Friday, 13 February 2015

Making their mark

The Taschen logo book.

Any professional designer probably has a few logo books handy for reference and from my experience they can be divided into two types: those that are just full of dull, unimaginative marks that show no signs of creativity (and with current software it's so easy to churn them out) and those, like this book, that reveal well thought out designs that have stood the test of time.

The author has devised a simple, straightforward layout for the hundred companies, mostly American or European.  Each starts on a left-hand page with a few hundred words about their history and specific details regarding the logo and changes over the years.  The right-hand page shows how the logo has changed over time with several historical examples and nicely these are dated and frequently the designer or design company is named.  Many of the designs run over onto the next spread with graphics of them in use.

The book is a handy size (check out the Product Details above) well printed though it does have the quirk of the Contents spread printed on yellow paper with white numbers next to the black company names.  The white is unreadable in a domestic lighting environment.

The perfect complement to Logo Life is Taschen's Logo Book, a thick, chunky title with six thousand logos all in color on 776 pages (ISBN 978 3836534130)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Swissness of things

The first book looked at graphic design.  ISBN 978 3037783993

This the second book of Swiss design sponsored by the Museum fur Gestaltung in Zurich. The first title covered graphic design, this book has a much broader scope looking at product design though it does concentrate more on consumer rather commercial products. The book is divided into decades and because some design trends and style don't stop and start so neatly some of the essays look at their subject in a broader way, for example in the chapter devoted to the 1930s Arthur Ruegg writes about 'The 'New' light: 100 years of Swiss lighting design'. The ground breaking product exhibition 'Die gute form' created by Max Bill in 1949 is another example of design that influenced designers (and the public) in the following decades.

Each decade starts with a mini photo portfolio followed by products that get a page each with relevant text and captions. The illustrated essays are mixed in with these product pages. I thought the choice of illustrations (about seven hundred) throughout the book was excellent, products are shown in use plus studio shots, designer concept drawings and graphics connected to the product.

Like the other book on graphic design this one is beautifully designed and printed, the upright shape of both books give them an air of credibility. The back pages have a very comprehensive bibliography followed by an Index and biographies of the sixteen contributors. I think it's worth mentioning the translation by Jennifer Taylor, she has done a first-class job turning the original text into everyday English.

The perfect overview of Swiss design culture over the decades.

Monday, 2 February 2015


The latest logo (bottom right) looks very flat compared to the 2010 version (bottom middle).

According to the book he is Major Quality and his sweetheart Miss Sweetly.

This is really Logo Life lite (ISBN 978 9063692605).  That book with a hundred  company logos shown historically (some are in this book, too) was much more interesting than this one, least for designers.  Tasty stories is more of a casual presentation of twenty-three company logos and PR histories of the companies.   The brands are all big name food companies from Europe with eight American ones. 

What I found intriguing looking at the various logo changes over the years is that some of the newer designs don't necessarily look better than a logo from the recent past.  The current Douwe Egberts seems to lack any sparkle when compared to the 2010 design, Quality Street chocolates (now owned by Nestle) have a dull looking mark compared to the one used during the nineties.  On the other hand the latest Duvel beer logo, still using the traditional black letter type, looks brilliant.  A feature throughout the pages is seeing logos large.  Page eighty-one has two from Kellogg's, one from 1970 and the other 2012, only a typographer would be able to point out the very slight differences.

Worth buying if you can find it cheap enough but Logo Life is much, much better.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

A Neue Grafik version

The forty-eight page magazine format publication that comes with the set.

At last, a welcome reprint of this famous but short-lived Swiss magazine. Anyone who knows their design/typographic history will have read about the publication and maybe even seen a copy. It's reputation has grown over the decades despite a small circulation and it wasn't really professionally edited or promoted though the four editors, all designers, bought an enthusiasm and love of graphic creativity to each issue.

The reprint is certainly a handsome job. A study box holds the seventeen copies (issues seventeen and eighteen were published as one in February 1965). The original magazine used a 150 screen, this reprint uses a 200 screen and copies each page properly using line and tone rather than screening the whole page. An additional forty-eight page book has background essays about New Graphic Design and its influence around the world, biographies of the four editors and an Index to the issues.

I think Lars Muller are to be congratulated for reprinting this famous (least among designers) publication and making its contents available to a new audience.