The 247 files in this series document a wide range of material produced by the KDW graphic design department over the period of 1968 to 1988. The documentation is in the form of slides, photographs, negatives and a small amount of printed material. The items depicted in this collection include: packaging, logos, ephemera such as posters and flyers, brochures, book and magazine designs, interior and exterior signage, livery, and corporate guidelines for visual identities. The wide variety of material reflects the diverse range of clients who employed the services of the graphic design department.
The KDW graphic design department was established in 1968 headed up by a young Irish designer named Damien Harrington who received his design training in the Netherlands. The creation of this department was originally motivated by a need to provide suitable and attractive packaging for products designed by the KDW, and to promote the KDW brand both nationally and internationally. The distinctive double KK logo was designed in 1965 by one of the KDW Directors and Irish artist, Louis le Brocquy
Once established the graphic design department broadened its focus from the original remit of packaging design, and extended their graphic design services to Irish businesses, state departments and cultural organisations. A core concern for the KDW, and in particular for the graphic design department, was to raise design awareness in Ireland among manufacturers and consumers alike. They encouraged businesses and institutions to adopt a strong design ethos and effective visual communication systems. They were particularly successful in rebranding many well-known Irish state and semi-state organisations, and many files in the series showcase such visual identities. One of the first state departments to undergo KDW branding in 1969 was the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, with Damien Harrington responsible for designing the simplified sans-serif P+T logo. The identity and branding for this department was subsequently changed in 1984 to Telecom Eireann, executed this time by Tony O'Hanlon, one of the principle senior designers who joined the KDW in 1977, and also by Peter Dabinett, another key designer in the department.
By 1974 approximately one-third of the work produced by the graphic design department was for state organisations, including: the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Industry and Commerce, and the Parks and Monuments section of the Office of Public Works. Scholars suggest that their dominant share in the design of state visual identities positioned the KDW as 'an official voice for the expression of a contemporary Irish national identity'. Although KDW promoted modernist and contemporary ideals some of the state visual identities respected traditional Irish motifs such as the neolithic swirls and spiral motifs seen at Newgrange heritage site, but rendered through a contemporary vernacular. Examples of such identities include the Parks and Monuments logo for the Office of Public Works and the National Film Studios of Ireland. Another logo designed by Damien Harrington for the Coras Trachtala Spectrum of Services (1978) uses a triskele, an ancient celtic motif, to form the general shape of the mark. Other state and state-sponsored organisations who commissioned the KDW to design their visual identities include; the Office of Consumer Affairs, Cospoir (Ireland's National Sports Council), the Department of Forestry and Wildlife, and a series of trademarks for the Dairy Produce and Food Quality Assurance which incorporated the shamrock, another well-known Irish motif.
Designs were also produced for international organisations. A logo designed by KDW was used on a stamp design issued for the European Conservation Year 1970. The graphic design department won a major international competition in 1977 for the design of the symbol and corporate identity for the European Patents Organisation which had its headquarters in Munich, Germany. Other projects related to international affairs include the design of a Community Report bulletin published by the Irish Office of the European Communities in 1975, a bulletin for the Department of Foreign Affairs entitled Ireland Today circa 1975 and a magazine design for an EEC publication entitled Export in 1971.
Corporate clients who employed the graphic design services of the KDW include a diverse range of services providers and manufacturers, including: PMPA (Private Motorists Protection Association), Irish Life Assurance, Irish Cargo, the Ski Club of Ireland, and textile producers Gaeltarra Yarns and Foxford Mills. As part of the graphic design departments original remit to produce packaging, designs were produced for the alcoholic beverages Smithwicks and Stag, and for a non-alcoholic drink called 'ABC'. The graphic design section also produced KDW promotional packaging, wrapping paper and gift boxes which were used by the Kilkenny Shops. Some packaging, designed to protect candles, featured elaborate folding and die cut methods which were as attractive and alluring as the product itself.
KDW maintained strong connections to its locality. A local department store named Goods of Kilkenny employed the graphic design department to rebrand its logo and packaging for their 50th Anniversary in 1978. Promotional brochures were designed for Kilkenny Castle, and a book entitled Kilkenny: Its Architecture and History was designed circa 1970. Logos were also designed for Kilkenny County Council and Kilkenny Arts Week.
KDW was also involved with the promotion of national and international cultural events. Posters and catalogues were designed by the graphics department for art exhibitions such as: Six Artists from Ireland: An Aspect of Irish Painting (1983-84), an exhibition by the painter Tony O'Malley (1984), and for the sculptors Oisin Kelly (1978) and Seamus Murphy (c.1975). A series of promotional materials for Listowel Writers Week and Listowel Graphics Biennale were produced over a period from 1976 to 1980. A state-organised event entitled the Sense of Ireland festival (1980) showcased Irish culture and arts in London, for which a series of posters and promotional materials were designed by Richard Eckersley.
The graphics department also produced promotional material for KDW organised exhibitions, such as the 'Irish Patchwork' exhibition in association with Allied Irish Banks in 1979, and the 'Wool and Weaving' exhibition held in the Kilkenny Design Shop on Nassau Street. Evidence that the KDW's graphic design department was recognised on an international level is indicated by an invitation to two KDW designers to submit designs for an international sailing and arts festival called 'Kieler Woche' in 1981.
A core concern for KDW was the promotion of design education in Ireland. This was approached by the Workshops through initiatives such as the Designer Development Programme (1978-1988), one element of which was providing work experience to young Irish graduates abroad. The graphic design department was central to the promotion of such initiatives through the design of posters and flyers. One successful graphic design candidate Brian Cronin used his award to work in New York at the Milton Glazer poster studio. In 1977, the KDW launched a successful design competition to 800 primary and secondary schools in the South East of Ireland. The students were invited to Make a Clown as part of a group, and were encouraged to be imaginative and creative. Over 400 entries were received and many of the finished clowns were exhibited in the Kilkenny Shop. One particular design initiative which successfully stimulated the public's interest in good design, was the Irish Book Design Award scheme (1977) which celebrated 'creativity, excellence and good workmanship in book publishing'. This initiative was a collaboration between KDW and the Irish Book Publishers' Association. Books which won or were highly commended went on to represent Ireland in the International Book Art display in Frankfurt, Germany. Through co-sponsored projects the KDW encouraged higher standards in typography via competitions such as the 'Design an Irish Typeface' in association with the company Letraset.
Over the period from1968, the graphics department progressed from a small design studio into a larger design consultancy. In 1984 the KDW established the Kilkenny Design Consultancy which specifically took on large design commissions and worked with other departments across a multi-disciplinary platform. This reflected a change in attitude to design among Irish businesses and public bodies, most notably in the late 1970s and 1980s. There was an increase in the number of commissions requesting full corporate identity schemes, brand guidelines and control manuals. Examples of companies featuring extensive brand guidelines include: Eirebus, Irish Steel, Lake Electronics Ltd, Waterford Foundry. The legacy of the graphic design department continues today. The neolithic inspired logo for the Office of Public Work's parks and monument sites, continues to adorn heritage signage across Ireland. The graphic design department were also responsible for implementing clear and easy-to-use high usage forms for An Post, which remained in place for many decades and inspired better design standards in public bodies' visual communications.