Toggler – Sam Francis Read

Toggler is a new website feature allowing commissioned artists to explore, demonstrate and celebrate the potential of creativity in website design.

As websites become increasingly standardised to ensure familiarity and ease of use for online visitors, Toggler allows artists to champion the role of curiosity and creativity in exploring other possibilities for presenting content online.

Visitors are able to view our website through different lenses by toggling between styles developed by commissioned artists.

The third of our commissioned artists is Sam Francis Read, an artist based in Sheffield, whose practice encompasses traditional and digital drawing, painting and printmaking inspired by graphic design, literature and art history.

Red Monday, installation shot, Sam Read collaborating with Craig Parr, 2019.
Image: Anthony Hopwood

Can you tell us a bit about your practice?

My practice covers traditional and digital drawing as well as hybrid printmaking, which is a fusion of different print disciplines including use of CNC tech like laser cutting. I own a CNC plotter which allows me to create large wall vinyls and stencils for painting and printmaking.

Broadly speaking, I’m interested in the history of visual cultures, particularly media that’s commonplace or grotesque (think clipart, video games, road signs, comics, children’s drawings, etc.) The relationship between text and image has always held an interest, so references to graphic design and illustration find their way into my drawing quite often.

What interested you in the Toggler commission?

The idea is simple but has so much scope. It’s a tonic to the standardising effect of platform media like Instagram which doesn’t permit you to customise or adapt how your audience experiences your work, which I’ve always found stifling. Normally we think of web layouts and fonts as only doing their job properly if they’re invisible. Being able to use a discreet process with lots of hard rules for experimentation felt very expressive.

I’ve been describing the Toggler project to friends as like having guest ales at a pub, or a guest DJ at a music venue. The architecture stays the same but the sensory element changes. 

Can you explain the ideas behind your approach to Toggler?

I set out to make something that was still fully legible and functional but as distant from Fermynwoods’ house style as possible. As a result it ended up looking like a bit of a MySpace or Geocities throwback, which I don’t at all regret!

I wanted to make a stylesheet for Toggler that had a propagandist appearance or might be a conspiracy theorist’s apocalyptic blog. I included some references to medieval manuscripts such as the pilcrows and the fleurons. This is part of a speculative style I’m tentatively dubbing “Anti-Feudalist”.

This is part of a larger continuing project I started earlier this year. I began to notice in critical writing how terms like “technofeudalism” were being used to categorise alogorthmic management and the so-called sharing economy. Similarly, I saw the “Dark Ages” being employed as a metaphor in discussions around inequality, climate catastrophe, the political lurch toward hostile essentialism and inexplicable conspiracy theorists like Flat Earthers.

Toggler screen grab – Sam Francis Read, 2019

To explore our website using Sam’s commissioned code select SAM FRANCIS READ from the drop down Toggler menu above. Please note Toggler will not affect your visiting experience of the home page. To return to the standard website design, please select DEFAULT from the menu.