It seemed as though it was the end of an era when, in January 2009, Ian Anderson announced that The Designers Republic had folded. Founded in 1986, it was the pre-eminent force in British graphic design during the 1990s with its irreverant approach and a style which saw type and imagery deconstructed. Would we ever have become so obsessed with character design were it not for TDR's Japanese period, for instance?
Now the studio is back with Anderson once again at the helm, and they've announced a new exhibition drawing on work from what he calls the TDR-chive. Car Booty Affair will see a range of work go on show, and go up for sale, at the Month of Sundays gallery in Sheffield between 6 October and 3 November.
"Dumping three whole skips worth of printed TDR material when things went bang in February 2009 was a therapeutic, cleansing process. What was left was archived and stored as TDR prepared to move on," explains Ian Anderson. "Since then there has been a steady stream of fans, collectors and cultural rubberkneckers beating a path to the TDR-chive's door investing wisely in the artefacts and relics."
Selling off, not selling out
When the Month of Sundays gallery suggested a collaboration with TDR, Anderson wanted to do something different. It's a small, intimate gallery, based in a converted terraced house in the same side street he lived in when he first came to Sheffield. Work in the space will be rotated as it's sold and visitors will experience a one-on-one relationship with each piece on display.
"I decided I wanted to play with the idea of a commercial gallery, to sell artefacts rather than art per se," continues Ian Anderson. "For 25 years I've operated a Noah's Ark policy towards TDR's produce but there comes a point where you wonder why, and what value does something have boxed up at the back of a shelf in a lock up in South Yorkshire relative to it living and breathing and being loved by someone who really wanted it for itself?"
So, what will you be able to see and potentially get your hands on? The collection includes large format prints from TDR shows in Barcelona, New York, Tokyo, Philadelphia, Paris and, erm... Croydon. There are also rare t-shirts, 12-inch vinyl sleeves, posters and flyers for Pop Will Eat Itself, The Orb, Warp Records, Wipeout, Pulp, Club Superman, Jive Turkey and Gatecrasher.
"I don't have a particular favourite, my mind is open to loving it all," says Anderson. "Each piece has it's own story and together they tell one particular story of The Designers Republic. My favourite thing about this show is that it's a big story in a small intimate setting. It's a series of evolving stories whose personality and narrative change as pieces are sold and replaced ongoing by different works."
Limited edition book
And if you were one of those designers who experienced that sinking feeling when TDR closed its doors in 2009, be heartened by the fact that the studio has a strong roster of work. Watch for its limited edition book A Bunch of Fives, wherein dozens of creatives as varied as Loose Collective, Erik Spiekermann, Hamish Muir, Jarvis Cocker, Neville Brody, Vaughan Oliver and Vince Frost have all responded to a simple TDR brief. Plus, Anderson is working on projects for the Manchester School of Art, Fundaao Calouste Gulbenkian, a Cabaret Voltaire boxed set, a visual history of NYSushi and Asbo-a-Go-Go's Girl's Annual.