Archived posts: Books

Baddeley Brothers – an account by the Gentle Author


Printing is good. Books are good too. So a book about printing? Sign us up.

The book in question is an account of Baddeley Brothers, the specialist printers, by the Spitalfields Life’s Gentle Author. It’s the second collaboration between the Gentle Author and our studio partner David Pearson, and features wonderful illustrations by Lucinda Rogers. It’s a great subject and a fantastic creative team – so it’s no surprise that it’s a glorious book.

We nipped along to St Bride’s yesterday afternoon for the launch (the perfect place for it, since much of the archive material featured in the book is held there).

The sumptuous cloth-bound book tells a story that reaches across four centuries, and is a real treasure trove. It features archive imagery from throughout the company’s history, as well as a host of tipped-in samples, used as section dividers, illustrating the range of Baddeley Brothers’ print techniques. There’s also a fine glossary of printing terminology, and an anatomy of envelope design.






Lucinda Rogers’ illustrations document Baddeley Brothers as it is today, her wonderful and energetic line work brilliantly capturing the mood and atmosphere of printers.



David’s quiet and considered design gives the subject plenty of room to breathe; and the tipped-in dividers are just wonderful, all featuring Commercial Type typefaces.



We asked David about his experience of designing the book: “What I loved about it was that the Gentle Author has an uncanny ability to bring people with shared interests together on a project. Commercial Type have long been interested in the work of the Caslon Type Foundry, which was based right next to Baddeley Brothers. I’ve worked with Baddeley Brothers on several jobs, and have a strong relationship with Commercial Type too (many of whose typefaces are based on materials held at St Brides).”

There’s a wonderful alchemy going on there, and it’s a rich mix that has produced a stunning result. We can just imagine the joy of some young graphic design student picking it up off the St Bride Printing Library shelves decades hence. No doubt Baddeleys will still be going strong.

Glorious stuff.

Buy the book.

The 2015 D&AD Annual cover


I’m lucky enough to share studio space with two rather talented designers: David Pearson and Paul Finn. We work together from time to time, and our most recent collaboration launched last night: a series of covers for the 2015 D&AD Annual.

D&AD is a ‘global creative design and advertising association’, and the D&AD Annual collects together the best work entered for its yearly awards scheme. Dave was commissioned by GBH’s Mark Bonner, this year’s D&AD President, to create the cover for the Annual.

Dave, Paul and I had been discussing the brief in the studio, chewing over possible solutions. This happens a fair bit, even though we each run our own practices – it’s one of the many benefits of sharing space together. We’d been talking about the fact that when you boil D&AD down to its essence, it’s all about the awards that they give out each year. They come in the form of oversized pencils, and two new ones have been introduced this year: the Wood Pencil and the Graphite Pencil.


The Wood, Graphite and Yellow Pencils roughly equate to bronze, silver and gold awards. The White Pencil is for Yellow Pencil-worthy work that also affects ‘real and positive change in the world through creative thinking’. And the Black Pencil is for work that is ‘ground-breaking in its field’ – only a handful of them are awarded each year, if any.

With the introduction of the full family of five Pencils it felt like the right time to put them front and centre on the cover.

Dave had been playing with a delicious GF Smith wood-effect stock, Woodside Garden Pine, that I’d used for one of my postcards for Benwells, and was looking at ways to incorporate it on the cover. I suggested that it would look great used across the whole cover, and had fished out a D&AD Pencil that I had in one of the drawers next to my desk. Dave took it and stood it on a sheet of the Woodside, and then Paul laid it flat, and we had one of those lovely moments where you all just go ‘Ah! That’s it!’.

Very generously, Dave suggested we work together and make it a collaborative design. We decided on a series of five covers, each one featuring one of the awards at actual size, shown front and back. Clean and simple.






As the project progressed, we tried out a lot of different options, adding in copy, logos and spine text in various shapes and sizes. All along though, we were basically trying to hang on to the simplicity of that initial moment.

This is how the back cover of the Yellow Pencil version looks:


Of course, the idea still had to be turned into actual printed covers. The Woodside stock has a coating on it that can make some inks or foils react in unexpected ways – at one point the covers were all working except the black one, on which you could scratch the ink off with your fingernail. Fortunately for us, D&AD have a fantastic production manager, Martin Lee, who was exceptional at working out the best way to realise the idea. He provided multiple print tests and proofs until they were exactly right.

We’re dead chuffed with the results.

You can buy the D&AD Annual here, and read an interview with Dave about its creation over on It’s Nice That.

Books on our desk

you are the friction cover

We’ve had a few books on our desk recently that we’ve been meaning to shout about.

First up, You Are The Friction, a collection of short stories published by Sing Statistics.

Sing Statistics is the independent press set up by designer Jez Burrows and illustrator Lizzy Stewart. You Are The Friction is their fourth book following I Am The Friction (2008), We Are The Friction (2009), and Reverence Library, Vol. One (2011).

It was actually published at the beginning of 2014, but we only recently picked it up at Beach London (a small gallery just off Brick Lane) and it’s an absolute belter.

It features twelve stories inspired by twelve illustrations, and then twelve illustrations inspired by twelve stories. Short story collections can leave you feeling a little empty – like you’ve been grazing on junk food rather than having a really hearty meal. But this collection is varied and delicious – like the very best tapas, if you’ll excuse us extending that food metaphor just a little too far.

The impressive roster of illustrators even includes the likes of Oliver Jeffers, Tom Gauld and Rob Hunter.

you are the friction spread

Here’s a trailer for the book: a reading of the story ‘Flowers for Pinky Only in Theatres’, written by Joshua Allen, based on an illustration by Scott Campbell.

Great stuff.

Next up, published by Laurence King just last month, is Graphic Design Visionaries, by Caroline Roberts, editor of Grafik, and friend of the studio.


It’s a chronological taster of the work of seventy five leading graphic designers / graphic design studios from right around the world during the twentieth century. A lot of the names you’ll probably know (Abram Games, Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, Peter Saville, Stefan Sagmeister) but the reach is wide enough to pull in a fair few you may not. Each designer / studio gets a double page spread, just enough to whet your appetite to head off and find out more.




There’s a wealth of fantastic work on display – we particularly like Giovanni Pintori’s work for Olivetti.

Each spread also has a condensed timeline showing the highlights from each designer’s career.



As Caroline mentions in the introduction, there’s a glaring disparity between the number of male and female designers. Unfortunately, graphic design as a profession was largely dominated by men for many decades, but fortunately that’s changed in recent years, and it seems certain that the follow up to this book will have more balance.

You can win a copy of the book over on the Grafik site at the moment (the deadline’s 21 September 2015).

Last but not least, The Little Book of Typographic Ornament, also from Laurence King, will be published later this month.


A rich resource for plundering, the book features ornaments taken from 18th Century type foundry specimen books.

Typographic ornaments were decorative embellishments that could be set at the same time as metal type by a printer. They were available in various forms: rules (uninterrupted straight lines), borders (repeated decorative designs), and printers flowers (or fleurons). They could be used individually, or combined together in elaborate patterns.

Author David Jury lifts the book from just being a basic resource with a concise but thoughtful introduction, and short pieces preceding each section of the book.





You can download complete a zip file of the ornaments from the Laurence King website using a code in the back of the book. Each image is saved as a 1200dpi bitmap – most of them at a fairly decent size.

Driving: The Department of Transport Manual

Is it safe?

We found a copy of an old HMSO book lying around over the weekend, and thought we’d share some of the brilliant images from its pages.

The book was first published in 1969 by the Department of Transport and the Central Office of Information. Our copy is the third edition, from 1979, and the tenth impression, from 1987.

There’s more than a hint of Scarfolk in the photography and captions:

Heading for trouble


Red car

Red car 2

The illustrations are wonderful too:



Feet per second

Dead Ground


The back of the book advertises some films on road safety – we’d love to see DRIVE CAREFULLY DARLING.

Alan Kitching’s A–Z of Letterpress


The good folks at Laurence King have just sent us this lovely new book – Alan Kitching’s A-Z of Letterpress.

It showcases Alan Kitching’s extensive wood-letter fount collection, which he’s amassed and restored over years in his south London print workshop.


The book is divided up alphabetically, with each chapter featuring a single letter shown in up to thirty nine different founts. The chapters are divided up by spreads which each feature an additional full alphabet (so the one above, preceding the A chapter, is Latin Old Style).

This trick of separating out single founts across the whole book prompts you to examine each letterform on its own, and in contrast to the neighbouring designs of the same letter. We have a sneaking suspicion that it might also have been done to discourage people from just scanning in entire alphabets for their own use, rather than, say, going to an actual printer to have something set in actual type.


The book is beautifully printed in five spot colours, onto quite a bulky uncoated stock, giving it a lovely feel in the hand. These images make it look quite large, but actually its roughly A5 size (just a bit squatter).

It was conceived and developed by Alan Kitching in collaboration with Angus Hyland, designed by Alexandre Coco at Laurence King, with a jacket by Pentagram.

a-z_of_letterpress_spread_04 a-z_of_letterpress_spread_05 a-z_of_letterpress_spread_06 a-z_of_letterpress_spread_07

It’s quite a curio of a book. A wonderful historical record of a marvellous collection though to be certain. And the 16 Line Runic Grotesque is utterly delicious.


Excitingly, Laurence King also have a monograph of Kitching’s work in the pipeline, due out next year. Huzzah!

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


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.