ARTS THREAD travelled back in time last weekend with a visit to the Kemistry Gallery’s latest exhibition, Ken Garland: Galy Tots. The one-room show charts designer Ken Garland’s contribution to the UK games and toy market, through his 20 year partnership with retail toymaker, Galt Toys.
Garland was originally employed as Galt Toys’ graphic designer at the start of the Sixties, responsible for the company’s branding and marketing material. A selection of his brochure and poster designs are displayed at the exhibition, in which bold graphics with simple witty twists show how timeless good design can be.
Galt Toys was originally a provider of stationary, school furniture and teaching materials, but turned its hand to the burgeoning toy and game market, with the motto, ‘good toys, no others’. After some time working on the branding side of things, Garland was invited to put together some proposals for new games and toys.
The results included the ultra simple Marble Run and the fantastically equipped Galt Post Office (above), as well as a series of innovative board games that are now considered icons of their time, but which are just as relevant in today’s marketplace.
Benefitting from Garland’s expert eye for design, the board games feature bold bright aesthetics, a graphic simplicity, and tend to focus on principles of repetition and pattern making that encourage imaginative as well as educational play. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to get involved with all the games and toys on show, and we particularly enjoyed forming new creatures with Anymals, and funny faces with Fizzog.
The pint-sized exhibition provides a great example of how graphic design can be applied to product design, and offers us a window on both design genres in the post-war era. At the same time, it acts as something of a lesson on the founding principles of classic graphics, which at the time were forward thinking and efficient in their simplicity, and which have well stood the test of time.
Ken Garland: Galy Tots runs at the Kemistry Gallery on Charlotte Road, Shoreditch, until 21st April. Admission is free.