Archives: Garth Walker | Design Spanning Three Decades

When we see a designer’s current work we don’t always take into account the years of relentless dedication, failed projects and ideas, breakthrough moments, turning points, transitions and yes – successes – that led to where they are now. As a fun, interesting and hopefully insightful experiment we’re asking prominent designers to reflect back over their work to share a timeline of their career. With the idea to map their work’s development over the years, this mini-series of ‘Archives’ forms part of Graphic Design Month on 10and5.  

Garth Walker is someone who has been truly instrumental in encouraging and promoting a visual design language rooted in our own South African experience. Over the span of his 39 year career, Garth has founded two of SA’s most highly regarded design studios: Orange Juice Design and later, Mister Walker. In 1995 he published the first issue of his experimental design magazine ijusi, which will celebrate its 30th issue this year. A fascinating look at his design evolution, Garth’s archives take us all the way back from an early Mac project in done 1989 to the present.  

2Type or Not2Type | 1989 – 1990  

2Type or not 2Type - Garth Walker  

This was a very early Mac project to explore vector typography. It’s all hand drawn on a Macintosh II in Freehand 2 (or it may have been FH3). This was around the very beginning of Macs in South Africa. At the time Apple wouldn’t supply SA, so all Apple hardware and software came in via the ‘grey market’ from Holland. This is how Freehand (popular in Europe then and unknown in the USA) came to be the vector programme of choice for all us designers at the time, and I still use it every single day. Only us old farts know how crappy Illustrator and InDesign are by comparison (ask around). I recall the agents for Aldus Freehand had paid for the printing of this A5 landscape brochure (16 pages). I also recall that Photoshop only became available to us a short while later – all photo repro was done by the repro house. The then MD of Hirt & Carter, Colin Carey, was the first in Durban to demonstrate “what Photoshop could do” by etching and cloning the eye of some arbitrary portrait and moving it to the centre of the forehead. I remember being utterly amazed…  

AM Moola Group Annual Report | 1990  

moolla_1990 - Garth Walker  

AM Moolla is a Durban based clothing manufacturer. Their company vision was to be world class in every aspect of their business. As a private company they were not required to publish financial results. However, they wished to present the company in the best possible light, so each year they commissioned a report. This was my first ever experiment with an ‘African design style’ using my collection of vintage 19th century tribal photographs in association with contemporary ‘street fashion’. It was also the first large project using Photoshop, which was available “if you knew where to look…”    

ijusi #1  | 1994 (design) – 1995 (print)  


The cover of the first issue of my experimental graphics magazine exploring the theme “what makes me South African – and what does that look like?”. In 1994 I started a new studio (on my own) called Orange Juice. I had no work for the first six months so I occupied my time by designing a magazine (as one does). As there was no use for it, I simply completed all 16 pages and filed it away. A year later in 1995 I got lucky; a local PR company had a printer as a new client. Said printer, Fishwicks, agreed to print the magazine gratis in the hope of attracting new business. Let’s say that didn’t happen. I had 300 copies sitting in my studio with no one to give them to, so I ended up posting them to any ‘design magazine’ anywhere in the world I could find an address for. Post 1994 Democratic South Africa was hot news. The rest is history. This year I’ll publish the 30th issue.  

Revolution: Hirt & Carter | 1995  

H&C_revolution - Garth Walker  

Hirt & Carter HQ (here in Durban) had installed a new printing machine that could print 7 colours in one pass (known as HiFi Litho Printing) and stochastic screening (random dots) for scanned images. A “revolution in print” one could say. This A3 brochure tells the story of print from Gutenberg and moveable type, right through to HiFi printing. The brochure was printed using the 7 colour process and spot varnished. It was a true labour of love, and took me ages: I wrote to copy, shot everything on 4×5 film, and spent weeks on the artwork. It also took months to print as they had to perfect the technology.  

Orange Juice Design Profile | 1996  

Orange Juice Design Profile - Garth Walker  

By 1996 my new studio had been acquired by Ogilvy South Africa as their ‘design brand’. We opened OJ offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg – making three studios in all. This was a brochure I designed to showcase our design skills. Each designer was given two pages (a spread) to create anything they wanted – the idea being to showcase the designer, not client work. At the time it was a radical idea (and this remains the case). In my view clients are not remotely interested in what you have designed for others – only what you can design for them. Some years later, I received an email from the paper manufacturer in the USA. They asked if they could reprint it as an example of their paper in use. We sent them the artwork and they reprinted it complete in the thousands to distribute to design studios all over the States. Bizarre!  

Winky Poster (Suck) | 2001  

winky_poster_suck - Garth Walker  

South Korea was to stage their first ever Typography Biennale in Seoul. I was invited by the organisers to design an “African typeface” (their words) as part of the initial exhibition and the beginnings of their typographic archive (poster collection). I replied that in reality no such (African) font exists, but that I would give it some thought. I had an idea to design an experimental font based on the Roman alphabet. At the time I was working on the ijusi Porn issue (#15) so here was an opportunity to combine the two: sort of type meets S&M. I designed a series of lettering only posters to showcase the complete font. SUCK is one of the four posters.  

Constitutional Court of South Africa | 2003 – 2004

Constitutional Court - Garth Walker  

In early 2003 I was asked by the ConCourt competition winning architects to design a typeface for the Court’s navigation and wayfinding system. The budget was tiny, but I could smell glory. Off I went to Johannesburg to see the site (not having a clue as to where I would start). On documenting all the lettering I could find on Constitution Hill, I stumbled across prison cell wall graffiti as left by the Apartheid era prisoners themselves. The found lettering provided a platform to somehow accurately (within reason) reproduce individual letters (from the total site) and combine prisoner graffiti with prison authority signage to create a unique typeface that visually represented the history of the Court itself. In reality a hybrid. The font includes the full alphabet, numerals, punctuation and wayfinding icons. The architects managed the fabrication and installation of the wayfinding system using the font which has now become the default ‘identity’ for the Court and all their communication.  

Home Affairs (A Wedding Album) | 2007  

Home Affairs - Garth Walker  

I married late (over 50). By 2007 I had run out of excuses not to marry the mother of my three daughters – so agreed to ‘do the deed’, on condition the occasion was also a ‘graphic design project’. This booklet is the result. On the day Lois and myself were married at Durban’s Department of Home Affairs, I photographed and interviewed every couple who were married on the same day as ourselves. Including the Marriage Officer and the “guy who blessed the rings”. It’s a wonderful (and authentic) snapshopt of the Rainbow Nation we mostly don’t get to experience.  

Celebrate Paris | 2014  


I’m often asked to “design something or other” – usually for an exhibition or book – at the invitation of either a designer or design organisation. The world of design is really a village. This was a poster for a massive French traveling exhibition titled ‘Celebrate Paris’. Designers from 40 countries were invited to design a poster based on the idea “what do you think of when you hear the word Paris?”.

Read an interview with Garth Walker, and follow Graphic Design Month on 10and5!

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