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Archived posts: Books

A Smile in the Mind

A-Smile-in-the-mind

We nipped over to The Partners on Wednesday evening for the launch of the revamped A Smile in the Mind – Witty thinking in graphic design.

The book was originally published in 1996 (that’s our grubby copy on the left up above, which we picked up around 1999), and presented a wealth of the sort of graphic design that deals with ideas, play and wit. When we were at college, it was considered a key text for ideas-based design.

With a fresh neon pink coat, the new version has been extensively revised and updated, with over 1,000 examples of witty logos, book covers, posters, illustrations, packaging and photography – about 50% of it new material. And we’re ridiculously chuffed to have our work for Hoxton Street Monster Supplies included in amongst that.

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hsms_0005_HSMS license

hsms_0003_HSMS door signs

hsms_0022_Creeping Dread

hsms_0015_Vague Sense of Unease

hsms_0025_Fang Floss

We thought we’d show a few more pieces from the book here. Up first, a cover for Nabakov’s Lolita, by the offensively talented Jamie Keenan. Quite possibly our favourite bit of graphic design from the last twenty years.

Lolita-jamie-keenan

Sticking with book covers, our studio partner David Pearson’s wonderful cover for Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, from the Penguin Great Ideas series, is rather brilliant too – with the spine of the book duplicated repeatedly across the front cover.

Work-of-Art-Pearson

This logo for The Guild of Food Writers by 300 Million is a perfect example of graphic wit and economy:

guild-of-food-writers

Sticking with food, this pack by Design Bridge for Tiger Nuts is, well, the nuts.

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There’s a good section at the back of the book where various design folk talk through how they came up with an idea, including this corker of a poster by Arnold Schwartzman for the Los Angeles Olympics:

shwartzman-olympics

 

A Smile in the Mind is a fantastic compendium of witty thinking, and a real credit to both Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart who put together the original edition, and Greg Quinton and Nick Asbury who put together the new edition.

You can see a further selection of work from the book (including our stuff) over at Creative Review.

Baddeley Brothers – an account by the Gentle Author

Cover

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.

frontispiece

spread

sales-stand

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envelopes

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

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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.

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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

DA&D2015_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.

pencils

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.

wood_proof

graphite_proof

yellow_proof

white_proof

black_proof

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:

yellow__back_proof

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.

graphic_design_visionaries_cover

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.

graphicdesignvisionaries_milton_glaser

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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.

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graphicdesignvisionaries_a_m_cassandre

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.

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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.

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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

Looking

Red car

Red car 2

The illustrations are wonderful too:

Headlights

Accelerator

Feet per second

Dead Ground

Junction

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

a-z_of_letterpress_front

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.

a-z_of_letterpress_spread_01

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.

a-z_of_letterpress_spread_02

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.

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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.

a-z_of_letterpress_back

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

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.