Posts filed under 'inspiration sources'

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design Companion, Part VI Identity

1 comment March 20th, 2013

The next category in The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design is Identity. To the extent that a book cover, for instance, establishes identity and can be part of a larger “package” that could include ads, posters, websites, etc., I guess I understand the idea of Identity. But a true Identity element is used in those different ways: in print, packaging, video, and so on.

The Archive shows some powerful and effective pieces. They demonstrate some very well-known examples of brand in the twentieth century.








As book design is my area, this category is the first one I viewed a something of an outsider. Even film graphics were something I felt common ground with, as I once wrote film criticism for a couple of arts papers and remain a real movie buff. But from “outside” this category I still see a number of impressive examples of typography and graphics working together.






All the pieces, including ones I have not displayed here, can serve to stimulate both students and practicing graphic artists. And inspiration is almost always worth the price of admission. Even—or perhaps especially—when the identity established is a horror, there is something to be learned about how visuals can move us.


The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design Companion, Part I

Add comment December 28th, 2012

I must say, the experience of viewing and reading The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design leaves me with the uneasy sense that I possessed the capability, after all, to do a whole lot more with my work life. Not that I, in any way, cannot appreciate all of the graphic design work in the Archive. Nor do I mean that just anyone can create such graphic art. Rather the whole package breathes such creativity, I wish I had tried harder earlier. But I digress.

*  *  *

I came home to find a box, fourteen, maybe sixteen, inches high; a bit more than ten inches wide and eight or so inches deep. It weighed what seemed like fifteen or so pounds. I opened the box, removed some styrofoam packing on top and pulled another box out of the shipping box. I pulled it out by a felt-like, cloth handle that snapped around two loops of an intricate harness. It still felt heavy, substantial. The weight was not packing material.



I unsnapped the handle, took it off, and put it aside. I pulled back the cover and, on the inside of that cover found a sticker with three paragraphs of introduction. The first thing you see in the front of the box is a booklet measuring about 93/8″ × 121/4″. It is only forty pages long, but is stitched rather than stapled. Inside the front cover are Acknowledgements, the roster of authors, a Table of Contents, a Foreword, multiple listings of each piece of art on the 500 cards, an Index, and Picture credits. On the back cover is all the information one would find on the copyright page of a book.



Behind the booklet were divider cards, fifteen of them.


The first one was a dark kind of olive green. From the second divider on, the green got progressively lighter. The last one was much lighter, almost, but not quite white. At the top of the cards, on one side, were letters, for filing the pieces in alphabetical order. Some of the cards had more than a single letter on them. On the other side was a single category per card:

• Advertising

• Book

• Book Cover

• Film Graphics

• Identity

• Information Design

• Logo

• Magazine and Newspaper

• Magazine Cover

• Money

• Packaging Graphics

• Poster

• Record and CD Cover

• Symbol

• Typeface


The cards that each piece of graphic art has been printed on arrive packed in chronological order. But since each piece carries an ID number, title, designer’s name, year done, client name, and category, there are a host of ways to divide the pieces. The methods that the divider cards encourage are alphabetically by title or designer, or by category. I went with the latter, dropping each card behind the appropriate category as I  read.

The breakdown of pieces into each category was not even. I suppose this holds no surprise, as an even breakdown would make one wonder whether some pieces were not included simply to keep the categories even. But perhaps the actual numbers held a little surprise. They ran like this: Advertising, 24; Book, 81; Book Cover, 9; Film Graphics, 5; Identity, 21; Information Design, 25; Logo, 44; Magazine and Newspaper, 77; Magazine Cover, 20; Money, 3; Packaging Graphics, 5; Poster, 116; Record and CD Cover, 6; Symbol, 7; Typeface, 57.

*  *  *

The individual cards themselves are put together in an interesting, attractive, and occasionally puzzling manner. God help me if I am wrong, but it appeared to me on first blush—and I admit to not double-checking to make sure, but instead deciding to live with my eye, whether or not it is an accurate one for type—that the card text is set in Helvetica in two 23p8 or 9 justified columns. Now, you would not ordinarily think almost 24 picas is too narrow a column for justified text. But, oddly, there is a little bit of inconsistency with the typography. In most every card the wordspacing is fine; every once in a while, however, it is surprisingly wide. I can only imagine that in a project this size, different people were responsible for the typesetting. I bring this up only because it surprised me, given that this whole project is about design and, at least partly, how things look.





But that is just the back of the cards. The card fronts are filled with wonderful shots of the graphics themselves. Large creative pictures, often photographs, always from eye-catching angles or in powerful silhouettes, fill the fronts of the cards.





In a nutshell, the graphics are inspiring. Whether or not I “liked” each and every one, they caught my eye and I can see where this will be an indispensable aid to me in my book design practice when I am stuck or need a jolt toward a design choice on a project.

The beauty of these cards is in how they bring together aesthetics and a sense of history about what was done by whom, when and in what cultural context. They admirably represent a cross-section of the fairly known design universe along with more obscure work that will both surprise and delight the student, the seasoned design professional, and the casual viewer of art. This boxed set is worth the price of admission.

*  *  *

 In future pieces I plan to discuss the individual categories and some of the works themselves. I look forward to discussion with those who have viewed and read through the collection, as well as to any questions raised by those thinking of getting the set.


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