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Impact 1.0 & 2.0

Unit Editions have just released a two-volume survey of the front covers of design magazines, journals and periodicals – 1.0 (Unit 27) covering 1922–73, and 2.0 (Unit 28) covering 1974–2016. Spread over 768pp it offers ‘a helicopter view of graphic design trends and stylistics backflips’. Starting in 1922, and coming up to date in 2016, it’s a homage to the great design publications of the past (nearly) 100 years. In these two new books you will find the covers of design magazines, journals and periodicals of all kinds. They come from many countries – including Japan, India, Russia, Switzerland, USA and Iran, and they cover many topics – graphic design, typography, architecture, interiors, print, theory and history. But above all, they are brilliant specimens of innovative visual design. We caught up with the books editors Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy to find out more…

Why this book, why a double issue, and why now?

AS: This book began, like so many of our books, with a visit to an archive. Tony Brook came back from a trip to UCA Epsom (part of the University of the Creative Arts), raving about the archive the school has recently acquired. It’s the collection of the famous Amsterdam bookstore, Nijhof and Lee. No longer in existence, the shop was a mecca for designers for many years, and when Warren Lee, one of the founders, retired, his collection of graphic design magazines was acquired by Epsom. Tony came back from his visit with his eyes on stalks. The collection was staggering and, thanks to the generosity of Epsom, it soon became clear that a book was begging to be made.

The double issue came about when we started speaking to friends who had their own “archives” of rare specimens. Suddenly we had too much for one book, and with the time span – 1922 to 2016 – it was obvious that the book could be split logically into two volumes.

Why now? Well, as more and more design writing, reporting and image curating goes online, it seems timely to remind ourselves the debt we all owe to the editors, writers, designers and publishers of printed design journals. Without it’s printed journals, the craft and profession of graphic design would be infinitely poorer.

TB: As Adrian says the project just grew, we started off thinking that there was a something in the subject based on my own collection but soon realised that it was far richer and deeper than we imagined. It seems the perfect time to look backwards and forwards, there are some brilliant innovative new magazines coming through.

Steven Heller writes: “As we head deeper into the age of hand-held devices, covers will become obsolete.” – Do you agree? Or will there still be need for books like these in 50 or 100 years?

AS: Who knows if we will still have a habitable planet in 50 or 100 years, far less printed books, but as long as we’ve got graphic designers, we’ll always have printed matter. But of course, in a world of free online content, printed journals have to work harder than ever to justify their existence – and their cover price! The internet is faster than print and it’s mostly free: but so much online design publishing is gossamer thin, so there will always be a place for reflective and informative design journalism. It will be more niche than ever before, and there will be fewer big circulation mags, but that needn’t be a bad thing.

TB: The book is a tough technology to beat, it isn’t going to die any time soon. The initial impact is still going to be key whether the content is delivered via paper or pixels.

Out of the thousands of covers from the last 100 years how on earth do you go about selecting which to include? What was the criteria?

AS: Early on we realised that we couldn’t include everything, so we fell back on a trusted Unit Editions’ criterion – if we (Tony, the Spin/Unit team and me) admired a publication, then it was in. So the choice is mainly based on personal judgment, but also a desire to represent the range of design publications across international boundaries, and across subject matter. For instance, we agonised over whether to include architectural mags, but in the end we decided to include them, mainly because the covers were so often excellent examples of graphic design.

We ended up with something we didn’t expect – both volumes, when taken as a whole, give the viewer an almost unrivalled timeline of graphic styles and trends. I can’t think of anywhere else where you’d see this more clearly. It runs from 1920s German severity, though the postmodern eclecticism of Émigré in the 1980s, to the plurality of 2016 – you’ve pretty much got a helicopter view of graphic design in the past (nearly) 100 years.

TB: It felt important to represent the sheer scope of what has been made, I think that informed our choices to some degree.

I’m sure like me many buyers will be much more familiar with the covers in Impact 2.0 than 1.0 – do you have a favourite era from these books? and do you think they accurately represent the wider trends and styles evident in design work across the decades?

AS: We worried that 2.0 would be less interesting than 1.0. But we were genuinely surprised to find that 2.0 stands up really well. I thought I’d lean towards the 60s stuff, but there are mags being produced today that are really just as good.

TB: Personally I think there is a sweet spot between the 1960’s and the 1970’s when the language becomes more experimental and dynamic. As you go through the books it reveals the influence of various movements around the world. The way styles ebb and flow is fascinating. You would get a pretty good design education even if these two books were the only ones you owned.

The designers who have work included is a who’s who of superstars (Rand, Garland, Henrion, Brodovitch, Brownjohn, Vignelli, Aicher, Lubalin, Brody etc) – what do you think it is that draws so many talents into the world of editorial/magazines?

AS: Designing the cover of a design magazine has always been a sort of Holy Grail for graphic designers. I asked a few of the people I interviewed in the book about this, and pretty much everyone said that yes, it was a great opportunity, but because the audience was other designers, you had to work twice as hard.

You’re both avid collectors of design ephemera – and you both love print. Do you have favourite titles or covers you just had to include? Any special pieces from your own personal collections make it in?

AS. Yes, some my copies of early Idea magazine made the final cut, and another Japanese mag called Industrial Art News. I also like Stile Industria from Italy, and amongst current mags I’d mention Concrete Flux.

TB. Idea, Octavo, Neue Grafik, TM.

Adrian recently mentioned always aiming to keep photographed content readable on the page. Did you consider going with a larger format for these titles at any point?

AS: When we do a book, we spend more time discussing the format than just about anything else. We agonized over the size of Impact, but in the end we concluded that since magazine covers are bold and eye catching, we didn’t have to worry too much about not being able to read the small print. I think in all cases it’s readable.

Favourite magazine – of all time? And contemporary?

AS: For me, it’s the two Japanese magazines: Idea, of course. But also the wonderfully named and search engine bothering Graphic Design. There were only 100 issues printed and it’s full of good stuff. I’d also say Architectural Review is an undiscovered gem from the 60s. Covers were by leading British designers of the day – most of whom are now forgotten. Coming more up to date, I’m amazed at how fresh Émigré looks. Amongst current mags I really like Graphic (from Korea) and an architecture magazine called Archphoto.

TB: That’s an impossible question, all of the above plus TM, Neue Grafik, Form from then and from now – Eye Magazine, Slanted, ID Pure, Printed pages etc.

Lastly, 2016 has brought new titles, events and products – what can we look forward to from Unit Editions in 2017?

AS. Well, we are in danger of turning into a real publisher! We’ve got a pipeline! In other words we’ve gone from only working on one book at a time, to working on multiple titles. We have books being written and designed by other people. So if you like design books, hold onto your socks, next year is going to be busy!

Read more


New Laurence King titles

Now and again books come across our path here at FFF that we just have to share with you. Since the rise of the graphic design blog, and aggregator sites, the need for ‘overview’ design books has decreased somewhat – which makes coming across good ones all the more exciting. In such books the quality of the content is often reflective of the curator, and in these two instances from Laurence King that quality shines through.

Graphic Design Visionaries is by Caroline Roberts, founder of Grafik magazine, she knows a thing or two about design history having written several books, and in this latest 312 page slab she looks at 75 of the world’s most influential designers, their fascinating personal stories and significant works that have shaped the field.

Arranged in chronological order, the book shows the development of design, from early innovators such as Edward McKnight Kauffer and Alexey Brodovitch to key figures of mid-century Swiss Design and corporate American branding. The book profiles masters of typography, such as Wim Crouwel; visionary magazine designers, such as Leo Lionni and Cipe Pineles; designers who influenced the world of film, such as Saul Bass and Robert Brownjohn; and the creators of iconic poster work, such as Armin Hofmann, Rogério Duarte and Yusaku Kamekura.

Combining insightful text and key visual examples, this is a dynamic and richly illustrated guide to the individuals whose vision has defined the world of graphic design. If you are looking to brush up on your design history, or inspire someone to discover it for themselves, this is a great place to start.

Type: New Perspectives in Typography is edited by the hugely talented leading typographers Henrik Kubel and Scott Williams (better known as A2/SW/HK) and is an A to Z showcase of more than 100 carefully selected contemporary designers, including the best examples of their current work, and also features an introduction by Rick Poynor. These are typographers at the very top of their game, so when they curate, we take note.

Featured designers include David Pearson, Philippe Apeloig and Anthony Burrill, among others, alongside essays by acclaimed design writers Emily King, Paul Shaw, Monika Parrinder and Colin Davies that explore the past and future of type design. This book will encourage and inspire the next generation of designers as well as provide a sourcebook for seasoned designers and educators. It’s a fantastic looking book full of inspiring work.


The 100/100 Beer Project

“There’s something about a beer label: a simple canvas attached to a uniquely appealing product.”

With that thought in mind SB Studio have brought together 100 high-profile designers and illustrators (such as Build, Pentagram, Spin, Manual, Hyperkit, StudioThomson, Jean Jullien, Paul Davis, Hey & Lance Wyman) to decorate the humble beverage, starting with a name for each beginning with SB.

As Nick Asbury explains: “…the game starts: on one level, a purely playful exercise in creative expression; on another level, a distillation of the purpose of design and branding — to give life and personality to the products around us.”

The project in aid of a great cause – the ArtFund, supporting museums and galleries by helping them to buy and display great works of work for everyone to enjoy.

Get yourself a copy


Review: Shaughnessy x Brook

In this second of our year end reviews we’re looking again at publishing, this time focussing on books. Who better to speak to on the subject than the duo responsible for FFF-favourite Unit Editions – Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook. With Manuals 2 [Unit 18] still flying off the virtual shelves we hear their individual reflections, highlights & predictions…

Tell us what it is you do, and why you do it..

AS/ I’m a graphic designer, writer and senior tutor in Visual Communication at RCA, and as one of the co-founders of Unit Editions, I’m also a publisher –but even after five years of Unit, it still sounds odd to write that. Me a publisher? Well, yes, actually. As for why I do what I do? Paranoia, fear and self-doubt.

TB/ I’m a designer at Spin and a (relatively recent) publisher with Unit Editions, I also collect graphic design and have curated a couple of exhibitions. I didn’t have any real choice about the design aspect, it is a vocation; I’m lucky enough to love what I do. The other three facets have happily fallen out of the first.

Can you both give us a couple of personal highlights from the year?

AS/ I’m not very good at looking back. I can barely remember what I did last week, far less think about what was happening in January. In my view, you only look back when you don’t have much to look forward to. There’s never been a time in my life when I haven’t had an immediate future stacked with deadlines, objectives and targets. When I’m in the old folks home with my hearing aid and pacemaker, I might start to look back. Having said that, I’d say that the success of our two Manuals books has been a highlight. Two weeks in Japan was also pretty good. Curating a show of 50 years of graphic design at the RCA was fun. But other than that it has been relentless work, work, and more work.

TB/ It’s been quite a year. I got to visit New Zealand through an invitation to talk at Semi-Permanent. It was a fabulous experience: I got to hang out with the legend that is Dean Poole from Alt group. Work-wise, seeing Manuals 2 in print has been incredibly satisfying, and launching the Spin website was a real highlight. Meeting up with Lance Wyman and Paula Scher was the cherry on top.

You collaborate on Unit Editions, how did that all come about?

AS/ I’d reached a point where I was fed up working with mainstream publishers and was beginning to think about starting my own imprint. I went to the pub with Tony and he said he was also contemplating starting a publishing venture. He had already done some self-publishing so he was ahead of me. But it made lots of sense that we combine our skills and use the knowledge and experience we’d both accumulated as studio owners over many years to start Unit.

TB/ As Adrian mentioned we had a fortuitous meeting where, after the shortest time, we realised that our ambitions were very similar and that our mutual interest and skill sets meant that we could make something work. There was a giant Unit Editions-shaped whole for books that balanced out (hopefully) beautiful design with rich visual and written content.

Read more


Counter-Print: Human Logo

Counter-Print books have released their latest book ‘Human Logo‘. Making the series a trilogy of logo showcase books alongside ‘Monogram Logo’ and ‘Animal Logo’

The latest volume contains over 300 logos in sections such as bodies, hands, hearts, eyes and faces. As usual some of the world’s leading design companies such as; Wolff Olins, Pushpin Group, Hey, Chermayeff & Geismar, Berger & Föhr and many more have contributed their work.

Just in time for Christmas Counter-Print are offering the opportunity to buy all three of our logo books for a special price of £21 (including delivery to the UK).

Get them bought!


Hello I am Erik

We probably don’t have to tell you that Erik Spiekermann is one of the best-known graphic designers in the world. He not only represents German typeface and corporate design like no other, but his work and the companies he has founded have had an huge influence on contemporary graphic design and probably most of our readers as designers. The visual biography Hello, I am Erik is the first comprehensive exploration of Erik’s career, his body of work, and his mindset.

The book includes an impressive list of contributions by Michael Bierut, Neville Brody, Mirko Borsche, Wally Olins, Stefan Sagmeister, Christian Schwartz, Erik van Blokland, and many others.

“The ability to reduce complex ideas to unforgettably simple forms is a remarkable gift. Erik can do it with typefaces, or images, or words and – seemingly – in any language. That is the mark of a great designer, and that is what Erik Spiekermann is.”

Michael Beirut

The book is available directly from Gestalten Books and comes highly recommended by the FFF team!


Spin launches a new portfolio

The London design studio Spin , renowned for their clear & elegant design solutions, have updated their website. Packed with consistent product shots of old and new work and apparently some previously unseen Unit Editions Books. The responsive website makes use of some lovely subtle features like scrolling through images on mouse-over and a visible breadcrumb trail that opens up a sidebar menu.


Counter-Print: Monogram Logo

After last years success of Counter-Print’s Animal Logo book, we were please to receive a press release of their the launch of their latest book ‘Monogram Logo’.

The new book comes in a bigger format with even more examples and an extra 36 pages of excellent monograms and ciphers from around the world.

Designed by Leterme Dowling the collection contains 452 logos from some great studios such as: Bruce Mau Design, Louise Fili, FITCH, BankerWessel, Stefan Kanchev and many, many more.

Monogram Logo is available to purchase from the Counter-Print Shop.


Counter-Print: Animal Logo

Counter-Print’s have just released their latest publication Animal Logo.

The book is a collection of categorised animal logos and symbols from around the globe. Containing 266 logos from some of the world’s greatest designers and companies including; Total Identity, Lance Wyman, Build, Stockholm Design Lab, Minale Tattersfield, Stefan Kanchev, Kari Piippo Oy and many more.

Available directly at Counter-print for only £7.50. Get it bought!

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