Richard Hollis was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2019.
Richard Hollis is one of the United Kingdom’s most eminent graphic designers. He has worked as a designer of books, posters and catalogues, as an art director in publishing, as a lecturer, a publicity designer for Galeries Lafayette and – at the 1958 Venice Biennale – as a manufacturer of illicit Coca-Cola.
His books include the standard work of reference Graphic Design: a concise history, still in print twenty-five years after its first publication, as well as Swiss Graphic Design: the origins and growth of an International Style, About Graphic Design and, as co-author, Avant-Garde Graphics 1918-1934.
Born in 1934, Hollis studied at Chelsea and Wimbledon Schools of Art and at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. After setting up a silk-screen printing unit in his small Holborn flat, his early work as a designer included making wallpaper, posters for Zwemmer Gallery and linocuts for Michael Rothenstein. Sadlers Wells and the British Iron and Steel Federation were among his first clients. During the Sixties and Seventies he taught at the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts, at Chelsea School of Art and the Central School, and published an account of his 1962 visit to Cuba on a cargo boat, I, Eye, He headed the Department of Graphic Design at West of England College of Art, was art director of Pluto Press (where he designed the worker’s handbook Hazards of Work) and New Society and consultant designer to the Whitechapel Art Gallery. In 1960 Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath lived in the flat below him in Holborn. From 1965 to 2005 Hollis designed the text and covers for Modern Poetry in Translation, edited by Hughes and Daniel Weissbort; he also published Daniel Huws’ Memories of Ted Hughes 1952-1963, Lucas Myers’ An Essential Self: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and Translation by Daniel Weissbort.
Since the Sixties Hollis has designed more than a hundred catalogues and posters for public galleries – among them, the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art and the British Council – and for artists including Lucian Freud, Howard Hodgkin and Bridget Riley. He has worked with Pink Floyd, Amnesty and the African National Congress and with Steve McQueen on the Imperial War Museum’s tribute to British servicemen killed in the Second Gulf War, Queen and Country. His many book designs include John Berger’s G, Ways of Seeing, and A Seventh Man, Colin MacCabe’s Godard: Images Sounds Politics and, for the BFI, Humphrey Jennings. He also designed the façade lettering on Hackney Empire.
In his own most recent publication Hollis recovered a neglected precursor of the Bauhaus, a bridge between Art Nouveau and Modernism: Henry van de Velde: The artist as designer was published this year by Occasional Papers.