Supergraphics [2010] – Tony Brook, Adrian Shaughnessy

Supergraphics – Transforming Space: Graphic Design for Walls, Buildings & Spaceschronicles the early days of the Supergraphics movement, and looks at work by leading contemporary practitioners – a significant number of whom are women.

It concludes with a glimpse into the future by analysing the work of a new generation of digital artists and tech-savvy architects who are de-materializing buildings with the aid of computer technology, and in so doing, keeping alive the original utopian intentions of the pioneers of Supergraphics.

Supergraphics was the name of an architectural movement in the 1960s and 70s that saw architects attempt to ‘remove solidity, gravity, even history’ by the simple act of applying paint and graphics to the interior and exterior surfaces of buildings.

As one architectural writer noted at the time:

‘… niches of architects and designers began experimenting with Supergraphics to emulate the spatial effects of architecture. These designers distorted perspective with stripes and arrows, emphasized wayfinding and movement sequences with surface designs, joined community groups to paint illustrative graphics over blighted buildings, and played with scale by using billboarding tactics.’

The result was an eruption of dazzling graphic imagery that used scale, chromatic verve, and visual sleight-of-hand to achieve aesthetic and social aims. Yet it is a body of work that rarely attracts the attention of design historians and commentators.

Today, the term Supergraphics is applied to any mega-scale graphics, usually in an environmental and commercial setting. It is more commonly referred to as Environmental Design or Environmental Graphics. And while not much of this contemporary work retains a formal link with its ideological origins in architectural history, there is however, as this book demonstrates, large scale work being produced all over the world that has the aesthetic heft and visual daring to match the best of 1960s Supergraphics.