1 July 2023

Jonathan Barnbrook

Jonathan Barnbrook: The Visionary Designer

Jonathan Barnbrook

Jonathan Barnbrook is a renowned British graphic designer, typographer, and filmmaker who has made significant contributions to the field of design. With his unique style and thought-provoking work, Barnbrook has become a prominent figure in the design industry. This article explores the life, work, and impact of Jonathan Barnbrook, highlighting his innovative approach to design and his influence on contemporary design practices.

Early Life and Education

Born in 1966 in Luton, England, Jonathan Barnbrook developed an interest in art and design from a young age. He pursued his passion by studying graphic design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. During his time at the college, Barnbrook was exposed to various design disciplines, including typography, which would later become one of his areas of expertise.

The Rise of Barnbrook Studio

After completing his education, Barnbrook founded his own design studio, Barnbrook Design, in 1990. The studio quickly gained recognition for its unconventional and politically charged designs. Barnbrook’s work often challenged societal norms and addressed pressing issues such as consumerism, globalization, and social inequality.

One of Barnbrook’s notable early projects was the design of David Bowie’s album covers, including the iconic “Heathen” and “Reality” albums. His collaboration with Bowie allowed him to showcase his unique design style to a global audience, further establishing his reputation as a visionary designer.

Innovative Typography

Typography has been a central focus of Jonathan Barnbrook’s work throughout his career. He has pushed the boundaries of traditional typography, experimenting with new forms and techniques. Barnbrook’s typography often combines traditional craftsmanship with digital technology, resulting in visually striking and conceptually rich designs.

One of his most famous typefaces is “Mason,” which he created in 1992. Mason is a bold and expressive typeface that challenges the conventions of legibility. It has been widely used in various design projects, including album covers, posters, and magazines.

Barnbrook’s typography also reflects his socio-political beliefs. In his “Virus Fonts” series, he created typefaces that were intentionally difficult to read, symbolizing the manipulation of information by those in power. This series exemplifies Barnbrook’s ability to use typography as a medium for social commentary.

Political Activism and Design

Jonathan Barnbrook’s work is deeply rooted in his political activism. He believes that design has the power to influence and shape society, and he uses his designs as a means of expressing his views and sparking conversations.

One of Barnbrook’s notable projects is his collaboration with the Occupy movement. In 2011, he created a series of posters and graphics for the Occupy London protests, which aimed to raise awareness about social and economic inequality. Barnbrook’s designs played a crucial role in capturing the spirit of the movement and conveying its messages to a wider audience.

Barnbrook’s political activism extends beyond his design work. He has been an outspoken critic of corporate branding and the unethical practices of multinational corporations. In 2007, he famously redesigned the logo of the British Petroleum (BP) company to reflect the environmental damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This act of subversion highlighted the power of design in challenging established narratives and holding corporations accountable.

Influence on Contemporary Design

Jonathan Barnbrook’s innovative approach to design and his commitment to social and political activism have had a significant impact on contemporary design practices. His work has inspired a new generation of designers to use design as a tool for social change and to question the status quo.

Barnbrook’s typography, in particular, has influenced many designers who seek to break free from traditional typographic conventions. His experimental typefaces and unconventional layouts have opened up new possibilities for typographic expression.

Furthermore, Barnbrook’s emphasis on the ethical and social implications of design has prompted designers to consider the broader consequences of their work. His critique of corporate branding and his advocacy for responsible design practices have encouraged designers to be more conscious of the impact their designs have on society and the environment.


Jonathan Barnbrook’s contributions to the field of design are undeniable. His innovative typography, politically charged designs, and commitment to social activism have made him a visionary figure in the design industry. Barnbrook’s work serves as a reminder that design is not just about aesthetics but also about challenging the status quo and shaping a better future.

As designers continue to draw inspiration from his work, Jonathan Barnbrook’s legacy will undoubtedly live on, influencing the next generation of designers to use their skills and creativity to make a positive impact on the world.

Posted in Top 100 Graphic Designers
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