The FUEL Design group specialises in commercial commissions from the fields of art, fashion and music, as well as realising their own authorial projects, most notably through their publishing company FUEL Publishing. The group was founded in 1991 by Stephen Sorrell, Damon Murray, and Peter Miles (who left the group in 2004).
The founder members of FUEL studied graphic design at the Royal College of Art. They first worked together on their magazine also titled FUEL, the first four issues of which (GIRL, HYPE, USSR and CASH) were produced at the college. As well as assimilating found imagery the group commissioned both visual and written material, closely directing them to fit each magazine's theme. The resulting ‘ambiguous’ magazine contained a ‘raw visual treatment [with a] real freshness and force after a decade of sugary style in British graphic design.’ This aesthetic distinguished them from existing traditional design group models.
After leaving the RCA in 1992 they set up a studio in Fournier Street, Spitalfields, east London (which they still work from today). They continued to produce the magazine (issues DEAD and GREY) before adapting their approach to suit book format with Pure Fuel (1996) and Fuel 3000 (2000). The work their books contained was made specifically and exclusively around the theme of each book. The design allowed interpretation by the reader, requiring them to engage and negotiate. In subverting established graphic design practice to their own purpose, they questioned the role of the designer and expanded the standard convention of singular authorship.
In addition to commercial art, music, and fashion, the FUEL group has worked with the moving image, winning awards for both their commercial  and experimental digital work  in this field. They also created the title sequences for Nick Cave's The Proposition, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, and Samantha Morton's The Unloved. In 2006, they were invited to design a 60th anniversary Penguin Designer Classic (Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky) alongside Paul Smith, Sam Taylor-Wood, Ron Arad and Manolo Blahnik. They work closely with contemporary artists (notably Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman) to produce books and catalogues.
In 2005, FUEL Publishing was formed within the group. Concentrating on books concerned with visual culture, their attitude to publishing is to jointly work with authors on all important matters relating to the finished items. Their broad range of books has been critically acclaimed. In 2005 The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia won a D&AD award for book design. In 2010 the third volume was nominated for a Design of the Year Award, and in the same year the three-volume boxed set of the Encyclopaedia was acquired by the Design Museum in London as part of its permanent collection. These books were also subsequently used as inspiration and reference by director David Cronenberg in his 2007 film Eastern Promises.
Books published by FUEL publishing include:
- Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia, Danzig Baldaev and Sergei Vasiliev (London: Steidl/FUEL, 2004)
- Fleur. Plant Portraits by Fleur Olby (London: FUEL, 2005)
- The Music Library, Jonny Trunk (London: FUEL, 2005)
- Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume II, Danzig Baldaev and Sergei Vasiliev (London: FUEL, 2006)
- Home-Made. Contemporary Russian Folk Artifacts, Vladimir Arkhipov (London: FUEL, 2006)
- Ideas Have Legs, Ian McMillan and Andy Martin (London: FUEL, 2006)
- Match Day, Bob Stanley (Saint Etienne) and Paul Kelly (London: FUEL, 2006)
- BibliOdyssey, P.K. (London: FUEL, 2007)
- Notes from Russia, Alexei Plutser-Sarno (London: FUEL, 2007)
- Crime, Alix Lambert (London: FUEL, 2008)
- Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume III, Danzig Baldaev and Sergei Vasiliev (London: FUEL, 2008)
- The Marriage of Reason & Squalor, Jake Chapman (London: FUEL, 2008)
- A Process Revealed / Auf Dem Holzweg, Henrietta Thompson (London: FUEL, 2009)
- Spirit: Garden Inspiration, Dan Pearson (London: FUEL, 2009)
- Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume I, Danzig Baldaev and Sergei Vasiliev (London: FUEL, 2009)
- Memoirs of My Writer’s Block, Jake Chapman (London: FUEL, 2010)
- Dressing for Pleasure, Jonny Trunk (London: FUEL, 2010)
- Drawings from the Gulag, Danzig Baldaev (London: FUEL, 2010)
- James White, Paintings, Martin Herbert and Jeremy Millar (London: FUEL, 2011)
- Own Label, Jonny Trunk, Emily King (London: FUEL, 2011)
- INTROSPASTIC: From the Blackened Beyond, Jake Chapman (London: FUEL and White Cube, 2011)
- They Teach Us Nothing, Dinos Chapman (London: FUEL and White Cube, 2011)
- Home-Made Europe: Contemporary Folk Artifacts, Vladimir Arkhipov (London: FUEL, 2012)
- Bedtime Tales for Sleepless Nights, Jake & Dinos Chapman (London: FUEL, 2012)
- Every Aspect of Bitch Magic, Rebecca Warren (London: FUEL, 2012)
- Tracey Emin: My Photo Album, Tracey Emin, (London: FUEL, 2013)
- The End of Fun, Jake & Dinos Chapman (London: FUEL and White Cube, 2013)
- Soviets, Danzig Baldaev and Sergei Vasiliev (London: FUEL, 2014)
- Soviet Space Dogs, Olesya Turkina (London: FUEL, 2014)
- Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Files, Arkady Bronnikov (London: FUEL, 2014)
The Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive
In 2009 FUEL purchased the entire archive of 739 original sheets of tattoo drawings by Danzig Baldaev from his widow. In November 2010 they curated the first Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition ( details), in which 132 original drawings by Danzig Baldaev, and 16 photographic prints by Sergei Vasiliev, all taken from the The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia series, were shown for the first time. In 2012 an expanded version (with 32 photographs) of this exhibition was held at Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin ( details) In 2013 Charles Saatchi showed 13 large format prints from the Archive in his show Gaiety Is The Most Outstanding Feature Of The Soviet Union, alongside works by Boris Mikhailov and Gosha Ostretsov. In 2013 FUEL purchased the collection of Arkady Bronnikov, a former criminalistics expert at the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs. The collection consists of 918 photographs made by officers in the Ministry as a method of deciphering the language and meaning of Russian criminal tattoos. An exhibition of these images was held in 2014 at the Grimaldi Gavin Gallery, London ( details).
Books of FUEL's work
- Jam, Barbican Art Gallery, London, 1996
- Lost and Found, British Council, Stockholm, 2001
- Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design since the Sixties, Barbican Art Gallery, London, 2004
- Super Contemporary, Design Museum touring exhibition, London and Taipei, 2009
- Designs of the Year, Design Museum, London, 2010
- Graphic Detour, Graphic Design Museum, Breda, 2011
- Graphic Design Worlds, Triennale Design Museum, Milan, 2011
- Graphic Design: Now in Production, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, 2011 / Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, 2012 / Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2012
- Panorama, International Poster and Graphic Design Festival, Chaumont, 2013
- Official website
- FUEL profile in Eye Magazine. Rick Poynor, 1993
- Review of FUEL's Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia in Eye Magazine. Rick Poynor, 2004
- FUEL profile and interview at the Design Museum website. Emily King, 2005
- FUEL Penguin Classic in The Guardian. Alice Rawsthorn, 2006
- FUEL talk about their version of Crime and Punishment in the Guardian, 2006
- FUEL publishing on Design Observer. Adrian Shaughnessy, 2007
- FUEL and Alix Lambert talk about Crime on 3 Quarks Daily. Elatia Harris, 2008
- FUEL talk about their Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia series in the St. Petersburg Times. Roland Elliott Brown, 2009
- FUEL interview on the website of Russian cultural magazine Snob. Alexei Kovalev, 2010
- Review of FUELs Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition in The Guardian. Will Hodgkinson, 2010
- FUEL interview on Graphic Design on the Radio, Resonance FM. Adrian Shaughnessy, 2010
- Review of FUELs Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition on Design Observer. Rick Poynor, 2010
- Review of FUELs Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition in Time Out. Helen Sumpter, 2010
- Review of FUELs Drawings from the Gulag in The Guardian. Roland Elliott Brown, 2010
- Review of FUELs Drawings from the Gulag in The Moscow Times. Peter Spinella, 2011
- Review of FUELs Home-Made Europe in The Guardian. Justin McGuirk, 2012
- Interview with Damon Murray on VICE about Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Files, 2014
- Review of Soviet Space Dogs in the New York Times, 2014
- Poynor, Rick (October 6, 1993). The Graphic Edge. Booth-Clibborn Editions. p. 170-173. ISBN 1873968078.
- Poynor, Rick (Winter 1993). "Both Ends Burning". Eye Magazine. Retrieved 2015-04-19.
- Zappaterra, Yolanda (November 29, 2007). "Profile: FUEL". Design Week. Retrieved 2015-04-19.
- Brody, Neville (November 4, 1996). G1. Laurence King. p. 53-55. ISBN 185669092X.
- Fitzgerald, Kenneth (Winter 1997). "FUEL FULL PULL POLL POOL COOL COOK BOOK". Emigre Magazine. Retrieved 2015-04-20.
- Poynor, Rick. Is it Art. No, Actually, it's Graphic Design. The Independent on Sunday, Culture, 19 November 2000, p. 1, 4.
- Fiell, Charlotte and Peter (August 31, 2007). Contemporary graphic Design. Taschen. p. 194-199. ISBN 3822852694.
- Best On Air Ident, BDA ProMax Awards, 2003
- Prix Ars Electronica, Honorary Mention, 1997
- Shaughnessy, Adrian. Graphic Editorship. Design Observer, December 2007.
- Brit Insurance Designs of the Year, 2010.