Blue Pencil no. 29—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: booklet

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design
(London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012)

Commissioning editor: Emilia Terragni
Project editors: Alanna Fitzpatrick, Andrew Ruff and Davina Thackara

Authors [inside front page]
There are no authors listed for A015 Life and Opinions of Tristram ShandyF001 George Bernard Shaw Series, F052 Mercedes-Benz, and K005 Expo 85. Multiple authors are listed for E005 Chanel (Amelia Black and Riikka Kuittinen), E006 Bauhaus Programmes (Sony Devabhktunil, David Hyde, Paul Shaw and Graham Twemlow), E028  The New Yorker (Jody Boehnert and Ina Saltz), E037 Depero Futurista (Davina Thackara and Richard Weston), E062 Vogue (Véronique Vienne and Zoe Whitley), and G016 Herman Miller (Frederico Duarte, Riikka Kuittinen and Paul Shaw). For a full list of who wrote what see Blue Pencil no. 27.

Foreword [p. 04]
“As a leading publisher in the visual arts, Phaidon Press is renowned for producing beautiful books—the  innovative and stunning graphics of which enhance and support their content.”—this is excessive self-congratulation that has no place in a Foreword.

“The Archive contains 500 works created since the advent of mechanical reproduction—from the first book printed with movable type in Korea and the Gutenberg Bible, to today’s most cutting-edge magazines, advertisements and posters.”—the Archive actually contains far more than 500 works since many entries include related images (e.g. the card for F015 Internationale Ausstellung Kunst der Werbung has the 1931 poster by that name designed by Max Burchartz on the front but on the back it has two additional posters by him, one from 1931 for Handform-Standard-Beschläge and one from 1935 for Columbusschloß.)

“Creative people like to be surrounded by beautiful, inspirational things: we all collect the things we like—hanging them on the wall, or keeping them on our desks and changing them in relation to what we are working on, or simply with our mood. For this reason, instead of using a conventional book format, we have arranged the content of the Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design in single, large-format cards.”—this is a depressingly middlebrow rationale for the box format: graphic design history as interior decoration. Why bother with commissioning texts for each work of graphic design if the only purpose for reproducing them is to provide visual inspiration for “creative people”?

“An ID code, given at the top of the cards [on the reverse], identifies each of the designs. The letter represents a decade (except for the ‘A’ section, which covers designs from the fourteenth century to the end of the eighteenth century[,] and the ‘B’ section, which includes nineteenth-century designs) and the numbers that follow are sequential, allowing the reader to observe the developments and trends of graphic design over time.”—quick, which decade does G represent?

Title Index [pp. 05–12]
The index has six columns: Title, Designer, Category, Client, Date and ID. There is none for Author. Placing ID at the far right is inconvenient for the reader trying to find out where in the box a specific title (work of graphic design) is located. There is no ID index.

Titles are inconsistently capitalized (e.g. E058 Die Neue Linie not die neue linie as the magazine rendered its name, but I038 n+m in keeping with its masthead). For the most part, capitalization seems to follow English titling practice—even when the title is in German (e.g. E050 Die Neue Typographie and not as it should be Die neue Typographie). But then there is F019 Adolf der Übermensch schluckt Gold und redet Blech which partially follows the typography of the poster—to be accurate it should be “ADOLF, DER ÜBERMENSCH: Schluckt Gold und redet Blech”); and E052 5 Finger Hat Die Hand which on the poster is “5 Finger hat die hand”.

How the titles of each work are determined is a mystery. There are three different renditions of designs for the Olympic Games. I027 1964 Tokyo Olympics is the title for a series of posters that say “Tokyo 1964” only on them. I039 Munich Olympic Games is the title for the identity system of the 1972 Munich Olympics whose posters say “München 1972”. I054 Mexico City Olympics 1968 is the title for identity system whose posters proclaim “Mexico 1968”. For records and CDs the musical group is part of the title, but for books authors are sporadically included in the title (e.g. B017 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll but N003 Hella Jongerius: Misfit). A swastika adorns the front of E002 but its title is National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Does K010 Original Macintosh Icons need “Original” since a date is part of the basic information?

Some foreign language titles are translated into English but others are not (e.g. F005 Fulfilled Plan, Great Work vs. E007 Dlya Golosa by Vladimir Mayakovsky for two Soviet designs—the latter is better known as “For the Voice”). The French Guide Michelin is C003 Michelin Guide. Foreign language titles are alphabetized by article (e.g. D018 Il Pleut is under I and G023 Le Modulor under L) but not English language titles (e.g. J005 The Rolling Stones is under R). Some titles are slightly different due to differences between British and American translations (e.g. E060 Man with the Movie Camera rather than Man with a Movie Camera—but why is it in English at all?).

Punctuation is also inconsistent, sometimes seeming to follow British style and sometimes American style (e.g. F028 St Moritz vs. F030 Gebr. Fretz AG Zürich).

This inconsistency of titling hinders attempts to look up specific works in the index. Who would look under N for the swastika, under O for the Macintosh icons, or under P for About Two Squares (Pro Dva Kvadrata)?

• “U & lc” should be “U&lc”

Designer Index [pp. 13–21]
Names of designers are rendered inconsistently. Sometimes they follow the way in which designers referred to themselves during their careers (e.g. Mike Daines, Gene Federico, Ken Garland, Fritz Gottschalk, Bob Noorda, Jamie Reid and so on), but other times they are pompously done in birth certificate or baptism style (e.g. Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, Max Hubert Innocenz Burchartz, Oswald Bruce Cooper, Willem Hendrik Crouwel, Frank Shepard Fairey, Angiolo Giuseppe Fronzoni, Alan Gerard Fletcher, Arthur Eric Rowton Gill, Ashley Edward Havinden and so on). Oddly, the pretentious full names are not used on the cards. There Angiolo Giuseppe Fronzoni is appropriately A.G. Fronzoni.

Design firms are ignored in favor of individual designers (e.g. I010 Chase Manhattan Bank credited to Ivan Chermayeff alone rather than to Chermayeff & Geismar; H032 Push Pin Graphic attributed solely to Seymour Chwast; or I036 Plastics Today credited to Colin Forbes instead of Fletcher/Forbes/Gill). This is not to say that such credit is incorrect, only that the design firm should be listed as well.

Why is there no listing for “Unknown” when that is Designer option in the Title Index? It would still be useful to be able to quickly see which items in the Archive are not credited to a specific individual.

• Title is incomplete for Ernst Keller entry: “Ausstellungen Walter Gropius, [Rationelle Bebauungsweisen]” p. 16
• Saul Steinberg should not be listed as the lone designer for E028 The New Yorker when the card also includes cover designs by Christoph Niemann, Art Spiegelman and Bob Stakke.
• Bob Noorda should be credited only with the New York City Subway Sign System and not with the Map (I040).
• Aaron Burns and Ed Rondthaler should not be listed as co-designers with Herb Lubalin of U&lc.
• Christopher Plantin should not be credited with the design of the typeface Plantin.
• “Georges Auriol” should be “George Auriol”
• “Garamond” should be “Garamont”
• “Lucas de Groot” should be “Luc(as) de Groot”
• “Edouard Hoffmann” should be “Eduard Hoffmann”

Client Index [pp. 21–28]
Why is there no listing for “Self-Commissioned” when it is an option in the Title Index and Design Index? There are 63 instances of items with this designation—thirteen  of them typefaces. They are as disparate as A006 Lo Presente Libro, a calligraphy manual by Giovanantonio Tagliente, B022 Venn Diagram, D004 Edel-Grotesk from Wagner & Schmidt, F020 Futurismo magazine by Enrico Prampolini, and J018 Jazz, Niklaus Troxler’s Jazz Festival Willisau posters. Why isn’t E037 Depero Futurista considered to be “self-commissioned” even if published by Dinamo Azari? or H032 Push Pin Graphic where Push Pin Studio is listed as the client? or A021 Bodoni where Ferdinand I, Duke of Parma is considered to be the client? (It is accurate for many of Bodoni’s books but not for his typefaces). “Self-commissioned” is a loaded phrase that carries with it a sense of experimentation that is sometimes accurate, but often not. I would argue that the designation should be replaced either by the neutral “none” or with the name of the designer or his business (e.g. Jazz Festival Willisau in Troxler’s case).

The definition of client is sometimes puzzling. While it is obvious that Mobil Oil Corporation is the client for its logo (I035 Mobil) and McGraw-Hill Inc. is the client for its paperback books (I003 McGraw-Hill Paperbacks), there are other situations that are less clear. For instance, George S. Rosenthal is listed as the client for H002 Portfolio and both Alexey Brodovitch and Frank Zachary are credited as its designers. But the idea for the magazine originated with Zachary, who asked Brodovitch to design it, and then the two got Rosenthal to finance it. Kynoch Press, for Imperial Chemical Industries is rightly described as the client for I036 Plastics Today. But J027 Bell Centennial, an analogous situation, has AT&T as the client and no mention of Mergenthaler Linotype. Just as ICI hired Kynoch Press who, in turn, hired Colin Forbes so too did AT&T commission Mergenthaler who commissioned Matthew Carter.

Publishers (and type foundries) are particularly difficult to describe as clients since they often receive projects and act as distributors rather than as commissioners. This is certainly the case for George S. Rosenthal, Dinamo Azari, Jean Josèphe Barbou (A016 Manuel Typographique), Bauersche Giesserei (E029 Futura), FontShop (F017 FF DIN), and FontFont International (L011 Thesis). B008 Bradshaw’s Railway Guides (1841–1861) are labeled self-commissioned even though they bear the name of Bradshaw and Blacklock as publisher while F004 Mise en Page: theory and practice of layout published by Maison Tolmer is also described as self-commissioned. Yet the “client” for H032 Push Pin Graphic, a self-generated project, is rightly labeled as Push Pin Studio. And the same is true of B032 The Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men and D009 Zang Tumb Tumb where the Kelmscott Press and Edizioni Futuriste di ‘Poesia’, respectively, are credited as clients (publishers) even though the former was synonymous with William Morris and the latter with F.T. Marinetti.

• The client (publisher) for E028 The New Yorker should be F-R Publications (1925–1985). Condé Nast Publications did not become the publisher until 1999.
• The client (publisher) for I059 Whole Earth Catalog: Access to Tools should be the Portola Institute rather than Stewart Brand.
•Instead of Jann Simon Wenner, the client for I052 Rolling Stone (1967–1982) should be Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. and for K023 Rolling Stone (1987–2001) it should be Wenner Media.

Type foundries are identified in the Client index and the Archive as a whole. There is the Baskerville Type Foundry and the Didot Foundry, both entities which never existed as such; the Rudhard Type Foundry, the Klingspor Foundry and Haas Type Foundry as inexact English translations of  Rudhard’sche Giesserei, Gebr. Klingspor and Haas’che Schriftgiesserei respectively; and the untranslated Englische Schriftschneiderei und Gravieranstalt. The Bauhaus is inexplicably cited as the client for E026 Bayer Universal and E033 Kombinationsschrift, both of which surely qualify as self-commissioned projects.

• The client for Io41 OCR-A and B [sic] should be the American National Standards Institute for OCR-A and ECMA (European Computer Manufacturers Assocation) for OCR-B instead of the Monotype Corporation.
• The client for I055 Frutiger should be Aéroport de Paris instead of Charles de Gaulle Airport. There is also a typographic glitch in the listing with “Airport” appearing under “Adrian Frutiger” in the Designer column.
• The client for F017 FF DIN should be FontFont International not FontShop.

National and state governments are imprecisely described as the clients for several items (e.g. D014 People’s Charity for German Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees—German Government rather than Volksspende für die deutschen Kriegs-und-Zivil-Gefangenen; F005 Fulfilled Plan, Great Work—Soviet Government; or H008 NIE!—Polish Government) rather than specific political agencies. For example, the client for J026 I[heart]NY should be New York State Department of Commerce instead of simply New York State. And the This is properly done with F049 Rural Electrification Administration which credits the Department of Agriculture, Rural Electrification Administration as the client.

• The client for B039 Job Cigarette Papers should be Joseph Bardou Company instead of JOB.
• The client for B043 Ver Sacrum should be Der Vereinigung Bildender Kuenstler Österreichs rather than Vienna Secession.
• The client for E041 Berkel should be W.A. Van Berkel and not The U.S. Slicing Machine Co.
• The client for H009 Watch that Child! should be Automobil Club der Schweiz ACS instead of Swiss Automobile Club.
• The client for I004 Coldene should be Pharma-Craft Co.
• The client for L034 AIGA Detroit should be AIGA Detroit and Cranbrook Academy of Art instead of Sagmeister Inc.
• “Olivetti” should be “Olivetti SpA” and “Pirelli” should be “Pirelli & C. SpA” (in accordance with H. Berthold AG, Apple Inc., et al)
• “Campari” should be “Gruppo Campari”

Category Index [pp. 28–36]
The categories (and number of items in each) are Advertising (24), Books (81), Book Covers (9), Film Graphics (5), Identity (21), Information Design (25), Logos (44), Magazines and Newspapers (77), Magazine Covers (20), Money (3), Packaging (5), Posters (116), Records and CDs (6), Symbols (7) and Typefaces (57). The imbalance of items—116 posters but only six record/CD covers and five examples of packaging—is in keeping with the graphic design histories of Meggs et al.

Some observations:
• 34 books are on the visual arts: art, architecture, design, typography and photography
• four of the five examples of Film Graphics are by Saul Bass
• 23 posters are for commercial products (e.g. liquor, shoes)
• 20 typefaces were designed after 1984
• three of the five examples of Packaging Graphics are for cigarettes and another is for cigarette papers

• There is a dangling comma after “Fann Street Foundry” in the Typeface category listing under Client

General Index [pp. 36–38]
“This index details only general information.” Essentially, this is an index of some people, organizations, institutions, art movements, etc. that are mentioned in the texts of the cards. Each entry is accompanied solely by an ID number.

Instead of the four index charts for Titles, Designers, Clients and Categories Phaidon could have simplified and improved things by sticking with a traditional index format, replacing the usual page number with its ID number. For instance:

Harling, Robert F047 (magazine/newspaper, 1936)
NIE! H008 (poster, 1952)
Polish Government H008 (poster, 1952)
Shenval Press F047 (magazine/newspaper, 1936)
Trepkowski, Tadeusz H008 (poster, 1952)
Typography F047 (magazine/newspaper, 1936)