Engaged Futures



Rick Poynor on David King: Designer, Activist, Visual Historian 23-01-2020

Thursdays 18.00 Lecture Theatre A


David King: Designer, Activist, Visual Historian
The late David King’s body of work defies categorisation. He began as a designer on the Sunday Times Magazine in London, where he became an award-winning visual journalist.

He was a brilliant editor of photographs in projects such as I am King (1975), his photo-biography of Muhammad Ali. After a trip to Moscow, King started amassing photographs and graphics from the Russian Revolution, going on to build up one of the largest private collections in the world, now housed in the Tate. Using this spectacular archive, he authored ground-breaking studies of Russian visual history, such as The Commissar Vanishes (1997).In parallel, King produced hard-hitting and highly influential posters for social and political causes. He designed magazines, book covers, catalogues and cultural posters in the same highly personal, typographically dynamic style. This talk considers his achievement and legacy.



Rick Poynor is a writer, lecturer and curator, specialising in design and visual culture. He is Professor of Design and Visual Culture at the University of Reading. He was founding editor of Eye magazine, where he writes the long-running Critique column, and co-founder of the Design Observer website. He was a columnist for Print magazine for 17 years and his articles have appeared in BlueprintIconCreative ReviewFrieze and many other publications. Poynor’s books include Typographica (2001), Obey the Giant (2001), No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism (2003), Jan van Toorn: Critical Practice (2008) and National Theatre Posters: A Design History (2017), which accompanied an exhibition at the National Theatre, London. In 2004, he curated a major exhibition, “Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design since the Sixties”, for the Barbican Art Gallery. His book David King: Designer, Activist, Visual Historian will be published by Yale University Press in September 2020.