60: Innovators Shaping our Creative Future

Lucas Dietrich

Interview with Lucas Dietrich, Commissioning Editor of
60: Innovators Shaping our Creative Future

What did Thames & Hudson set out to achieve with 60.?

Thames & Hudson is an independent, family-owned company celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. In keeping with our ongoing aim to publish exciting books on the rich world of visual culture, we wanted to mark the occasion with a book that would signal our deep commitment to progressive and innovative thinking.

What is your definition of an innovator?

Before we embarked on the project we suspected that no single definition would be applicable across all the areas in which we publish. Hence the division of the book into twelve areas of creative enterprise, edited by twelve critics, writers and curators who are innovators in their own right, to give their assessments. Although there are intriguing resonances among many of the sections, no catch-all definition emerges. The closest I myself have been able to come up with is someone who reframes expectations from within a given discipline or practice to create a body of work that redefines that discipline or practice for another generation.

What were some of the shared preoccupations of the practitioners featured in this book?

Openmindedness, highly original repurposing of ideas new and old, understanding the past but focussed on the future.

Did any themes emerge during the production of 60. which you didn't
foresee when you first embarked on the project?

We expected to see preoccupations with the environment, technology, politics and social issues, but many of us have been surprised by just how much ingenuity and fresh thinking one 408-page book can contain. It's genuine confirmation of humanity's will to create.

Tell us a little bit about about graphic designers why not associates, and why they were chosen to design 60.

In 1994, Why Not Associates designed one of the most influential and innovative graphic-design books ever published, which heralded a generation of publications of books on graphic design and typography in the early days of the internet and web design. Their past achievements and their recent work in the arts sector struck the right balance between their innovative approach to typography and bold statement.

The works featured in this book are overwhelming beautiful. Is beauty
always a natural extension of innovation, do you think, or was there a curatorial bias at work?

A great question, which uneluctably leads to a subjective discussion. All I myself can say is that I truly hope beauty is an extension or byproduct of innovation.

How do you think this list of
60 innovators would be different if it was published ten years ago, and different again if it was published in ten years

Within a 20-year time-frame, I would suggest the names might change but the fundamental preoccupations that innovators grapple with will not: how can we improve our individual and collective lives, how can we learn new things and open new minds, how can we preserve our cultures and planet, how can we communicate more effectively. One might perceive shifts in themes or attitudes over the years, but humanity, after all, evolves: it is not an accumulation of sea-changes. Which is why we need innovators to stand out, to hold a mirror to ourselves and to suggest novel ways of moving forward to address the future.