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The Changing Faces of Bowie Print

The many ch-ch-changes of the legendary musician's persona embodied in a collaborative print designed exclusively for the V&A exhibition

by Karen Day in Design on 26 February 2013

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Dedicated Bowie fans will have to wait another month to immerse themselves in one of the most extensive retrospectives on his career to date, but lovers of both the Thin White Duke and high quality design can now pre-order a limited-edition print created specifically for the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition, "David Bowie is." Conceived by Mark Blamire —the mastermind behind the iconic Trainspotting poster and founder of Blanka—"The Changing Faces of Bowie" print features 101 typographic takes on his name alone, each developed by some of contemporary culture's top design talent.

London-based Blamire tells us of his concept, "I started looking at Bowie's back catalogue of record sleeves he had put out over the years, and typographically there were some really interesting and unusual approaches. I remembered a conversation between Russell Brand and Noel Gallagher on a Radio 2 show last year about the widespread love and respect that was held for Bowie as an artist by the masses, there are lots of individual bits of his output over the years that everyone can tap into at some stage of his career—it's quite hard to find individuals who don't respect him as an artist at some stage of his constantly evolving existence as an artist and musician, and I thought it would be interesting to try to capture an essence of this somehow."

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"I think most graphic designers would give their right arm to have worked for Bowie as a client at some stage, so I came up with the mad idea to try to get 100 people involved."

"It was from looking at his record sleeves that I came up with the title for the piece 'The Changing Faces of Bowie,' obviously playing on the typefaces as a metaphor for the differently made-up Bowie faces that appeared on his sleeves (pretty much all of his record sleeves are a portrait of his head in one of his many differing flamboyant guises)," he continues. "It would have been easy to have chosen 100 different typefaces and just set the word Bowie 100 times, but this also felt wrong—too boring and dull an approach, not a big enough challenge giving the magnitude of the subject—and it was then that the idea of the widespread love that is held for him as an individual came into play. I think most graphic designers would give their right arm to have worked for Bowie as a client at some stage, so I came up with the mad idea to try to get 100 people involved. It seemed like a mammoth undertaking, so I tried to make it as simple and easy as possible by asking for the minimum amount of input from them and by keeping the brief simple.

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To best reflect Bowie's chameleon-like persona, Blamire had the poster printed on rainbow holographic 240gsm Mirri paper, which also adds even more life to the roster of "Bowie" designs. Blamire tapped everyone from Anthony Burrill to Tony Chambers and Rosa of Wallpaper magazine to Pentagram's Angus Hyland.

Some of our favorites include Gareth Wild, who gave the design a post-punk feel in order to capture the "rougher garage sound" Bowie demanded on "Boys Keep Swinging," Creative Review's Gavin Lucas, who drew inspiration from the Aladdin Sane album which he informed us was originally art directed by a close friend's mother (Celia Philo), and the duo behind Crispin Finn, who tell us being massive Bowie fans they wanted to pay homage by creating something overarching and original.

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"Given his huge influence on fashion, style and culture in general we've set his name as the Vogue logo, and we liked the idea that 'David' as a small addition sits within the eye of the 'O' referencing his special eye genetic too," Crispin Finn explain.

"I was constantly surprised by the response and positivity from people who were keen to find time to make a mark and be involved in the project," Blamire summarizes. The upshot is a beautifully designed poster that truly encompasses the love and respect much of the world holds for Bowie. "The Changing Faces of Bowie" print is available for pre-order from the V&A Museum for £45. Keep an eye out for the incredible forthcoming exhibition, which will run from 23 March through 11 August 2013.

Images courtesy of Mark Blamire and participating designers

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