Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

Angus Hyland at the Typographic Circle

January 21, 2012, 5:56 PM

Thursday evening saw The Typographic Circle welcoming Angus Hyland from Pentagram. His talk was split in two, first part entitled ‘Symbol’, a slightly shorter version of his talk introducing his same-titled book from last year, presented at Pentagram and Design Museum. Again, a pleasure to hear details about some of the world’s best symbols-as-logos. You can watch the talk from last year on Vimeo, so I won’t say more about it (see end of post for links).

'Symbol', edited by Angus Hyland and Steve Bateman

In the second part, titled ‘Mark & typeface’, Mr Hyland talked about the ongoing partnership between Cass Art, the London art materials retailer, and Pentagram. Over more than ten years, Pentagram have developed a beautiful brand identity, based mainly on typography (with very nice recent additions of colour). Just like most successful brands, Cass Art based its strategy on a very good manifesto/strategy: “let’s fill this town with artists”, being the first aiming to sell affordable art materials to everybody, not just highbrow artists.

The Cass Art store in Soho

Other highlights were the Cass Art Kids side-project, the packaging for own-label products, based on Mr Hyland’s habit of ‘colouring’ bits and pieces in his free time, and the retail design done together with Pentagram’s architecture team. Oh, and after ten years, they finally got around to making the business cards too :)

Cass Art Kids books, illustrated by Marion Deuchars

Each illustration suggest the purpose of the item

Colour names on the front …

… famous art pieces referenced on the back (that use the colours on the front).

The event was sold out, some even being willing to stand just to get to see Mr Hyland’s talk. Questions at the end ranged from the typical-student-question, ‘what’s your favourite symbol’ (Woolmark, if you’re dying to know) to more interesting ones. My question was that since sustained advertising (Nike etc) or just simple repetition (Google) seem to hit the spot with consumers, how valuable is a well-designed mark anyway. Mr Hyland made a very good analogy, saying that a good mark ‘is like a good suit, it won’t guarantee your success, but it will make you look good and feel better, and in time, people will associate you with that image‘ — quite similar to what Thomas J. Watson meant with ‘good design is good business’.

[a good mark] is like a good suit, it won’t guarantee your success, but it will make you look good and feel better, and in time, people will associate you with that image

It was also very interesting to see Mr Hyland using terms like brand equity, brand proposition and others, showing that, these days, even Pentagram has to talk more branding than design.

The Typo Circle members were wonderful hosts and I must say I can’t wait for the next event. And especially to receive the Circular magazine, designed by Mr Domenic Lippa (Pentagram), which you get for free as a member.

One of the four-series posters specially designed for the event, given away at the end (kindly signed by Mr Hyland)

So, if you’re in London (or in reachable distance), do yourself a favour and sign up as a Typographic Circle member, it’s only £30 per year, for which you’ll get discounts for the events, the beautiful annual Circle magazine and the chance to say hi personally to some of the best designers in the world, every month.

— read even more details about the Cass Art project on Eye Mag’s blog;
— see the Cass Art projects on the Pentagram website;
— watch the
‘Symbol’ talk at the Design Museum on Vimeo;
— details about the event on the TypoCircle website and the Creative Review blog;
— you can buy the book ‘Symbol’ on BookDepository (free shipping worldwide) or Amazon.




I find this depressing. The old guard continue to refuse engagement with anything different from themselves.

Don’t really follow you, Miles. Pentagram’s new partners and some recent work seem to point towards new directions. Of course you can’t really reinvent yourself over night, but I think they’re doing pretty well. Care to expand on your point please?

Thanks for dropping by, cheers!


Hi Iancu

Nice write-up. I was at the talk too. I remember your question! Are you going to the Harry Pearce presentation?

I’m enjoying your portfolio, by the way.

Hi Dan,
glad you liked it. Yes, I’ve got tickets for Mr Pearce’s talk too, can’t wait. Maybe we can have a chat if you’re there too.

Thanks for the portfolio appreciation, needs to be updated but don’t have much time these days, you know how it is. You’ve got a some nice stuff yourself too, very interesting project with the John Berger cover (very good book, worth re-reading often).



I’ll be there – haven’t got tickets yet as I”m not a member and it isn’t open yet. Must sign up. I’ll see you there I’m sure!

Being a TypoCircle member is worth it just for the annual magazine. Getting discounted tickets every month is a bonus :) See you there!


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