The latest cover of the RA Magazine, published by London’s Royal Academy of Arts, features a design by artist Humphrey Ocean, commissioned to highlight the issue’s report on art education.
Guest edited by artist Rebecca Salter, who also oversees the institution’s postgraduate art school, the issue celebrates the school’s 250th anniversary with a broader look at art in education. It argues strongly against the recent slump in teaching art in UK schools, as well as examining the pressures facing art at university level. Besides the general benefits of art training, the creative industries art engenders are a vital part of the UK’s economic activity. It’s an important message.
The magazine’s art directors Steve Fenn and Tom Pollard (who together run design studio S-T) encouraged Humphrey Ocean to go beyond just supplying an image for the cover. He handwrote the coverlines, and Fenn proposed he drew the magazine’s RA logo too, but Ocean insisted the logo should remain in its usual form.
Still, the finished design is unlike any other recent RA front cover, which generally features a piece from a current Royal Academy exhibition. Ocean created the lightbulb design by squeezing ink thickly onto paper (above), and made 47 versions before settling on the final one. The handwritten text furthers the expressive touch of the design, which is further emphasised by the contrast with the solid, static RA logo.
It’s great to see a magazine from such a traditional institution not only campaigning in this manner, but rising to the challenge of supporting that campaign with a cover that demands attention for it.
Guest editor: Rebecca Salter RA
Editor: Sam Phillips
Art direction: S—T
Photography of Humphrey Ocean by Benjamin McMahon