Splendid new book showcases 75 industry-defining graphic designers

28 May 2015
Reading Time
2 minute read

As someone who came into design journalism from the outside, it was a challenge to get to grips with the famous graphic designers blithely referenced in talks or other publications. Who were they? What did they do? And maybe most importantly, why are they important? How I could have done with a book like this new addition to the Laurence King Visionaries series, which contains profiles of 75 graphic design luminaries alongside large, full-colour reproductions of their significant and groundbreaking work.

Organised chronologically by their years of birth (or the years the studios were formed), we’re taken from Piet Zwaart (1885) to M/M Paris (1992), via the likes of Tom Eckersley (1914), Tadanori Yokoo (1936), Stefan Sagmeister (1962) and Studio Dumbar (1977), and the vast majority of profiles include portraits as well.

In her introduction, author Caroline Roberts considers why so few members of the public would be able to name a famous graphic designer – suggesting explanations such as its infancy as a discipline (“as we know it”), the expanding role of practitioners and “because the only time one appears on the national press is in an obituary.” But this is an important publication both for novices and more-seasoned designers alike, sure to both introduce you to some figures you haven’t heard of before, and give you new insights into familiar names.


Franco Grignani: Cover for Pubblcita in Italia, 1956/57. Image courtesy of the estate of Franco Grignani. Manuela Grignani Archivio (Daniela Grignani)

My only question mark would be over the lack of women – of 75 profiles only three focus solely on women (Paula Scher, April Grieman and Irma Boom) and a fourth, Margaret Calvert, appears alongside Jock Kinneir. It’s an imbalance Caroline tries to address in her opening essay, saying that the book’s remit means it will focus “understandably” on the “the established design canon” and she predicts “future editions of this book will look quite different… at least from a gender perspective.”

But still the numbers seem very skewed to me, and Caroline goes on to articulate excellently the challenge facing the industry. “Publications, conferences and awards have a responsibility not simply to default to the same old faces, but to seek out the less visible – but equally talented – female designers. While there are some high-profile female designers, they are all too often the ‘token female’ on the panel or in the line-up. These women designers also have a responsibility to push for greater representation, no matter how boring it might be to answer endless questions about women and design.”

Graphic Design Visionaries, published by Laurence King, is out in August.


Milton Glaser: Doors, 1967. ©Milton Glaser


David Gentleman: British Steel Corporation logo. Courtesy of David Gentleman and British Steel Corporation


Stefan Sagmeister: AIGA Detroit poster, 1999. Courtesy of Sagmeister & Walsh


Shigeo Fukuda: Victory, 1945. By kind permission of the estate of Shigeo Fukuda.


Studio Dumbar: Promotional posters for International Theatre Festival, Studio Dumbar, Holland Festival, 1988. Courtesy of Studio Dumbar, Photography by Lex van Pieterson.


Caroline Roberts: Graphic Design Visionaries

Share Article

Further Info

About the Author

Rob Alderson

Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including itsnicethat.com, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.