Since graduating in 1990 from Saint Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, Jonathan Barnbrook has developed a multifaceted practice that includes activism, graphic design, typeface design, industrial design and motion graphics. Barnbrook founded his design studio, Barnbrook, in 1990. His typefaces were first released through Californian innovators Emigre. In 1997 he established his own font company VirusFonts. In 2010, his most famous typeface Mason was released by Emigre and later became one of the first digital acquisitions of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Additionally, his stone-carving is on permanent display of the 20th century gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
In 2007, his contribution to British graphic design was recognised with a major retrospective exhibition at the Design Museum in London entitled Friendly Fire. A monograph of his work Barnbrook Bible was simultaneously published by Booth-Clibborn Editions. In 2008 he was given an honorary doctorate by Staffordshire University for services to typography. During 2009, the exhibition Collateral Damage presented a retrospective of Jonathan Barnbrook’s more political design output. The exhibition travelled to several countries including France, Slovenia and Croatia. In 2015, he was granted the award of Honorary Fellow by Central Saint Martins in recognition of his contribution to graphic design and typography.
Barnbrook believes design shapes the way we perceive the world and can facilitate social change. In marking this responsibility, Barnbrook has art directed for the anti-corporate collective Adbusters. He participated in the First Things First 2000 Manifesto published in 1999, signed by graphic designers, students and photographers who proposed a reversal of priorities in the way graphic design was used commercially. He created a billboard in 2001 for Adbusters entitled Designers, stay away from corporations that want you to lie for them – quoting influential American graphic designer Tibor Kalman publicising the manifesto. Barnbrook has also produced many copyright-free designs for political or social justice purposes.