Derek Birdsall-online research

One of the first steps for researching my designer Derek Birdsall was to start looking online to see what I could find on his work and his life. I found some great information on websites such as the design museum, creative review and more. Here is some of the most important and interesting facts/information that I found.

  • Born 1st August 1934 in Wakefield, Yorkshire.
  • First commercial work was hand-drawn and lettered posters for the local cricket club-earned sixpence a week for six posters.
  • Hated school but his beautiful handwriting was noticed by his grammar school art teacher who recommended art school.
  • He joined Wakefield College of Art at the age of 15-studied Lettering.
  • Dabbled in letterpress, bought a printing press of his own and began to manufacture cards for local businesses.
  • In 1952 he won a scholarship to the Central School of Art and Design in London.
  • After two years of National Service in the Royal Army Ordinance Corps Printing Unit in Cyprus, Birdsall’s first design job was for the printer Balding & Mansell in 1957.
  • In 1957 Birdsall was offered a job at the very forward-looking advertising agency Crawfords designing the typographic lines on print advertisements. He declined, preferring to remain freelance.
  • In 1959 Birdsall formed BDMW with George Daulby, James Mortimer and George Mayhew, simultaneously with the other epoch-defining design agency Fletcher, Forbes & Gill.
  • During the next eight years at BDMW Birdsall acquired a reputation as the “emergency art director”, multifariously commissioning and art-directing photography and illustration as well as designing typography and layouts for various magazines.
  • In 1967 he started his own studio, Omnific!
  • He continued to design jackets for Penguin books, including a complete re-style of the Education series in 1970.
  • He art-directed Town and Nova magazines for short periods as well as Willy Fleckhaus’s now legendary Twen.
  • Designed advertisements and literature for Lotus cars and Mobil Oil in New York; and produced the series of Pirelli calendars.
  • He was appointed to a lectureship at the London College of Printing and taught at Maidstone College of Art.
  • Birdsall began to get fascinated by meeting writers and still admits no greater thrill than getting a telephone call from an author who wants him to design his book or its jacket.
  • From the early 1970s, he became known above all as a book designer.
  • During this period he also became a temporary member of Monty Python as remuneration for designing a landmark book for them.
  • It was followed by two decades of grand and beautiful illustrated books for great world institutions including Yale Center for British Art, Tate, the V&A and the British Council – catalogues of art and architecture and artefacts.
  • He returned briefly to editorial design and art direction in the late 1980s with dramatic and elegant redesigns for the Independent and Sunday Telegraph magazines.
  • In 2000 Birdsall’s redesign of the Book of Common Worship which was published by the Church of England.
  • Has recently filed all his thoughts and notes since the 1950s on A6 index cards.
  • He has prevailed in a studio at the bottom of his garden, with few assistants and minimal technology.

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