Graphic Design Archive

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    We already praised Made Thought’s considered G . F Smith rebrand to the skies earlier this week but hot on the heels of the announcement we discovered this terrific book too. Throughout the overhaul of its look and feel, the paper company has been obsessed with promoting its story, justifiably proud of George Frederick Smith’s founding principles and the way they endure in a contemporary commercial climate.

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    As mainstream publishers go, few enjoy a design standing as respected as Penguin, and that is largely down to David Pearson. His brilliance will be given due prominence at a show at London’s Kemistry Gallery next month with his bold and communicative book jacket design for Penguin taking centre stage, alongside work for Éditions Zulma and a few other clients.

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    Swiss type foundry Grilli Type have just released GT Sectra, a bespoke typeface based on the calligraphic forms of a broad nib pen. Originally designed for Swiss news magazine Reportagen, GT Sectra was designed to be ornate in its construction, yet refined enough to be comfortably legible when used in long-form journalism. As a result the Grilli Type’s greatest efforts were spent refining and standardising the face beyond the remit of a traditional serif, paying particular attention to the proportions of the letterforms and the integration of capital letters. The resulting font families are beautifully angular – dispensing with curves almost completely – and distinctive for their obvious modernity despite being grounded in more traditional typographic practice.

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    And so as Secret 7” draws to a close for another year, it’s always interesting to keep an eye on the big reveal. The sleeves went on sale anonymously on Record Store Day at the weekend, but after that the organisers open up about who did what. So peruse some of those sleeves designed by creatives we know and love below, from Paul Smith and Jeremy Deller to former It’s Nice That Graduates Sarah Maycock and Pat Bradbury.

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    We can all pretend that we don’t care that much about design awards but the truth is that it’s always interesting to see who wins what; particularly when it comes to the Design Museum’s prestigious Designs of the Year. This morning the seven category winners were announced and they are as below; the overall winner will be announced on 30 June and the show continues until 25 August.

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    Art director Sue Murphy wears her geekery proudly on her sleeve. “I’m a nerd about a lot of things,” she announces on her Good Design Is Good Business blog, “one area in particular is design.” While working on the IBM account for Ogilvy, she was bowled over by how much beautiful graphic work the company had produced over the past 100 years but realised that not much of it was readily available online.

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    In an age defined by digital, us print proponents are fond of harking on about the beauty, tactility and ultimately irreplaceable wonders of paper. But for a hugely-respected paper company like G . F Smith that argument is one they have to try and win on a very real, daily basis.

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    French designer Benoit Challand is more than happy to test the boundaries of just what typography can do; his portfolio is full of projects which see him manipulate lettering to test new ideas, whether that be through 3D illustration, design or CGI.

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    Any kind of graphic design related to the Olympics can be fraught with challenges – just ask the folk over at Wolff Olins about the London 2012 furore – but maybe the pressure is slightly less intense when it comes to the Games’ winter iteration.

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    Wow! This is such nice work. Visual identities, posters, books and brochures have never looked so cutting edge and friendly at the same time. Eps51 (cool name) have the great ability to be able to combine classic, historic imagery and typography with modern flourishes to build up one of the richest portfolios I’ve seen in ages. Not only is it rich, it’s really interesting. With a lot of design portfolios you get an idea that they’re “cool” and everything but you don’t necessarily see the substance behind the nice fades and gilded type. The Eps51 site gives you a friendly, informative blurb about each one of their worthwhile projects that convey not just a hell of a lot of design knowledge, but also a true passion for what they do. The bonus is that they’re looking for freelancers, go, go, go!

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    As publicity stunts go, here’s one that totally floats our boat. Stationery company Moo.com have launched a new range, and to promote it they have created business cards and letterheads for a host of famous names; from Charles Darwin and William Shakespeare to James Bond creator Ian Fleming and US founding father Benjamin Franklin.

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    Stamps deserve to be emblazoned with heroes. Remember when artist Steve McQueen made a series of soldiers killed in Afghanistan? or when the Royal Mail chose to promote classic characters from British children’s television? It’s the perfect medium with which to send national treasures across the globe. Even if you only ever use the postal system when writing your grandma a postcard.

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    As far as we can tell the only criteria Leif Podhajsky has for collaborating with a musical artist is their current level of cool. A swift scroll through his now expansive portfolio reveals nothing but exquisite imagery for the very finest artists of the moment. Usually he seems to work for musicians on the cusp of global success (Foals, Tame Impala and Lykke Li being perfect cases in point) but his latest collaboration is with someone much more established; Kelis.

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    Rotterdam-based design studio Studio Beige might go by a moniker which calls to mind a mindless stretch of nondescript off-white, but their portfolio proves the work they make to be anything but.

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    There’s great anecdote in Rick Poynor’s introduction to Think In Colour, a celebration of Belgian graphic designer Hugo Puttaert and his Visionandfactory studio. In 2010 Hugo was commissioned to produce a poster for a contemporary art exhibition in Aalst but the clients eventually decided they didn’t like it and rejected it. No matter; Hugo paid for it to be printed himself and then had it flyposted across the city on the eve of the show. “Those who believe in the medium’s potential,” Rick notes shrewdly, “have no alternative but to keep pushing.”

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    If you’re into hand-drawn type then look away now in case you wet yourself with excitement. A quick visit to collaborative blog Friends of Type last week was enough to show us that they have been very busy in the last few years since we posted about them. Well, when I say busy I don’t mean busy as in staring at a screen all day like a chump, but busy making beautiful letter-pressed posters and examples of swooping, colourful letterforms.

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    There’s not many people we write about on here who I can intro by announcing that I’ve seen their genitals, but wonderfully-named Australian Wade Jeffree is one such creative. The Australian designer is now based in New York city where he works at Sagmeister & Walsh (for whom he stripped down as part one of the studio’s legendary naked promo images). But let’s leave little Wade out of this and focus instead on his other talents.

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    We’ve been well aware of the talents London-based studio Inventory for some years and after a while, consistency inescapably slips into taking their skills for granted. “Lovely new stuff from Inventory again…” But since they’ve just given their website a bit of a tweak to better showcase their work, we decided it was the perfect time to catch up with director Robert Boon.

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    You can’t blame me for being drawn in by the overwhelming presence of fruit in designer and art director Leta Sobierajski’s portfolio. There’s a lot of it. There’s also of meat, cheese and geometric shapes, but that’s neither here nor there – it’s the fruit we’re fixated on.

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    Hey Studio always impress us with their consistently superb work. Their evolution over the past few years from die-hard champions of Swiss Modernism to creators of truly versatile work has delighted us, and it’s wonderful to see them grow into their creative potential. That said, we still really love their modernist posters, which is good for us as they’re about to go on display at Mad Shop in Barcelona from 11 April until 5 June 2014. There you’ll be able to see a huge variety of Hey’s poster projects, from their dynamic work for Film Commission Chile to recent pieces for ESPN Barcelona. Nice!

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    Brighten The Corners have excellent pedigree when it comes to working with Anish Kapoor. Who can forget the dazzlingly good and deservedly-much-lauded annual report they collaborated on for a lighting company back in 2012? So when Anish needed a catalogue for his first major show in Germany, it’s no great surprise he turned to Frank Philippin and Billy Kiosoglou and the duo worked their magic once again.

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    Here’s an excellent example of identity design which works brilliantly both when pared back to its simplest elements, and as part of something larger. Warsaw-based design studio Noeeko have created an impressively comprehensive identity for Branch Creative, an executive production and advertising studio, which is playful and recognisable in a crowd. Partly because it’s yellow – a vibrant, proud ochre – and partly because it’s based around a playful word-search format.

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    If you’re the world’s oldest and most respected auction house, who do you go to when you’re looking for a comprehensive rebrand? Probably to one of the world’s most respected design consultancies. In the case of Sotheby’s that’s exactly what they did, enlisting Pentagram to revamp everything about their visual presence, from their logo mark to the design of their in-house magazine.

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    Ken Garland has long been one of our creative heroes here at It’s Nice That – he’a man who combines talent and charm with effervescent energy. So imagine our excitement when we found out that Pudkin Books – the publishers he started with wife Wanda in 2008 – were finally available online. The overarching theme of the series is “A Close Look At…” and most of them showcase Ken’s own photography, with subjects ranging from pebbles to street graphics, Mexican windows to Berlin’s Buddy Bears. But others feature John Laing’s watercolours, Lana Durovic’s photographs and most intriguing of all, utterly charming illustrations produced by Ken’s daughter Ruth when she was just a teenager (A Close Look At Playing Out).

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    Documentary photographer Ewen Spencer knows a thing or two about garage. After graduating from Brighton university in 1997 he launched himself into the UK’s burgeoning garage scene, camera firmly in hand, documenting the dizzying highs of the country’s nightlife. The photographs he took of the time have recently been compiled in the newly-released and beautifully designed, UKG.

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    Carole Gautier and Eugénie Favre are My Name is Wendy, a French graphic design studio based in Paris whose work is characterised by an incredibly strong visual language. In D/I/M/E/N/S/I/O/N they created a series of posters in which they reinterpreted the familiar forms of letters, as objects.

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    There are different levels of commitment to design geekery, and the new book from Unit Editions is a reward for those who really put in the hard yards. Manuals 1 is billed as “the first comprehensive study of corporate identity design manuals” and features 20 examples of the guidelines given to designers in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. From NASA to Lufthansa and the NYC Transit Authority to British Steel, the book provides a masterclass in how institutions built their visual languages – and by extension defined themselves – in what has been called “the golden era of identity design.”

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    We like to think we don’t watch all that much TV here at It’s Nice That. We’re too cultured to be slumping down in front of the box and watching whatever’s on. But the reality is we’re terrible consumers of TV shows, we just do it with box-sets in three-day sessions over a bank holiday; in bed, blinds down, takeaway pizzas on speed-dial. Which means we’re not even slightly immune to this fantastic project from Kevin Wu, that cropped up on Wired yesterday.

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    Lookbooks can get a bit samey sometimes. Nice though their purpose is, it can occasionally transform into an opportunity for brands to pop flawlessly beautiful models in their clothes and then photograph them against flashy backgrounds. Unless, of course, the brand is Bodega. The super trendy Boston-based menswear retailer have shaken things up a bit this season, forgoing the traditional lookbook in favour of a set of tradable baseball and basketball cards packaged in that nostalgic foil corner-shop packaging of yore. The images are brilliantly lo-fi, the models wield basketballs and baseball bats to enhance their ready-to-play-at-a-moment’s-notice appearance, and as a result the clothes look wearable and desirable. A commendable effort, Bodega! Now, can we swap you the pullover baseball jersey for the nylon rugby kit?

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    We post a fair few creatives on the site who specialise in poster design and are adept at using their graphic skills to grab your attention from the other side of a room. But often those skills don’t translate across different media – what makes for a great poster won’t necessarily work in a smaller format or across digital platforms. This seems like an obvious statement, but is often a stumbling block for young designers.

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    We’ve sung the praises of Danish studio Designbolaget before, and I’m sure that our enthusiastic reception of their stunning body of work back in 2012 more than warrants an update on what they’ve been working on since then. Which brings us to the visual identity they’ve designed for the National Gallery of Denmark’s new exhibition of Haim Steinbach’s work, and a fantastic demonstration of what this spectacularly able studio does best.

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    Japanese studio Akaoni Design have got so much fantastic work under their belts it’s almost impossible to pick out a favourite piece. So we didn’t, instead offering you an overview of their lovely work. The Yamagata-based consultancy have an incredible skill for combining hand-drawn and digital elements to create a graphic language that’s entirely their own. Similarly they combine Roman type and Kanji characters with effortless flair, making bilingual design look a breeze.

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    Always With Honor are one of those frustratingly talented studios capable of effortlessly turning out thoughtful, considered design and illustration for clients as international and massive as Nike and as small as Boke Bowl, their local noodle bar. This scalable approach to clients comes to bear on their aesthetic choices too. Their vector graphics can be transformed from hard-hitting monochrome icons to a playful herd of animals (like the ones below) with the simple addition of a few colours, and yet still maintain that signature Always With Honor vernacular.

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    We’re great believers in the going the whole hog here at It’s Nice That. Incremental change is all well and good, but sometimes it’s great to embrace a brave new world which is what our friends over at YCN have done. Originally launched in 2001 as the Young Creative Network, YCN has evolved into something quite different in the subsequent 13 years, although based on the same principles around supporting creative endeavour. To mark a change to YCN standing for “You Can Now,” they have worked with the peerless Matt Willey on a new logotype and graphic language based around the Founders Grotesk typeface.

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    No matter how geographical the context, the smallest mention of the city of Charleston in South Carolina immediately calls to my mind a dapper group of 1930s ladies and gents in their best threads, lindy-hoppin’ across a quaint ballroom. A silly notion it may seem, but it’s not so far-removed from the southern city’s self-image, as this identity shows.

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    Sometimes the best design projects never even see the light of day. Once the client rejects them (the fools!) they’re erased from the public domain and confined to a plan chest of unrealised ambition. But that doesn’t mean they’re not great pieces of work…

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    We’ve always suspected that Robert Hunter was a talented chap – we were certainly aware that his illustration skills were pretty top notch. But what we hadn’t appreciated was what a diverse range of skills he’s got tucked up his sleeve.

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    Children’s books are often a singular entity as far as fiction is concerned; everybody remembers their favourite, but you’d be hard-pressed to explain why, for example, a caterpillar with an insatiable appetite appealed to millions of children. So you can only give an appreciative nod to the illustrators and designers looking to capture the ineffable in creating those much-loved tomes.

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    Thus far we’ve only featured Fons Hickmann in the context of their work for cultural institutions. They’ve continually produced stunning work for Dresden’s Semperoper and Wuppertal’s Impulse Theater, drawing on the heritage of their locales to create imagery that has an inherent nostalgia but remains distinctly modern.

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    I read a good Tweet from MagCulture recently bemoaning how often you hear/read the “They say print is dead but…” way of introducing interesting and exciting print projects. The same could be said of the commonplace discussion of record sleeve artwork in the context of the post-iPod vinyl revival. So let’s skirt round that well-trodden cultural turf and content ourselves with celebrating a German studio which seems to have utterly mastered the art.