Neville Brody

Neville Brody is a British graphic designer and typographer known most widely for his revolutionary work with magazines, album covers, and fonts. Through his work, Brody has earned a solid reputation in the design field. More specifically, his tendency to rebel against the norm led him to be both recognized and celebrated relatively early in his career.

Brody was born on April 23rd, 1957 in Southgate, London, United Kingdom. At a young age, Brody was interested in art and over time, his interests became oriented specifically toward design. Of his creative interests, Brody once “commented that he [did] not remember a time in his life when he was planning to do anything other than art or painting” (“Neville Brody: Biography & Graphic Art”). Brody focused in art in his early education. An attraction to art and design remained with Brody well into his time as an adult.  In 1975, Brody began studying Fine Art foundations at Hornsey College of Art in London; “however he began to feel that the Fine Art world was becoming elitist and that if he continued in this area his work would only find a limited audience” (“Neville Brody Graphic Designer”). Brody believed that the printed medium was more accessible and would allow him to communicate with the most people.

After leaving Hornsey College of Art, Brody then went on to study at the London College of Printing, now called the London College of Communication from 1977 to 1980. No stranger to the music scene, Brody occasionally worked on concert posters. He was largely influenced by the punk rock scene of the late 1970s. Punk rock rejected mainstream rock culture; instead, it embraced themes of politics and rebellion against authority. Taking on these attitudes, Brody worked actively to push the limits of what was generally accepted. If his work was ever praised as conforming to accepted standards, Brody would head back to the drawing board to try something entirely different. As a result, Brody sometimes received push-back from his instructors who described his designs as, “having ‘uncommercial’ quality to them” (“Neville Brody Biography, Designs and Facts”). In at least one instance, Brody’s radical experimentation almost got him expelled from his program. The project, a postage stamp design featured the Queen of England’s head turned over on its side. Despite condemnation of his work, Brody’s design work continued to be fueled by radical graphic exploration. Brody’s attitudes and philosophies about design were tied to “his strong interest in art movements such as Dada, Futurism, and Constructivism which influenced much of his work. These movements deconstructed old ideas about painting and art and design in general” (“Neville Brody Graphic Designer ”).

After completing his program at the London College of Printing, Brody began work as an art director for an independent British music label called Fetish Records. At Fetish Records Brody designed record sleeves and album covers for various artists. During this time, computer-generated designs had not yet become ubiquitous. Brody’s work was truly characteristic of the time as it was composed almost exclusively of hand-crafted elements. Often this included hand-paintings, prints or photographed three-dimensional work. At Fetish Records, Brody virtually had full reign over his work and creative process.

In The Graphic Language of Neville Brody, he describes his experience at the record label; “the musicians on Fetish were also totally open to the idea of me working under my own steam; there has been such a shift in this respect—most groups now take a much bigger hand in design which does not necessarily make for a better cover” (“Neville Brody and Fetish Records”). In hindsight, one can clearly see how Brody’s work with Fetish Records was very much a clear continuation of the attitudes and philosophies he formed at the London College of Printing.  

From 1981 to 1986, Brody worked as art director for Face Magazine. This position is what earned him much of his initial notoriety. At Face Magazine, Brody was able to develop a typographic style that was unique and fresh; his work caught the attention of others in the industry and pushed his predecessors and contemporaries to also explore beyond the norm. Some have described Brody’s work as defining for 1980s era design; his work with type “highlighted the most interesting parts of an article…to attract the attention of the reader” (“Neville Brody Graphic Designer ”). Brody emphasized contrast in sizes, shapes, and colors to make type come alive.  

Following his exit from Face Magazine, Brody continued working in the field, completing various projects that would lead Thames & Hudson to publish two volumes of his work in 1988. Some of his most notable work during this time included directing the art for magazines and newspapers from all over the world, such as Arena, Lei, City Limits and Per Lui. Also notable, were Brody’s redesigns of British publications, The Guardian and The Observer. In 1994, Brody set up his own design studio where he continued an impressive portfolio of work for major companies and organizations. According to an article in Blueprint Magazine, “over the decades, [Brody’s] been celebrated with a retrospective exhibition at the V&A, published the world’s best selling book on graphic design, developed whole new families of fonts, steered global advertising and identity campaigns for Dom Perignon, Issey Miyake and Nike, and given The Times and The Guardian the friendly, modern fonts and layouts they still wear proudly today (“Interview: Neville Brody on the Changing Face of Graphic Design”).

In other words, Brody has been busy since he got his start in the design field, and while his positions and titles have shifted, he remains very much involved in the craft. Currently, Brody holds a position as Dean of the of the School of Communication at the Royal College of Art in London. Some twenty years after its establishment in 1994, Brody rebranded his  Research Design Studios as Brody Associates. In addition to the main London office, Brody’s studio now has offices located in Seoul, Berlin, and Tokyo. When asked, Brody said the rebrand came because, “people didn’t really understand Research Studios in a way…no matter what, people still expected me to sit in all of the meetings and be doing all the projects personally, so in the end, we thought we might as well put my name back into the mix again. Especially on a [globally] competitive level, it avoids a step of explaining what Research Studios is” (“Neville Brody Rebrands Research Studio as Brody Associates”). Brody’s spirit of challenging the norm can be seen in his suggestions for what a design studio ought to be at this time. In the past, Brody describes how clients “would come to [them] for a brand design, then [they] would also deliver digital templates, print templates, environmental and physical installation templates, and then all of the brand materials on top of that so we would supply a complete DNA at that point. But clients tend now to shop around for the different parts of their own output. So they might go somewhere separately for all of their web bold, for all of their branding and for their print provision. So it’s a different shift and we found clients weren’t quite clear on what we were offering because we were offering everything” (“Neville Brody Rebrands Research Studio as Brody Associates”).Brody argues that design studios need to be both flexible and multidisciplinary; in his opinion, gone are the days of a boutique agency doing it all.




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