Profile by Paul Gorman
Barney Bubbles (born Colin Fulcher 1942; died 1983) is hailed as one of the greatest-ever designers of record sleeves, posters, advertising, T-shirts and promotional ephemera, for performers and musicians from Elvis Costello and Ian Dury to Hawkwind and Depeche Mode; he also directed a series of videos including the era-defining promo for The Specials’ Number One hit Ghost Town.
Barney Bubbles/Colin Fulcher
Hammersmith, West London, 1966
He studied at Twickenham art school in south-west London, where his first poster was made for an early concert by the Rolling Stones. He became lifestyle mogul Sir Terence Conran’s senior graphic designer in the 60s, producing ‘straight’ product designs for Habitat and such clients as the cider company HP Bulmer (his logo for their Strongbow brand endured for decades). In 1967 he tuned in, turned on and dropped out, changed his name to Barney Bubbles, operated psychedelic light shows at underground venues in London and San Francisco for such groups as Pink Floyd and art-directed counterculture magazines OZ and Friends.
Designing eye-popping record sleeves and posters for heavy rock acts including Hawkwind and Edgar Broughton Band, he was the only designer to make the leap in the 70s to work with punk, new wave and post-punk acts such as Costello, Dury and Depeche Mode as well as, The Damned, Johnny Moped, Nick Lowe and Squeeze. He also produced furniture, redesigned the New Musical Express – creating the logo the music publication uses online to this day – and painted privately.
Sadly, the fragile Bubbles died at his own hand on the day US nuclear weapons arrived in the UK in 1983. His work has subsequently been featured in major exhibitions and is avidly collected around the world; examples reside in the permanent collections of such institutions as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and London’s V&A.
Established graphics communicators who cite Barney Bubbles as a key influence include Neville Brody, Malcolm Garrett and Peter Saville while contemporary designers around the world check for his body of work as a source of inspiration. These include the UK’s Aries Moross and Raissa Pardini, American designers Art Chantry and Clarita Hinojosa, M/M in Paris, Amsterdam-based Jetset International and Patrick Thomas in Berlin.