Since graduating with distinction in graphic design from Saint Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, Jonathan Barnbrook has developed a multifaceted practice that includes activism, graphic design, typeface design, industrial design, and motion graphics.
Barnbrook founded his design studio, Barnbrook Design (now Barnbrook), in 1990. His typefaces were originally released through the California innovator Emigre. In 2010, his most famous typeface, “Mason” (originally “Manson”), released by Emigre became one of the first digital acquisitions of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Additionally, his stone carving is on permanent display in the 20th-century gallery of the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 1997 he established his own font company, VirusFonts, releasing well-known fonts such as “Bastard” and “Tourette.” In 2007, his contribution to British graphic design was recognized with a major retrospective exhibition at the Design Museum in London entitled “Friendly Fire.” A monograph of his work, Barnbrook Bible, was simultaneously published. In 2008 he was given an honorary doctorate by Staffordshire University for services to typography. During 2009, the exhibition “Collateral Damage” presented a retrospective of Jonathan Barnbrook’s more political design output, and traveled to multiple countries, including France, Slovenia, and Croatia.
Barnbrook believes design shapes the environment, changing the way we perceive things and informing our choices. In this sense, design is a “culturally valid form of expression” with something to say. He also has stated that he believes “design can change the world when it works in service of the right people and gets an issue on the mainstream political agenda.” In acknowledging this responsibility, Barnbrook has art directed for the anti-corporate magazine Adbusters. He participated in the “First Things First 2000 Manifesto,” published in 1999, signed by graphic designers, students, and photographers who proposed a reversal of priorities in the way graphic design is used commercially. He created a billboard in 2001 publicizing the manifesto entitled “Designers, stay away from corporations that want you to lie for them”—quoting influential American graphic designer Tibor Kalman. Barnbrook has also produced many copyright-free designs for political or social justice purposes.
Barnbrook has worked with a variety of clientele, from artists to selected commercial and non-commercial clients. He has created complete graphic identities for major cultural institutions, including the Mori Arts Center, Tokyo, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and has undertaken branding for the 17th Biennale of Sydney. He has designed covers for Noam Chomsky’s book Doctrines and Visions (2005) and David Bowie’s record Heathen (2002) He also collaborated with artist Damien Hirst on his collectable monograph, I Want To Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now (1997), which won a series of awards, including the Art Directors Club of New York Gold Prize, the Tokyo Type Directors Club Non-Members Grand Prize, and the New York Type Directors Club best in show. For his film work he has won two D&AD Awards and the Epica Grand Prix. Barnbrook’s work was selected for the 10th Istanbul Biennale in 2007 and he was an exhibiting artist at the 17th Biennale of Sydney.
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