Cover Story, Culture
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Cover Story VIII – The Designers Republic

The Designers Republic (tDR for short) was a graphic design studio, founded in 1986 and based in Sheffield, England. It was known for its anti-establishment aesthetics, while simultaneously embracing brash consumerism and the uniform style of corporate brands, such as Orange and Coca-Cola. The studio closed in January 2009, though Anderson has stated that “[The Designers Republic] will go forward after this”. Despite this, Warp Records announced in 2010 that the studio had designed Oversteps and Move of TenAutechre‘s tenth album and EP respectively, as well as designing their 1991–2002 EP collection artwork in 2011 and the album artwork for their eleventh release, 2013’s Exai.

Initially, Ian Anderson founded The Designers Republic to design flyers for the band Person to Person, which he managed at the time. His first ideas were inspired by Russian constructivism. An early client was Leeds band Age of Chance, for whom they developed a series of record covers between 1986 and 1987. The sleeve of the 1987 12-inch “Don’t Get Mad… Get Even! (The New York Remixes)” was selected as one of Q’s “100 Best Record Covers of All Time” in 2001.

In 1994, Emigre magazine devoted a whole issue to the Designers Republic, a copy of which was bought by NY MoMA. This issue is still Emigre’s best-ever seller and is now sold out.

The Designers Republic was introduced to a larger audience by their record covers for the English electronica label Warp Records (also based in Sheffield). In addition to designing the covers for much of Warp’s roster of artists, such as Autechre and Aphex Twin, tDR has also created covers for other label artists such as Moloko, Fluke,Funkstörung, The Orb, Pulp (and Jarvis Cocker), Pop Will Eat Itself, Supergrass and Towa Tei.

The Designers Republic’s works are often playful and bright, and considered Maximum-minimalist, mixing images from Japanese anime and subvertised corporate logos, with a postmodern tendency towards controversial irony, featuring statements like “Work Buy Consume Die”“Robots Build Robots”“Customized Terror”“Buy nothing, pay now”, and “Made in the Designers Republic”. They also celebrated their northern roots with phrases like “Made in the Designers Republic, North of Nowhere” and “SoYo” (referring to Sheffield’s county of South Yorkshire) — affirming they were not from London’s design community in Soho.

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