Creative director Blair Thomson founded brand design agency Believe In back in 1996, and since then he and his team have worked hard to deliver provocative and engaging work. But there’s another string to Blair’s creative bow, which is his passion for stamps. Having developed a love for them at a young age Blair has set up the aptly named Graphilately, a beautifully curated Instagram account that houses his personal collection, which he told us all about back in April.
Knowing his penchant for collecting we were keen to have a rifle through Blair’s bookshelf to see what kind of gems he has proudly on display. To be expected there’s a stamp album, but with packaging design, modernist architecture, and even rock band Kiss making an appearance his bookshelf is a healthy, eclectic mix of inspiration.
Jeff Kitts: KISSTORY I+II
In the late 70s I lived in Australia and Kiss were huge over there. I imagine Beatlemania in the 60s was the equivalent to Kiss hysteria in Oz. Needless to say, as a nine-year-old this had a profound influence on me. The mystery, the characters, the marketing — and of course the music. These are actually two individual books, but I’m going to count them as a set. Released in the mid-90s when Kiss donned their face-paint once again, Volume I covers the band’s history and Volume II covers their merchandising and brand. The production is beautiful (unlike the design and layout inside). At nearly A3 in size they weigh a ton (over 400 pages each). My fascination with Kiss has remained constant ever since. I’d say it was probably the starting point for my whole love affair with design and brands.
Stanley Gibbons: Strand Stamp Album
My dad bought me this album when I was around six or seven. He hinged lots of spare stamps into it from his own collection. Many of these would come from my grandmother (on my mother’s side) in the UK, who was also an avid collector. It’s safe to say I was obsessed looking through this book, from the world map at the start to the wonderful and colourful designs (particularly the more simple ones with typographic touches). Many an hour would be spent poring over them imagining far flung places and connections to my UK and Canadian ancestry. Today I have become associated with my graphic stamp collecting and curating, and this original album is wholly responsible.
Greg Durrell: Kramer
Burton Kramer is without a doubt one of my all-time design heroes. Being Canadian and hailing from Toronto I subconsciously became indoctrinated by Mr Kramer’s work from an early age. From his stamp designs for Canada Post (also in my Strand album) to his identities for Canada’s main TV and radio stations and his signage and identity work, he ultimately informed my love for Modernism and typographically led design. This book is a print on demand publication by renowned Canadian designer Greg Durrell (famous for his work with the Canadian Olympic team). It features all the great examples and a lovely interview with the man. Being a fairly early example of digital print it’s not the most amazing print production, but the work still shines through. There is an ongoing rumour of a film following up this book.
Jürgen Joedicke: Architecture Since 1945
Anyone who knows me knows my long time obsession with Modernist architecture and concrete structures. This is no doubt because of my Toronto upbringing and my subsequent teenage years spent in Portsmouth, hanging out in my friend’s shop in the Tricorn Centre (amongst other brutes). I own many books on this subject but I particularly love this one because it was published in 1969, a time that some consider to be the prime period of the movement. It includes many great black and white images, with informal supporting text giving a real sense of the progress and ambition from that era. The light grey linen cover debossed and foiled with Akzidenz Grotesk is the icing on the cake.
Walter Herdeg: Graphis Packaging 3
I have many books on packaging design, but this (along with Graphis Packaging 4) is the ultimate. Published in 1977, it’s filled with example after example of beautiful work. It shows how design, when it’s not busy chasing trends, can really stand the test of time. It inspires me to believe that, if we do our job right, we can create packaging that stands apart for all the right reasons and becomes a key ingredient in a product’s quality and success. Too often, mass-market products are short changed in the design stakes, and that’s a crime. You should always aspire to create something that is accessible, that fits with the product inside perfectly, and where every detail is considered and resolved.
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