Portrait of FHK Henrion posing at drawing desk with drawing tools in his hands.

Portrait of FHK Henrion

Tuesday 24 July 2012
Hosted by the Design Archives, Faculty of Arts, University of Brighton

The Design Archives holds the rich and extensive archive of the designer FHK Henrion (1914-1990), which has enormous potential for research. A recent research seminar brought together six speakers invited to map current research drawing on Henrion’s archive and to consider the opportunities it offers for research collaboration.

After a welcome from Dr. Catherine Moriarty, Curatorial Director of the Design Archives, Sue Breakell, Archivist and Research Fellow at the Design Archives, and organizer of the seminar, opened proceedings with a survey of her own work on the Henrion archive. Sue set the scene for the day with an archival focus, describing the cataloguing project of which she is in the early stages, and her own areas of research interest in relation to the collection, including the materiality of the archive and the creative process, aspects of the designer’s identity as an émigré, and the relationship between art and design.

Our next speaker was Adrian Shaughnessy, writer, graphic designer and professor/tutor at the RCA. He surveyed of the current challenging conditions of graphic design publishing in the age of the internet, and described how his company, Unit Editions, have negotiated this market. Adrian emphasized the importance of archival content to Unit Editions publications, presenting such material in a way that captures its material as well as its design qualities. Describing recent projects such as a forthcoming publication on Herb Lubalin, he outlined plans for a volume on Henrion, drawing heavily on the archive in close collaboration with the Design Archives.

The morning’s third speaker, Rob Banham, Lecturer at the University of Reading Department of Typography, described a planned research funding bid, elaborating his areas of interest in Henrion’s international perspective and influence, through his involvement with such bodies as AGI (Alliance Graphique International), Icograda and the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers; his role in design education, and in defining the role and practices of the designer.

The afternoon’s sessions related to existing research projects which, while they may not focus solely on Henrion, have his work as a component, contextualizing and enriching the field of study. The first of these was David Preston, a graphic designer and an Associate Lecturer at Central St Martins, as well as a PhD candidate at the RCA. Looking at several of Henrion’s early corporate design schemes, including Pest Control of Cambridge and the Dutch airline KLM, David described some of the systematic techniques developed by Henrion and his partner Alan Parkin to analyse and manage the various design outputs and formats in which corporate identity schemes would be presented. He set these in the context of other influential writing on systematic design methods such as that of Bruce Archer.

David Cabianca is an Associate Professor at York University, Canada, and is currently completing an MA at London College of Communication. His research focuses on the specific sequence of events of Henrion’s employment by the GPO to develop a suite of identities for its several postal, telecommunications and financial businesses in the 1960s. Describing the impossible institutional politics which existed in the GPO, as well as the difficult arrangements for employing both Henrion and Stuart Rose in similar roles at the time, Cabianca showed, through some innovative data renderings, how the situation made it impossible for Henrion’s ideas to be accepted.

Our final speaker of the day, Patrick O’Shea, a PhD candidate at Kingston University, considered Henrion’s involvement in brand design for another major British institution, the British Overseas Air Corporation (BOAC), a precursor company to British Airways, and Henrion’s particular role, alongside other émigré designers, in shaping the modernist brand identity of the company, at a time when neither brand identity nor a modernist manifestation of the British “brand”,had yet taken hold in this country’s design environment.

We look forward to future opportunities for collaboration in this field and to hosting more public events for the presentation and discussion of these ideas.

Further information about the Henrion archive can be found here:

Design Archives

Archives Hub

View our Henrion sets on Flickr