There’s some really great design books being published these days from publishers of all shapes and sizes. And then there are Unit Editions books. When Lance Wyman: The Monograph landed with a thud on my desk a few weeks ago I knew I was in for a treat, I’d been looking forward to it all year, but even my high expectations were quickly surpassed. As a huge fan of mid-century modern identity design, particularly that from U.S. designers, this book already stood a good chance of ticking all my boxes, and it delivers on all fronts – its full of beautiful work you’ve probably never seen before – its presentation is generous and does its subject matter justice – and of course it’s brilliantly written and designed as an object (design by Spin).
Adrian & Tony share editorial credit so I spoke to them both to find out a bit more…
FFF: Why Wyman?
TB: I have been a Lance fan for a long time. In fact I had a hand in a relatively early appearance of his in the UK. I was asked by the D&AD on behalf of the, then, President Tony Davidson, to suggest an graphic designer for a series of D&AD President’s lectures and I put Lance’s name forward. He was his normal self-effacing self, he’s such a smart, switched on guy and there is never a smile far away.
I think the thing that excited me personally about doing the book was the opportunity to shine a light on his lesser known work. Eyes always light up when the Mexico Olympics are mentioned, and quite right too but he is so much more than that, his career has been overwhelming in many ways, and he is still actively designing, still making great work and is, in every way, a true great. The thinking behind our approach to making the book was to focus on and draw out the formal beauty of his work, the warmth and wit are readily available to any viewer, but it can sometimes be missed how elegant and powerful his work is.
FFF: Do you think this monograph goes some way to putting Lance in his rightful place (in peoples minds) as a designer of huge merit, talent and importance?
AS: I really hope so, because he is a somewhat neglected and overlooked figure – especially by the design world elites. I have a theory that this is because he is the great ‘public’ designer of our age. What I mean by this is that everything he does is – to use his phrase – ‘out in the street’. So no exquisite identities for cool art galleries, or work for highbrow clients. Instead, he has nearly always worked for public institutions – Mexico Olympics, Mexico City Metro, Minnesota Zoo, etc. – where his work is seen (and used) by millions. To maintain the highest standards of design, and still manage to create work for a mass audience is really, really difficult. But that’s exactly what Lance Wyman does. I hope our book opens people’s eyes to his genius. We can all learn a lot from him.
FFF: How long did the process take of putting together this book?
AS: Over a year of hard work from start to finish. Tony and I spent a week with him in New York last summer and photographed his entire archive and interviewed him at length. Then it was back to London and many hundreds of hours editing, designing, retouching, and finally putting the book together and getting it printed and distributed.
FFF: Did you allow the work to dictate the format/shape/size of the book? (The squat format beautifully frames so much of the work).
AS: The square format came from Lance himself. He rather shyly ’suggested’ it. He didn’t interfere in the design or editorial process – he trusted Tony and me to do a good job. Initially Tony was hesitant about the square format, but if you notice, it’s not exactly square, so it was a happy compromise.
FFF: If it sells out can you imagine offering a reprint in a smaller format like with Lubalin?
AS: No plans at this stage. Initial response has been fantastic – but it’s early days. The deluxe edition sold out almost immediately, and the ‘normal’ edition is trucking along nicely. We’ll investigate the possibilities of a second edition when we get close to selling out.
FFF: Who’s next on your hitlist of figures of historical importance (as opposed to modern/current practitioners) and when will you be making another announcement as to whats coming up next year?
AS: We have a very long wish list. Some of them will happen. Others will fall by the wayside. We have already announced books on Universal Everything and Morag Myerscough. But there are some corkers in the pipeline. Including one that we will be announcing next week. Stand by . . .
Go treat yourself, or put it on your Christmas list!
Edition of 2000
Hardback, black cover and white foil
Two paper stocks
CMYK + Pantone
280mm x 250mm