FUEL Design

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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)[1] 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.’[2] This aesthetic distinguished them from existing traditional design group models.[3]

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)[4] before adapting their approach to suit book format with Pure Fuel (1996)[2][5] and Fuel 3000 (2000).[6] 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,[7] the FUEL group has worked with the moving image, winning awards for both their commercial [8] and experimental digital work [9] 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.[10] 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,[11] 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[12] in his 2007 film Eastern Promises.

The Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive[edit]

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 ([1] details), in which 132 original drawings by Danzig Baldaev, and 16 photographic prints by Sergei Vasiliev, all taken from 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 ([2] 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 ([3] details).


  1. ^ Poynor, Rick (October 6, 1993). The Graphic Edge. Booth-Clibborn Editions. p. 170-173. ISBN 1873968078. 
  2. ^ a b Poynor, Rick (Winter 1993). "Both Ends Burning". Eye Magazine. Retrieved 2015-04-19. 
  3. ^ Zappaterra, Yolanda (November 29, 2007). "Profile: FUEL". Design Week. Retrieved 2015-04-19. 
  4. ^ Blackwell, Lewis; Brody, Neville (November 4, 1996). G1. Laurence King. p. 53-55. ISBN 185669092X. 
  5. ^ Fitzgerald, Kenneth (Winter 1997). "FUEL FULL PULL POLL POOL COOL COOK BOOK". Emigre Magazine. Retrieved 2015-04-20. 
  6. ^ Poynor, Rick. Is it Art. No, Actually, it's Graphic Design. The Independent on Sunday, Culture, 19 November 2000, p. 1, 4.
  7. ^ Fiell, Charlotte and Peter (August 31, 2007). Contemporary graphic Design. Taschen. p. 194-199. ISBN 3822852694. 
  8. ^ Best On Air Ident, BDA ProMax Awards, 2003
  9. ^ Prix Ars Electronica, Honorary Mention, 1997
  10. ^ Shaughnessy, Adrian. Graphic Editorship. Design Observer, December 2007.
  11. ^ Brit Insurance Designs of the Year, 2010.
  12. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/eastern_promises/news/1670176/rt_talks_eastern_promises_with_david_cronenberg_and_viggo_mortensen/