Belatedly I learned yesterday that the graphic designer David King had died earlier in the month. King never enjoyed the reputation of Neville Brody or Philip Saville and the name might not be familiar to everyone reading this blog but the odds are you have at least seen several examples of his work.
King put together the memorable covers of The Who Sell Out and Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland and he was arts editor of the Sunday Times magazine for a decade. Best of all he designed a number of posters, leaflets and badges for the Anti Nazi League in the late 1970s, including the examples below (and all these years later I still have my ANL badge).
These graphics, particularly the badges, became a more and more common sight in the late 1970s, especially when Rock Against Racism (RAR), along with their sister organisation, the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) organized a protest concert, that they hoped would be, according to activist David Widgery, ‘the biggest piece of revolutionary street theatre London had ever seen.’
On 30 April 1978, a crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square and began making their long way (around six miles) to Victoria Park in London’s East End, where a concert featuring The Clash, X-Ray Spex and others was to be staged. Coaches from all across Scotland travelled south, over forty from Glasgow alone. This did prove to be one of the most colourful protests in British history, as punks, hippies, rastas, trades unionists, anarchists, liberals, socialists and people who just opposed what the NF stood for marched, sang and waved thousands of ANL and RAR placards and banners, many featuring King designs.
The concert was a huge success. It had been optimistically predicted that maybe around 30,000 would attend. By the time the Clash bounded onstage it’s estimated there were over 80,000 watching and you can see footage of the event on The Clash docudrama Rude Boy. Later a smaller rally took place at Craigmillar Park in Edinburgh and again King’s work was much in evidence.
In the early 1980s, King went on to establish an eye-catching and Pop Art inspired design identity for the London listings mag City Limits and he wrote the book Ordinary Citizens: The Victims of Stalin, documenting some of the victims of Stalin’s grotesque purges. Many of his collection of Soviet era political posters are now on display at London’s Tate Modern and I have to say, when I studied art and design in Glasgow in the 1980s, King was a big influence.
David King. 30 April 1943 – 11 May 2016.