Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design

Simon Bell

    Research output: Practice-Based and Non-textual ResearchArtefact


    [Book in a box featuring 500 graphic designs]
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012

    Bibliographical note

    Author's note: I was commissioned to be a co-author; other authors include Steven Heller, Teal Triggs, Anne Odling-Smee, Kerry Purcell and Phil Baines. The archive has 500 entries with76 authors – I am the fifth biggest contributor, with three times the average number of entries. The archive sets out to be an international collection of graphic design excellence, dating from the mediaeval era to the present, and covers “books, magazines, newspapers, posters, symbols. Logos, typefaces, information design, money, film graphics, identities, packaging graphics, advertisements and record and CD covers” (publisher’s blurb).
    The archive is not a conventional book – it is a box, with each (illustrated) entry on a separate, large-format card. Creative Review points out the fundamental advantage of this – unlike conventional bound book histories, in which the sequence is fixed, this archive puts “emphasis on the reader […] to compare […] to make connections”, and they go on to celebrate the physical format: “it’s impressive to see print fighting back like this” (September, 2012).
    There are many graphic design histories, usually arranged chronologically or thematically, with varying text lengths: this archive text has very strict and consistent lengths, and each entry is carefully illustrated with well-researched and well-reproduced images. The consistency adds to the entries’ comparative potential; this is an intellectually stimulating compilation, whose intrigue starts with questioning the selection rationale. The scholarship is not proportionate to text lengths: in fact, the opposite is true. To produce 350 words cementing the place of a particular entry takes careful writing bolstered by intelligent editing. Authors were given a topic, and expected to supply informed text: this meant extensive research in a variety of modes.
    Graphic design is a rapidly changing discipline: this archive is updatable, with a possible future electronic format, and shows how the history of graphic design explains its future.
    The full text of this item is not available on the repository. The book can be viewed at the Lanchester Library, Coventry University
    Format: Book in a box with 500 graphic designs on individual cards.
    Extent: 315mm x 250mm

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