SA in graphic prime

Graphic Design: A Primer in South African Graphic Design is by artist, designer, writer and independent publisher, Michael MacGarry.

“Design it yourself, edit it yourself, and publish it yourself. Mail it to everyone you know and others you want to know,” writes Michael MacGarry in his new book Graphic Design: A Primer in South African Graphic Design. As artist, designer, writer and independent publisher, MacGarry’s middle name might well be “prolific”.

Billed as a handbook to South African graphic design, the book gives an overview of the universal concepts and fundamentals of good design. While this information is somewhat generic, its distinction is that every example, case study, designer and image is South African. As such, it makes an integrated case for the international viability and quality of South African design. Featured designers include Peet Pienaar, Garth Walker, Richard Hart, Am I Collective, Carina Comrie, Oliver Schildt, The Curators, Joh Del and others.

The second half of the book comprises a series of interviews with a number of the designers. Straight Q-and-A’s with seemingly no editorialisation on MacGarry’s part, the interviews provide a non-linear overview of the state of South African graphic design. Pienaar feeds on humour and irony, while Schildt says this doesn’t make him tick.  Am I Collective make the case for hands-on illustration work, while Hart sees Disturbance design diversifying into photography-orientated design. Comrie worships content, while Walker feeds on context. There are no easy categories or catch-alls and, as a couple of the interviews point out, the local scene is decidedly fragmented. Nonetheless, as Schildt says, this is a strength. 

Published by David Krut Publishing and written, edited and designed by MacGarry, the production values are professional and smart, orientated towards showcasing the actual designs themselves. The book is sure to become a sought-after reference in the years to come. Hopefully  too, it will inspire a whole new generation of designers that react to and build on the existing fraternity showcased here. After all, as a couple of designers note, there were never any books of this kind when they were starting out.

Watch the Talk with Richard Hart