Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Derek Birdsall is a graphic designer that became known as the ‘book designer’. He was born in 1934 in Yorkshire, England. As a young boy he hated school, but his penmanship was noted by teachers, and at 15 he attended Wakefield College for three years before winning a scholarship to the Central School of Art and Design in London in 1952. Through influential teachers like Anthony Froshaug, Herbet Spencer and Edward Wright, Derek learned the importance of Clarity, directness and textual legability of proper typography and the difference between that and simply beautiful lettering. Derek then spent two years in national service in Cyprus.
In 1957,taking the ‘modernist approach’, Birdsall landed his first design job for printer ‘Balding and Mansell’, doing a series of leaflets for an LP Album. He continued to freelance for another two years before forming the company BDMW, with George Daulby, James Mortimer and George Mayhew. During the eight years with this company, Derek became known as the ‘emergency art director’, doing multi-tasking on several layouts for different magazines at the same time. This task included commissioning and art directing photography and illustration, as well as designing typography and layouts.
In 1967 he started his own studio “Omnific”. He had been designing Penguin book covers for the last seven years; in 1970 Derek completely redesigned the Education series for Penguin. Birdsall did layouts for Town, Nova, and Twen magazines, as well as advertising layouts for Mobil Oils’ Magazine ‘Pegasus’ and produced a calendar series for Pirelli that did not contain tyres. Lotus Cars and Monty Python were also clients of his during the 1970s.
During this decade Derek was appointed a lectureship at the London College of Printing and also taught at the Maidstone College of Art. Derek’s book design using typography, transformed words into art and it became a mark of his work.
Many beautiful works have been created by Birdsall since, including several major art catalogues for Yale University Press, National Gallery in Washington DC, and design catalogues for clients like George Stubbs of the Tate Gallery. In 1983 Derek was made Royal Designer for Industry and in 2005 he received the Prince Philip Designers Prize. Derek still designs books today.