YBAs? Meet the YBD(esigner).

At what point do we call a graphic designer an artist? It’s a hard question to answer, considering how few graphic designers we even remember by name.

Tracey Emin. Sarah Lucas. Damien Hirst. These names are instantly recognizable and inherently intertwined. They are part of a particular British art royalty, so much so that they even have a special name: The YBAs. But one of their collaborators you won’t find mentioned quite so often-until now.

Tony Arefin, the self-taught graphic designer behind many YBA publications (including catalogs for the Hirst-curated Freeze and Modern Medicine) has faded from memory since the 1980s. Now thanks to a new exhibit at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, Arefin will receive some deserved recognition. Arefin Arefin: The Graphic Design of Tony Arefin (which opens September 12 and runs through November 3, 2012), will cover the bulk of his career from projects with the YBAs to late 1990s advertising work for notable campaigns including Nike and IBM.

Though Arefin received little notice from media or critics in his short lifetime (he died in 2000 at the age of 38), his contributions to the art world were pervasive. In addition to his work with Hirst and others, Arefin also served as Creative Director at I.D. Magazine, and as Art Director for Bomb, Blindspot, and Art + Auction. Already respected in the art and publication worlds, his “magic box” campaign for IBM gained him international notice in the advertising community. Design critic Rick Poynor once described him as “single-handedly processing the print needs of the entire British art scene.” With that weight on his shoulders, he deserves a solo exhibition.

For more information, visit Ikon’s site.

Kit Warchol