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Penguin Random House Learning Journal

Often, when you get a job back from the printer (having laboured over it for hours, days, weeks, and often months), there can be a certain sense of disappointment, with the final result not living up to your by now unjustifiably elevated expectations. That’s not to say that the finished object isn’t worthy of love and pride, just that you can easily have an idealised view of what you hope to have created, a view which reality can never match.

But every now and then, the reverse happens. Despite having those same supposedly unrealistic expectations, the finished object manages to exceed them.

This happened to us with this learning journal we created recently for the Penguin Random House Academy – the in-house training programme for the company’s UK staff.

We were hoping it was going to look great, but once we got it in our hands, we couldn’t help but grin. It just felt right – the cover stock, the text stock, the print process, the finishing – it all came together in one lovely package. (And yup, we know we’re blasting away on our own little trumpet here, but heck, sometimes it’s okay to do that.)

We started out by designing the identity for the Academy, a simple circle. We then carried that circle through as a motif throughout the book.

The book is designed in two separate sections, each of which has its own front cover. Start at one end and it’s an informative guide to all the training and career development possibilities at the company; flip it over and it’s a travel journal, where you can make notes and doodle.

The text pages are printed onto a cream stock using the CMYK process, but with the black swapped for a Pantone grey.

The two halves of the book meet at a spread which reads in both directions, letting you know that it’s time to flip the book:

The covers are 2000 micron greyboard, foil-blocked in white.

The travel journal pages are a mix of blank pages, inspirational quotes, and many different types of lined paper pages:

Our thanks to Jo, Bethany and Erica at Penguin Random House, and printers Colophon and Lavengro for their help in creating something we’re dead proud of.

Golden Meaning: Fifty-five graphic experiments

The good folks over at GraphicDesign& sent us a copy of their fine new book Golden Meaning: Fifty-five graphic experiments.

It’s almost two years since their first book, Page 1: Great Expectations, explored the world of literature via the first page of Dickens’ Great Expectations. Where that book was mainly typographic in its explorations, this one principally illustrative, looking at the relationship of the Golden ratio to graphic design. We particularly liked the wonderful illustration by Malika Favre:

‘I decided to approach the brief as I remember approaching mathematical exercises in high school, setting strict constraints and rules before moving on to the more instinctive part of the process. As a starting point, I constructed a golden ratio grid within the double page spread without thinking about what I wanted to draw or how I would draw it. Once the grid was finished, I looked at what the lines were showing and saw a silhouette emerging. I started drawing shapes and lines as an overlay, using the lines and angles of the grid as a loose guide but relying on my instinct to create what became a woman walking by.’

Grid and overlay above, finished illustration below.

Other contributors include:

Adrian Talbot

Bibliothèque

Jerzy Skakun and Joanna Górska at Homework

Matt Rice and Christoph Lorenzi at Sennep (play with their design over here - it’s fun).

It’s a lovely book, very much sitting on the ‘book as object’ shelf thanks to a lovely format, foil-blocked cover, and the use of a single spot colour throughout (gold, of course). There’s a slight whiff of the degree show catalogue about it, because of its repetitive portfolio format (each contributor gets an introductory page, then one or two spreads), but with students of this calibre, who’s complaining?

Two more books are already in the pipeline (Religion: Looking good, and Social Science: Graphic designers surveyed), and they should build into a solid collection.

We’d really like to see a book that pulls together creative teams of Designers & Others, where designers are teamed up with philosophers, musicians, biologists, teachers, doctors, dramaturgs and others. That might start some really interesting conversations…

Rapha City Cycling Guides

The good folks at super-smart cycling brand Rapha sent us over a boxed set of their brand new City Cycling Guides to have a look at – and what a wonderful thing it is.

The set features eight small guide books – covering Antwerp & Ghent, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Milan and Paris. Each one is densely packed with information for the cycling tourist, or the touring cyclist, or even just any old tourist to be honest. They each have a short introduction to the city, and feature a mapped day-ride that takes you round the main parts of the city, before diving in to more detail on a few specific neighbourhoods. They’re written and designed by Andrew Edwards and Max Leonard.

By way of example, with the London guide you’re given detailed information about Soho & Mayfair, Shoreditch, Borough, Notting Hill and Hampstead – including shopping, eating, stuff to see and do, and of course a few bike shops and cafés.

At the back of each book there’s also a great (and detailed) guide to the cycling habits of the city you’re visiting – invaluable when you consider the starkly different riding habits of Londoners, Milanese and Parisians.

Each book is illustrated by a different local illustrator: Amsterdam is by Joost Stokhof, Antwerp & Ghent by Sebastiaan van Doninck, Barcelona by Judy Kaufmann, Berlin by Mikkel Sommer, Copenhagen by Simon Væth (pictured below), London by Henry McCausland, Milan by Riccardo Guasco, and Paris by Louis Thomas.

The Rapha website also has a set of additional ride routes for each city which you can download to your bike’s GPS thingamajig if you have one.

Very lovely, and, given that these are produced by Rapha, surprisingly affordable at £25.

The Gentle Author’s London Album

The Gentle Author’s London Album is the wonderful new book, designed by David Pearson, written by the author of the fantastic Spitalfields Life blog. Alistair just picked up his copy from the author, suitably enough right in the middle of Spitalfields Market. The book has been published by the author’s own imprint, Spitalfields Life Books, and financed by the readers of the blog.

If you don’t read Spitalfields Life, you should. It’s a beautifully written treasure trove of stories documenting London’s history, all based around a small patch of east London. It has been written by the anonymous Gentle Author since 2009, who made the bold promise of writing every day until 10,000 posts have been written (sometime in 2037).

As with the blog, the book is a sumptuous pictorial record, a dense feast which includes myriad morsels from London’s past and present, and features over six hundred pictures, many of them taken from glass slides from the archive at the Bishopsgate Institute, which have never been printed anywhere before.

The book also features the atmospheric London Underground photographs by Bob Mazzer which have been all over the internet recently (after featuring on Spitalfields Life of course).

You’ll also find the wonderful typographic designs of Roy Gardner, market sundriesman:

Here’s a rather marvellous little film celebrating the launch of the book:

There’s also a rather fine slideshow that the BBC have put together about the book.

It’s an absolute labour of love from both author and designer – we share a studio with David, and have witnessed first-hand the painstaking care and attention lavished upon the book.

Buy a copy directly from the Gentle Author, inscribed and signed if that takes your fancy (and really, why wouldn’t it?).

Go on, off you go. Buy one right now.

A logo for London

If you think about London, certain images immediately dance around in your mind.

Perhaps some of its buildings: Charles Barry’s Palace of Westminster, Sir Horace Jones’ Tower Bridge, or Sir Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

Or something more recent – Marks and Barfield’s London Eye, Norman Foster’s Gherkin, or Renzo Piano’s Shard?

All individually iconic, but perhaps not representative of the entirety of London.

Often a city becomes known by its skyline, but London has no single point from which it is best viewed, so no single arrangement of its architecture has become dominant. (Though for our money, the view looking east from Waterloo Bridge is hard to beat.)

Other London icons, as evidenced by the wares sold in a thousand tatty tourist shops, include the red double decker bus (probably in the form of Douglas Scott’s Routemaster), and the London black cab (most probably in its Austin FX4 incarnation).

 

Those are the ‘things’ that quickly spring to mind.

But if you’re asked to think of a piece of graphic design that most represents London, then you can’t help but think of the representations of London’s transport systems – either the iconic Transport for London roundel (the name for the circular logo with the bar through the middle), or the ingenious Underground map (shown here in its current incarnation).

While we are familiar with the story of Harry Beck’s design of the map, the story of the roundel has been a little less celebrated (though there is a good short history of its creation on the London Transport Museum site).

Fortunately, David Lawrence’s new book, A Logo for London, sets the record straight, in exacting detail.

The book documents the genesis and evolution of the roundel, demonstrating that rather than being the offspring of any single creative genius, it is the child of many hugely talented designers and administrators – including Frank Pick, Harry Ford, Edward Johnston, Eric Gill, Hans Schleger, and Misha Black from Design Research Unit. It has grown and changed over the course of more than a hundred years to become the defining graphic symbol for London (despite the occasional attempt to find something else to do the job).

Lawrence describes how the roundel had two direct antecedents, in designs used by companies that later became part of the London Transport group.

Firstly, there was the logo of the London General Omnibus Company, designed by a gentleman known as Mr Crane, featuring a spoked bus wheel with a bar through it, adorned by a pair of wings.

Secondly, there were the station signboards of the Metropolitan District Railway, blue enamelled signs with white lettering, which announced which station you were at.

In use around 1906, these were beginning to be swamped by a proliferation of text based advertising which surrounded them at stations. Frank Pick, the real genius behind much of the London Underground’s branding, suggested testing out new signs of different shapes and sizes. A year before, Joseph Carter, Company Secretary of the District line, had done exactly that sort of test, and had come up with a red disc bisected with a blue bar with white lettering. This new design, used for station signboards from 1908 onwards, looked something like this:

These two pieces of design were then brought together by calligrapher Edward Johnston, who had been commissioned by Frank Pick in 1913 to create a single typeface for the Underground (which is a whole other tale in itself). There’s a lovely section in the book detailing Johnston’s correspondence with Harry Carr at the Underground Group about the design of the new Underground logotype.

Johnston’s new Underground roundel, then known as the bulls-eye, was used from around late 1919, and is the moment at which the roundel found the form that is still with us today. Here is a drawing from 1925 detailing its exact proportions:

If we deconstruct the logo, we can see that although it grew out of the spoked wheel logo of London General, and the red circle of the early signboards, it artfully represents both a tunnel, and a train running through it. Or perhaps (at a stretch) a bus running across an abstracted representation of the city. Perhaps, even, the river running from west to east across the city.

It’s possible it doesn’t really matter at this point – its meaning after all is self-defined through use.

Lawrence goes on to show how the logo is gradually introduced across London’s entire transport network, on signage, posters, leaflets, maps and uniforms.

So the old solid red circular sign at South Kensington would have changed to look something more like this:

The design of the roundel stayed more or less the same through to 1935, when Hans Schleger* was commissioned by Frank Pick to put together new designs for bus stop signs. Schleger stripped back the roundel to its simplest form – a coloured circle with a coloured bar, with the type reversed out of the bar. His redesign was gradually implemented right across the network, so that by 1955 station signboards looked more like the one below, stripped of their keylines:

They’ve remained that way more or less until the present day. (Though interestingly, the latest crop of signs have reinstated a keyline, in the form of a silver grey border on some of the signboards.)

Rather brilliantly, nearly all of the Transport for London visual guidelines are available on the TfL website, so it’s easy to see how the roundel is now being used across the city’s vast transport system.

For example, here are all the different networks it represents:

 

 

Not bad for a hundred year old logo. (Although it doesn’t always work perfectly – Taxi·Private Hire roundel, we’re looking at you there.)

A Logo for London, while occasionally a tad dry, is a great addition to the recent crop of books detailing the design of the capital’s transport system (you should also check out Mark Ovenden’s fantastic London Underground By Design).

For more roundel goodness, take a look at the London Underground Poster and London Underground Signs groups on Flickr.

*No Wikipedia page for Hans Schleger? Astounding.

Master it – How to cook today

We’ve just taken delivery of one of the first copies of Master it – How to cook today, the new book we recently designed for the fantastic chef Rory O’Connell.

Rory is one of the loveliest guys you could hope to meet, and an inspirational chef and teacher. He co-founded the hugely influential Ballymaloe Cookery School with his sister, Darina Allen, and runs his own cookery courses out of his home in East Cork.

The book is designed to be a riposte to the “just bung it in” school of cooking, focusing instead on carefully detailed instructions which don’t leave you guessing as to whether or not you’re getting it right.

Alistair went out to Ireland to art direct the photo shoot with the hugely talented photographer Laura Hynd (and got the chance to try far too many of Rory’s delicious dishes). Rory really stresses the importance of using the freshest seasonal ingredients, and took Alistair and Laura on a tour around Ballymaloe’s incredible gardens and greenhouses. Here are some of Alistair’s shots from there:

Check out the full set over here.

Master it: How to cook today is published by 4th Estate on 23 May.

Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis

Sebastião Salgado’s incredible new show, Genesis, opened recently at the Natural History Museum, and we went along over the weekend to take a look.

The exhibition is the result of eight years work, during which Salgado travelled the globe, seeking out examples of the unspoiled and the untouched – ‘my wish was to do a homage to the planet’. His travels, which began on the Galápagos Islands, took him through over thirty countries, from the arctic to the antarctic, from desert to jungle. Not bad for a man approaching his 70th birthday.

Salgado has previously done two major photographic projects – Workers (1993) which looked at manual labourers across the planet, and Migrations (2000) which studied the movements of peoples, driven by disaster, hunger, war and other pressures. With Genesis, his focus is much more on nature – landscapes and animals. People aren’t entirely absent though – he visited a variety of indigenous tribes, including the Omo Valley tribes in Ethiopia, the Zo’é in Brazil, and the Nenets of Siberia.

The exhibition at the Natural History Museum is the global premiere for the project (though individual stories from it have been serialised over the past eight years in magazines around the world), and the decision to hold it there adds a particular, and necessary, accent to the work.

In seeking to present the world in an untouched state (you’d be hard pressed to date any of these pictures to a particular century, let alone decade), Salgado is obviously hoping to show where we’ve come from, and how much we risk to lose. Framing the exhibition within the Natural History Museum helps to make this explicit in a way which it wouldn’t if the show was hosted in a more traditional gallery space.

Salgado is sometimes criticised for making his images too beautiful – that as a documentary photographer, he gives us too much art. But that seems to suggest that an image that communicates something powerful, that tells a particular story, can’t also be beautiful.

And this is a show that is wondrously beautiful. Shot after shot (and there are two hundred or so of them here) is breathtakingly stunning.

These thumbnails don’t even begin to do justice to the prints themselves – so make sure you get along to the exhibition if you can. (It will be travelling the globe in the coming years if you’re not in London.You can find the itinerary here.)

There is a book of course, published by Taschen.

And being Taschen, it’s also available in their oversized Sumo format as a two-volume limited edition, which comes with its own wooden stand designed by Tadao Ando. Here’s a shot of Salgado having a flip through a copy:

And if it feels like there’s a slight discrepancy between publishing a 704pp hardback book with a spread of almost a metre and being concerned for the world’s untouched spaces?

Well then it’s perhaps good to know that Salgado and his wife Lélia (curator of the Genesis show) have worked for two decades on the restoration of part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, hoping to plant a million and a half trees before they’re done.

A Monster Calls

It’s not often that a book leaves you sobbing in the darkness. But A Monster Calls, the staggeringly wonderful book from Patrick Ness, brilliantly illustrated by Jim Kay, does just that.

The book recently won the Carnegie Medal (for the story) and the Kate Greenaway Medal (for the illustrations), a pair of awards that are a big deal in the world of children’s publishing; and it was reading about the awards that prompted us to pick up a copy of the book.

The story is about a teenager, Conor O’Malley, who’s been having a terrible recurring nightmare, every night since his mother started her treatments.

“Conor looked at the ground, then up a the moon, anywhere but at the monster’s eyes. The nightmare feeling was rising in him, turning everything around him to darkness, making everything seem heavy and impossible, like he’d been asked to lift a mountain with his bare hands, and no one would let him leave until he did.”

The story was initially developed by the writer Siobhan Dowd before her premature death from breast cancer. Posthumously her editor, Denise Johnstone-Burt, asked Patrick Ness to continue the story for her. As Ness says in the author’s note to the book: “She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. What she didn’t have, unfortunately, was time.”

Ben Dorland at Walker Books, the publishers, then brought in Jim Kay to illustrate the book. You can read all about how the book then came about in this Guardian article.

Kay’s monochromatic illustrations perfectly capture the atmosphere of the book without leading the reader down too specific a path. You can read more about how he created the illustrations on his site. For instance, about the first image below, he says: “Conor, the figure in the foreground, was painted very quickly in ink with a tatty brush – a temporary sketch while I worked on the rest of the image. I must have drawn at least 40 versions of him later on, but ended up using that first sketch as there was something awkward and unsettled about him. Subsequent drawings were just too self conscious. I’d love to have another go at this, I think I could force the perspective more –  get under the chair almost, and beneath the monster’s head.”

It’s an immensely powerful book, and truly beautiful. We can’t recommend it enough.

Page 1: Great Expectations

We’ve been dipping in and out of GraphicDesign&’s new publication Page 1: Great Expectations over the last couple of days, and it’s a mighty interesting read.

GraphicDesign& is a collaborative project from Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright, which is aiming create publications which make connections between graphic designers and other subject areas. (We’d perhaps suggest that that’s an inherent part of graphic design – it’s what we do every day – connect with other disciplines to help communicate their messages.)

Page 1 is their first book, and it’s really interesting. The brief they sent out to 70 designers (mainly established names, but a few students too) was to take the first page of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, and lay it out however they saw fit, within the paramaters of a standard A format paperback, 110mm x 178mm.

In the final book, each designer is given a couple of spreads – one with their name and their design, and then another with the rationale for their design, and the specifics of typefaces and sizes.

This layout works really well – rather than just being a gallery space for a bunch of designs, we get the chance to listen to the designers explaining the thoughts and ideas behind those designs. Some of the designers might perhaps be accused of taking themselves just a tad too seriously, but in general there’s a pleasing breadth of responses, from the very dry to the very experimental.

Our studio partner Paul Finn was one of the designers included – here’s his page:

And here are a few others:

Great stuff. You can buy the book here.

Penguin English Library

This is the new animation that Penguin have commissioned from director Woof Wan-Bau to celebrate the launch of their new series, the Penguin English Library.

The series consists of “100 of the best novels in the English language”, starting with 20 launch titles, with cover designs from Coralie Bickford-Smith. (Check out the Facebook page to see details of the designs, and how they’ve played with the Timeline there.)

The covers are all well and good, but what got us really excited here was seeing the Penguin logo animated. It’s really beautifully done. Agencies love to talk about “bringing the brand alive”. Well here it is – living and breathing. Brilliant.