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

Igarashi Alphabets

November 25, 2013, 12:53 PM

This post was initially published on TypeToken.

Takenobu Igarashi is one of the Japanese greats, his work ranging from graphic design, industrial to environmental and even sculpture. He’s been a member of AGI since 1981. His book, ‘Igarashi Alphabets: From Graphics to Sculptures’ showcases quite a few of his typographic projects and experiments in both 2D and 3D mediums. His interest in three-dimensional letters and typography has led to projects like ‘Aluminum Alphabet’ (1983), ”Ori (Folded) Alphabet’ (1985), his impressive ‘MoMA Calendar Series’ (1984-1993) for which he’s drawn over six thousand different numerals (isometric, done before computers), ‘Transformable Alphabet’ (1981), ‘Mirror Alphabet’ (1981), ‘Scultpure H’ (1981) and many others.

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Igarashi’s philosophy is best summed up by his own words:
‘My approach to design and sculpture has always wavered between my wish to do something useful for society, and my desire to create something beautiful with my own hands. In my opinion there are three essential things in work: passion, challenge and discovery. Without that, work gets boring; with that, work is enjoyable. And artwork that is enjoyable also results in success.’

Have a look at the Igarashi Studio website for more projects.
You can also read his AGI profile.

Book details:
Publisher: ABC Edition Zurich (1987)
Language: English, German, French
ISBN-10: 3855041024
ISBN-13: 978-3855041022

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Anthon Beeke – It’s A Miracle

August 9, 2013, 1:10 PM

This post was initially published on TypeToken.

Dutch design is well-known for its boldness, but even among Dutch designers, Anthon Beeke is certainly one of the most provocative. His work not only informs and surprises, but it often tests the limits of free expression. “It’s a miracle” is a new book from BIS Publishers, celebrating Anthon Beeke’s impressive body of work. Chapters are introduced by well known names, such as Steven Heller, Marian Bantjes, James Victore, Erik Kessels and others, each portraying different aspects of Beeke’s life in design, including Amsterdam, jazz, erotica, collecting, typography, photography, provocation and communication.

His works range from beautiful and elegant pieces like the “Body Type” alphabet (created in reply to Wim Crouwel’s computer alphabets), playful, like the poster for Dick Bruna’s fameous Miffy character (done as he says, to beat his friend Bruna in his quest for simplicity), to gut-wrenching, like the “Troilus en Cressida” theatre poster, in which he portrays a woman as a Trojan horse, emphasising the play’s story. Either way, his work will hardly leave you without a reaction.

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“I don’t know a single maker of images who thinks more freely and is more all-round than Anthon Beeke. As far as I am concerned, he is the freest spirit in Dutch design history.” — Erik Kessels

Book details:
Publisher: BIS Publishers
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9063693303
ISBN-13: 978-9063693305

You should also visit Anthon Beeke’s website.

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George Lois Or The Story Of The Mad Man Who Cried ‘Mine’

April 23, 2012, 7:26 PM

‘A lie told often enough becomes the truth.‘ — attributed to V. I. Lenin

Phaidon have recently published the latest book by advertising legend, George Lois, entitled Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!). It is yet another inspirational book, very similar to those written by Paul Arden. The 120 pieces of advice are sustained by examples, usually from the author’s extensive career. Among juicy stories from the 1960s Mad Men era (so popular these days), he mentions his hero, Paul Rand, and his mentors, two teachers that recognised his talent and his first Creative Director, a lady, Reba Sochis. By the time you finish the book, you feel ready to take on the world, to go out and do your best work.

George Lois about Paul Rand (click for larger size)

There’s just one problem.

Many of George Lois’s stories are not true.  If you try to find out more about his work, you’ll soon learn that he has been taking credit not only for projects in which the work has been done through team effort, but even for projects in which he hasn’t been involved at all. In his book, he never mentions Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) where he was employed, the Papert Koenig Lois agency where he was a partner, together with Fred Papert and Julian Koenig, nor Lois, Holland, Callaway.

The June 19, 2009 episode of This American Life, the radio show hosted by Ira Glass, features interviews with Julian Koenig, Fred Papert, George Lois’s ex-partners, and also with Carl Fischer (the photographer who shot most of the Esquire covers). They talk about projects they’ve done and to which extent George Lois was involved, if at all (links at the end of the post). After listening, it becomes very clear that George Lois is such a convincing story teller that he’s fallen victim to his own talent.

‘In my instance, the greatest predator of my work was my one-time partner George Lois, who is a most heralded and talented art director/designer, and his talent is only exceeded by his omnivorous ego. So where it once would’ve been accepted that the word would be “we” did it, regardless of who originated the work, the word “we” evaporated from George’s vocabulary and it became “my.”‘ — Julian Koenig

In 2005, George Lois published his book $elebrities, in which he basically replaces Julian Koenig in his own story about how he met Ernie Kovacs just hours before the latter’s death. Mr Koenig tried to fight back by running a witty ad in the New York Times. They never ran it, but AdWeek did, even if at the back of the magazine, to no response. Since I couldn’t find the original, I’ve taken the liberty to reimagine it, based on the ad for Coldene (coughing syrup), also Mr Koenig’s idea, but ‘stolen’ by George Lois. I’d be very happy if any of you would repost this.

George Lois is an advertising legend and he’s been writing books periodically, appeared in the Art & Copy film and other interviews, so he’s had a lot of exposure along the years. Still, due to the current craze around the Mad Men TV series, many publications and websites have recently run even more stories about him, naming him ‘the original Mad Man’ or ‘the original Don Draper’. Lois has often rejected this comparison, talking about the shallow depiction of the 1960s advertising world in the series, but it is ironic to find out how much he actually resembles Don Draper, whose whole adult life is based on a huge lie (I won’t spoil it for you, watch the show). It is such a shame that because of his exposure, George Lois gets to repeat his lies over and over again. Later corrections, if any, written in small print at the back of magazines or blog posts cannot repair the harm done.

I’m no idealist, but the end very rarely justifies the (appalling) means. Two of the best human traits are honesty and modesty. Unfortunately, many take the easier path to success, ignoring these two. But that won’t change the fact that they’re not worthy of being our models, our heroes.

 

‘Advertising is built on puffery, and, at heart, deception, and I don’t think anybody can go proudly into the next world with a career built on deception, even though no matter how well they do it.’ — Julian Koenig

FURTHER READING & LINKS
— listen to Ira Glass’s show with the above-mentioned interviews (or read the transcript);
— the Julian Koenig Wikipedia page — learn how he named Earth Day;
— the George Lois Wikipedia page, including the
Controversy section;
— another blog post about the same subject, including some video interviews of both George Lois and Mr Koenig (direct YouTube link).

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Sagmeister: Another Book about Promotion & Sales Material — book review

September 8, 2011, 1:06 AM

Stefan Sagmaister is without doubt, one of the best known graphic designers, a superstar, to be fair. His latest work showcase comes in the form of a bi-lingual (German & English) black book, ironically entitled ‘Another Book about Promotion & Sales Material’ and presenting projects developed over the last seven years. It follows an exhibition of work by Sagmeister Inc presented at the Mudac museum in Lausanne in March 2011.

The book explores the idea of selling, through four chapters: Selling Culture, Selling Corporations, Selling My Friends and Selling Myself. In the introductory interview, Stefan talks about different concepts related to selling, how they change depending on circumstances, years, about clients, organizing his work and about his roots as a designer. Mentioning one of his older works — the famous poster where he had the text carved onto his skin — he talks about the impact of the human body in graphic design, magazines especially (a point that Kit Hinrichs also made in one of his interviews, that the human face sells the most). He also mentions the pleasure of entrusting the creative helm on designing the book to his collaborator, Martin Woodtli and the reasons behind this decision — a tough one for quite a lot of designers (trusting another to design things for us, that is).

Each chapter contains one two-pages essay, written by Martin Heller (‘A Matter of Posture’), Joseph V. Tripodi (‘Winning by Design’), Marian Bantjes (‘My Friend’) and Mieke Gerritzen (‘Stefan Is a Pop Star’) respectively. None of them leaves you with anything new, but while Ms Bantjes is honest and fun, Mr Tripodi is plain annoying, wasting one and a half page for praising his company, Coca Cola, mentioning Stefan just as an afterthought, at the end. It almost feels like an advert inside a magazine — considering the topic of the book, who knows, maybe it really is.

More interesting are Stefan’s half-page stories of various life experiences, spread throughout the book. And, of course, the work itself, accompanied by extensive captions, bundled together before or after the full-page images.

As mentioned before, the book is designed by Martin Woodtli, making it quite different from Sagmeister’s previous books. The interior feels quite elegant and classic, thanks to the beautiful usage of the New Fournier BP typeface, designed by François Rappo. The cover fits the classic interior, making use of black plus gold foiling and embossing, but with a humorous tone, the illustration being a visual pun on Da Vinci’s vitruvian man.

The last essay, ‘Stefan Is a Pop Star’, while feeling quite superficial when talking about fame, does manage to provide a nice conclusion to the book:

‘Stefan Sagmeister now represents that special graphic designer who looks at the world of the 21st century and sees how large the cultural field has become. Forget the frameworks and rules […] developed in the previous century. The designer may once again become a visionary, performer, architect, and artist.’

My favourite part, however, is the short story called ‘Northern Italy’, in which Stefan recalls a talk he had with his mother:

The story that makes the book worth reading (click on image to enlarge)

 “Nothing is more difficult to endure than a sequence of beautiful days.”

BOOK DETAILS

Title: Sagmeister: Another Book about Promotion & Sales Material
Edited by: Stefan Sagmeister, Chantal Prod’Hom, Martin Woodtli
No. of pages: 176
Publisher: Abrams (01 September 2011)
Language: German & English
ISBN-10: 1419701398
ISBN-13: 9781419701399

RELATED LINKS
— more about the exhibition: Another Exhibit about Promotion and Sales Material;
— the book reviewed on the Creative Review.

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Design: The World of Minale Tattersfield — Book Review

April 27, 2011, 1:52 PM

Minale Tattersfield is one of the top British design companies, founded back in 1964 by Marcello Minale and Brian Tattersfield. They are now a global company, with eight offices all around the world.

The Design: The World of Minale Tattersfield book presents their work and their ideas. Their first book, ‘Design a la Minale Tattersfield’, published in 1986, ‘explored its artist-designer origins in the creative ferment of the early 1960s and charted its spectacular tradition of invention up to the mid-80s’ — as Jeremy Myerson, the book’s author says (he is also the founder of the DesignWeek magazine). The new book takes up the story, covering more than 25 years, starting from the 60s and continuing with the transition period in the 90s, with the expansion of the company and the increasing globalisation of the design industry. Read on for more info and pictures.

» Continue reading

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Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities — Book Review

January 21, 2011, 8:56 PM

“Anyone involved in creating visual identities, or wanting to learn how to go about it, will find this book invaluable.” — Tom Geismar, Chermayeff & Geismar.

Now, getting one of the greatest designers to write such a commending line about your book is no small thing. Even if just for this recommendation, David Airey‘s book is worth buying. However, praises can be biased, and great designers are usually kind and helpful (read Jessica Helfand’s beautiful article on “The Kindness of Strangers” and you’ll see what I mean — no, it’s not about Paul Rand, he’s the “angry” type).

But let’s get on with the review. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last three years or just found out about graphic design yesterday, David Airey is one of the most successful design bloggers around, writing two graphic design blogs, logodesignlove.com and davidairey.com (having more than 700,000 monthly page views). His newest, Identity Designed, is a site featuring work and inside stories from great design studios around the world (I can see a book version coming soon for this one as well). Logo Design Love started as a blog in January 2008, devoted to the design of logos and visual identities. Having become so successful, it eventually led to a book offer, as David wrote in Jan 2009.

» Continue reading

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Paul Rand: Conversations with Students — Book review

January 2, 2011, 9:52 PM

«Everything is design. Everything!» … «It is important to use your hands, this is what distinguishes you from a cow or a computer operator.»

Starting with bold, very Rand-like quotes, Paul Rand: Conversations with Students, written by Michael Kroeger, is a small book divided in two parts: first, the conversations themselves, from February 1995 (first between Kroeger and Paul, together with his wife Marion, then between Rand and students from the School of Design, Arizona State University) and second, five homages from designers that had the privilege of studying with him closely. The author himself had the privilege of an individual one-week session in Brissago, Switzerland — as did Phillip Burton, Armin Hoffman, Herbert Matter and Wolfgang Weingart (also the book’s Foreword writer).

» Continue reading

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Book reviews — Introducing a new category on the blog

January 1, 2011, 10:27 PM

This post opens the new year with a new category on the blog, Book Reviews. As an incurable book-addict (thanks mum!), I’ve always had problems deciding what to buy first (good design & typography books are rarely cheap, especially for a student). Few websites are of real help, the best being YouWorkForThem (Amazon’s «Look Inside» feature usually being just a nuisance) — others being Jason Santa Maria’s Rec. Reading (very short on details) or Design Observer’s list (short info and far too many). There are dozens of books on typography or grid design, for instance, but few offer a helpful & thorough take on the subject — or bring anything new at all — so we’re usually left asking: which one?

Hopefully, I’ll make things a bit easier. Here are a few points that I’ll try to touch:

  1. show inside photos of the book, as they’re usually the best way to get the feeling & usefulness of the book (plus, let’s face it, we–designers first look at the pictures, no matter how type-obsessed we are);
  2. give a more personal, designer’s review of the book, explaining why it is good (or where it lacks) and what’s to learn from it (rather than just state what it’s about);
  3. compare it to similar books or give further reading recommendations (some are ok for beginners, some require previous readings or knowledge);
  4. keep it short enough — I wouldn’t want to spoil your reading pleasure — “The secret of being boring is to say everything,” according to Voltaire;
  5. quote some of the most memorable parts, the ones that should stay with you for quite some time (also reminders for myself and those that have read the book).
  6. colophon — besides the fact that many times we buy them just for their looks, you can learn a lot not just by reading a book, but also by looking at how it’s made (what typefaces it uses, what kind of grid and so on).

I’ll be reviewing one or two books per month, maybe more, if time permits (images-mostly books are easier, of course, but I try to avoid them, as there’s usually little to learn from them). Unless I buy or get something new that I find extremely interesting, all the books will be from my shelf (if you want one reviewed faster or just a short opinion, feel free to write me). Any comments, ideas or further details are more than welcome, as always.

Thank you for reading, the first review will follow shortly and it’s about one of the greats, Paul Rand — stay tuned.

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Proud as I can be: Brandient 101 — The book

March 28, 2010, 1:47 AM

Later note: even if it is filed in the ‘Book reviews’ category, this is not one in itself — it is more of an announcement of the book’s launching, as I was involved in it too.

Rarely have I been so proud to be a designer as I am now. Two days ago, Brandient launched “Brandient 101”, the first book dedicated to Romanian brand design (limited edition of 101, signed).

I’ve been part of more than a handful of projects presented in the book, all of them being great experiences, from which I’ve learned a lot — the more difficult, the bigger the challenge and, of course, the reward. Working at Brandient for the last 3 years has been the real school that formed me as a designer (a brand designer, to be more precise, or a communication designer, as Mr. Erik likes to say), learning from and with my colleagues on all occasions, stressful or not (I found out over the years that the bigger the pressure, the faster you learn & work — of course, too much pressure is never a good thing, but one can never underestimate a designer’s ‘magical’ ability of pulling the ship around on the right track while the client is already ringing at the door :P) .

The book is designed by Cristian -Kit- Paul, Brandient’s Creative Partner, one of the best Romanian designers and also a great photographer — definitely follow him on Kit·blog. He’s also a very skilled speaker, another example that being a great designer is not only about drawing well-thought logos & identities, but also about explaining them, about promoting design as a business tool and last but not least, about teaching and inspiring the others.

But enough with the raves, here it is:

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