Virtual Memories Show 409:
Rian Hughes

“In graphic design, if you define the problem clearly, the solution is almost immediately apparent. And if you can’t find a solution, it’s likely because you haven’t defined the problem well.”

With his amazing new book XX (Overlook Press), Rian Hughes gets to add “novelist” to his titles of graphic designer, typographer, illustrator, comics writer & artist, and photographer. We get into how he wrote a science fiction narrative using graphic design as a tool & mode of storytelling (& why more writers should consider graphic design as a part of their work), how technology had to catch up to his vision of the novel, his stab at going a step beyond Arthur C. Clarke, and why he’s so interested in semiotics and how ideas get into our heads. We talk about his childhood entré into type and graphic design, the boredom of illustration and marketing, the ways design involves defining problems and solutions and how that does and doesn’t apply to fiction, and his affection for science fiction pulps. We also discuss whether he can turn off his design eye, the new frontiers in technology and the plasticity of the digital realm, the perils of cultural conflict, how we grow into certain artists & genres, and why everything for him comes down to colors, shapes, actions and language and what they mean. Give it a listen! And go read XX!

“What I’ve learned it, don’t expect too much prior knowledge on the part of your reader or viewer, and give them as many opportunities to get on board as you can, before you take them off to the Wild Blue Yonder at the end.”

“The plasticity of the digital realm means that the only texture it has is the one that we decide to apply to it. The only sound that it has, the only shape or form that it has are the ones we decide it should have.”

“You need to step outside the form to see what the form is. Then you can very quickly understand that a lot of things that people take gospel aren’t at all, and you can mess with them.”

“If I was ruler of the world, the first rule I’d institute is that every shop on every high street would employ a graphic designer for their signs. The world should look more beautiful!”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Rian Hughes is a graphic designer, illustrator, comic artist and typographer who has worked extensively for the British and American advertising, music and comic book industries. He has written and drawn comics for 2000 AD and Batman Black And White, and designed logos for the Avengers, the X-Men, Superman, record label Hedkandi, MTV, and James Bond. He has edited books on mid-century lifestyle illustration and custom typography, and written on semiotics, culture, and collecting vintage science fiction pulps & paperbacks.

Follow Rian on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Bio photo of Rian by Robin Farquhar-Thomson. No idea who shot the doorway one. It’s on my instagram.

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