person experiences. At both a Type Tuesday and Typographic Circle talk recently it was mentioned how everyone was longing to get back to St Bride Library in London, where both organisations often hold their events. I too look forward to returning there, sharing a beer with other guests, hearing the talks, and networking with like-minded designers, writers, educators and students. But it would be a crying shame if this meant that online talks dried up completely.