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Tag Archives: Graphic Design

It’s a Small World After All

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Although it sports an unassuming, slapdash cover, Trademark Designs of the World is one of the most stimulating books I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. First published in 1975, the slim paperback is the result of an offbeat collecting quest done by Japanese designer Yusaku Kamekura (1915-1997). All it amounts to, really, is a bunch of black and white company trademarks – 699 of them, to be exact – designed throughout the flourishing, consumerist post-World War II Modernist period. Kamekura arranges each trademark with great care and precision, with subtle numbered annotations next to each one (their credits and countries of origin are printed in an index in the back).

This book contains hardly any text, just page after page of ’50s-’60s Midcentury Modern Graphic Coolness. Although a preface by the famous designer Paul Rand might indicate that Kamekura’s collection is centered on iconic American trademarks (such as Rand’s IBM logo), most of the contents, surprisingly, are European and wonderfully obscure. While the pages contain a lot of the kind of austere, abstract stuff one would expect, most of the trademarks have a playful vibe, cleverly distilling letters, heraldry, and animal shapes to their most basic forms. Kamekura’s well-thought-out groupings of various trademarks on each page also inspire. I still find new, exciting stuff from paging through this book, despite having it for several months now. As a matter of fact, it’s proving to be a great resource for the visuals in my own upcoming how-to book.

In 1981, Trademark Designs of the World was reprinted as a low-cost paperback by Dover. While that edition has gone out of print, the book can be found cheaply at Amazon.com or Ebay.com. Highly recommended, folks!

Sun and rooster logos.

Sun and rooster logos.

Logos based on traditional European heraldry designs.

Logos based on traditional European heraldry designs.

Logo for Droste & Sohn, a German canned beef company.

Logo for Droste & Sohn, a German canned beef company.

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Logo for Hotel Sherman.

Logo for Hotel Sherman.

Fantastic spread with animal logos.

Fantastic spread with animal logos.

Pinwheel and abstract logos, artfully arranged.

Pinwheel and abstract logos, artfully arranged.

A favorite - London Mystery Magazine logo by  Eric Frazer.

A favorite – London Mystery Magazine logo by Eric Frazer.

Industrial objects, incorporated into modern logos.

Industrial objects, incorporated into modern logos.

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Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig


I purchased Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig as a birthday gift to myself last year. While the imagery in this beautifully done artist’s monograph impressed me right away, I didn’t get around to reading Steven Heller’s comprehensive text until this summer (Heller was assisted on this book by Lustig’s widow, Elaine, who wrote the introduction). Although death at the young age of forty snuffed out his career, Alvin Lustig still stands out as a design icon and one of the more outstanding proponents of modernism. It’s revealed not just with his famous, inventive New Directions book covers, but in everything he did. This book delves into all facets of a life that was sadly short-lived, yet brimming with innovation.

While Lustig remains best known for his graphic design, this book goes to great lengths to prove that he was the 20th Century equivalent of a Renaissance Man. Lustig’s devotion to the purest tenets of Modernism extended not just to graphic design, but also interior design, architecture, furniture, education and theory. Following a short biography, Heller structures the book by discipline (print design, three dimensional design, education, and theory). Like most Chronicle books, the text is supplemented with plenty of beautifully reproduced visuals (including dozens of those fabulous book covers) to linger over. What a talent! One definitely gets a sense of Lustig’s passion for design – and an undercurrent of urgency. Lustig accomplished more in twenty years than many get to do in a lifetime.

Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig was published by Chronicle in 2010. Click here to purchase at Amazon.com.

A sampling of Lustig’s many fantastic New Directions book covers, 1947-55.

The modern and primitive blend in his fabric and interior design.

Graphic identity and interiors for Monte Factor, Ltd. clothing store, 1947.

Playful interoffice memo letterhead for Look magazine, 1944.

More iconic book jacket designs for New Directions, 1946-49.

The cool endpapers are based on Lustig’s 1947 Incantation fabric pattern.