Malcolm Garrett

Malcolm Garrett is an iconic British graphic designer whose work with bands like Buzzcocks, Magazine, Simple Minds, Duran Duran and Peter Gabriel has informed the work of a whole generation of graphic designers. That said, perhaps his more significant achievement has been to pioneer the application of digital technology in graphic design, his studio being one of the first to adopt Apple computers and to commit exclusively to digital technology in 1990. He has written and spoken extensively about the future of digital design and is regarded as a key influence on contemporary UK pop culture.

Malcolm Garrett is one the UK's leading graphic design authority and a not only a contributor to, but also the graphic designer of, CONTAINER and its identity. Here he explains why he chose his contribution and shares his thoughts on CONTAINER in general

Cold Steel, Hot Stuff

Ruler incremented to show hot (ºF) and cold (ºC)


184 x 32 mm

Stainless steel, nitrile bonded cork composite, laser cut and etched, screen-printed, die cut, glued

Created exclusively for CONTAINER #1:Hot&Cold in an edition of 200. 



I’ve known Malcolm for a very long time—it was he who coined the name ARTOMATIC from a series of paintings by the English pop artist, Peter Phillips—and so there was no chance that the first edition of CONTAINER wouldn’t feature Malcolm as a contributor. And if that wasn’t reason alone, Malcolm kindly offered to shape the identity and build the website.

Malcolm’s idea was a simple one based on a tendency we both share—that temperatures seem better measured for cold (in the winter) in Celsius and hot (in the summer) in Fahrenheit. From there, it seemed an equally natural step to then conflate this notion of measurement with the natural feel of cold and warm materials, steel and cork.

Graphics ruler the original inspiration

Malcolm’s starting point was the typical metal graphics ruler that featured a cork backing to keep the steel away from the surface of the paper when drawing key-lines with ink pens (yes, that was how we did it then). Thus, we knew we wanted an etched stainless steel plate and screen-printing seemed the best way of getting graphics to the cork side.

Two types of cork available, normal and nitrile composite. We chose the nitrile as it would allow us to print in white...even though it wasn't quite authentic.

 Hand cut blanks

Hand cut blanks

I got some initial samples produced based on Malcolm’s artwork, and they seemed oddly shaped, almost like they'd ignored the artwork and made up the shape themselves. Which turned out to be exactly what had happened.

These were fixed with further CAD cut samples, but again, there were strange anomalies between the artwork and the finished thing—bits of type were correct but in the wrong place. This strange oddly unfaithful aspect of laser etching was to be repeated in the Accept & Proceed metal plate with a different laser etching company. So, I got another sample made and all looked to be good, but then Malcolm noticed that a couple of the increments had been transposed. We never really got to the bottom of it—it would appear that there’s a difficulty in translating files from Adobe (Mac) illustrator to Coreldraw (PC) the software used to drive the etching machines. I would guess that this problem is common enough for the operators to overcome it with a little bit of human intervention.

 Spot the mistake

Spot the mistake

I learned long ago that projects that suffer unfathomable problems tend to continue to suffer from them throughout their manufacture. And so it was with this. Once all the CAD and artwork issues had been ironed out and I ordered all the production items and had them delivered to Bob Eight Pop who were printing and die cutting the cork and mounting it to the steel plates. But, when they arrived, Liz at BEP called to say the rulers were marked, so they all had to be sent back to Sheffield for another conversation that started with “I don’t know how this has happened”. Like all the manufacturers I know, David at Greensmith in Sheffield didn’t dwell on whose fault it was and managed to polish the marks out.