Handmade (4 stars)

The Lighthouse, Glasgow, until Thu 7 Sep


Handtooled production is not immediately associated with advertising posters in our digital, branded world. This exhibition from the Zurich Museum of Design turns that idea on its head with striking images, from A4 to bus-shelter size, utilising a myriad of processes: potato print, woodblock, photocopying, letterpress. As Claude Lichtenstein writes in the catalogue, the designers inhabit a ‘world in-between’ the analogue and the digital, creating primarily on paper, not a computer screen with its ultimately empty pixels. Bastien Aubry’s simple red and green proclamation ‘Anti Style’ says it all.

So much for the No Logo ethos, but the aesthetic the artists employ really works. Poster artists have always had to be sophisticated to get their message across, but high gloss doesn’t necessarily mean high impact. These designers exploit their fascination with old techniques and production values vary delightfully: an inky partial fingerprint in a corner; a photo of a handpainted cardboard advert for a film night propped up in an electrical shop; deliberately badly spaced letters; thick black stencilling on Japanese newsprint. They play with the boundaries of reality: red brick wall patterns, letters made out of parcel tape or a pavement with wet footprints raised to the vertical.

Some of these images are not advertising anything at all, but express clear political statements, while others give us an insight into the social life of the subculture. This exhibition will delight and inspire graphic design students, and, for the rest of us cynics, demonstrate that individuality can still get the message across.

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