It is very sad news that the Indian owners of our steel industry in Port Talbot are pulling the plug and the Conservatives are not backing nationalisation rescue plan.
Meanwhile, the Labour party is pushing for renationalisation. If that happens I hope money is not wasted on unnecessary 'branding' because there already exists David Gentleman's beautiful solution, designed back in 1968 in use for 30 years.
Long before ‘Branding’ agencies got their hands on television companies the original BBC, on-screen identity, fondly referred to as the ‘bat’s wings’ was designed by one Abram Games and introduced in 1953 when there was still only one television channel.
Here is Games with his elaborate mechanical contraption featuring a spinning globe in the centre, surrounded by two spinning 'eyes'. Apparently shortly after it was filmed it broke down, luckily it wasn't needed again. The identity stayed in daily use on air until 1963.
You can see an immaculate animated recreation of the identity in all its glory here.
Whenever I am cosseted in the dusky atmosphere of a second-hand bookshop (one of my loves), my eye always scans the shelves for the familiar orange and green spines of 1950s/60s Penguin covers.
Above and below current displays at Waterstone's in London. Vintage Penguins and Pelicans originally sold for 2 shillings and 6pence are now on sale for £3.
I still feel that dispensing with that instantly recognisable piece of practical branding was a foolish mistake on the part of Penguin’s management back in the late 1960s. Ever since there have been attempts to resurrect the styling, but mostly based on a saleable nostalgia squarely aimed at younger readers born many decades after the original covers ceased. This new audience finds the uniformity and simplicity of these covers far more sympathetic to their taste and a good-looking accessory, plus they make their bookshelves look neat.
For me, it was the green-spined crime covers that I always went for because of the stark graphic symbolised images, effective in part because of the colour restriction. More often than not, when a designer is restricted, they rise to the occasion, as did the creator of Penguin’s crime series styling, Romek Marber.
Germano Facetti (1926 – 2006)
In 1960, Germano Facetti took up the post as Penguin’s art director and immediately set about harnessing the talents of some of the most outstanding graphic designers and illustrators working in Britain. Facetti had noted the cover designs for The Economist created by Marber, so he was invited to join the coterie of distinguished Penguin designers.
Born in Poland in 1925, Marber experienced the horrors of the Nazi regime. He was deported to the Bochnia Ghetto in 1939 and narrowly escaped being sent to the horrific Belzec death camp. In 1946, as a 21-year-old, he arrived in the UK, where he was reunited with his father and brother.
In the 1950s, he studied at St Martins School of Art and went on to the Royal College of Art, where he joined a bevy of talented designers: David Gentleman, John Sewell, Dennis Bailey and Raymond Hawkey among them. Penguin had a long tradition of cherry-picking RCA graduates to illustrate their covers.
Marber was initially commissioned by Facetti to design a few fiction covers and then invited as part of a three-way competition to create a new look for Penguin crime, Derek Birdsall and John Sewell being the other two in the race. But it was Marber’s logical solution that came out on top, and he went on to design 71 covers personally with many other designers, including George Mayhew, John Sewell, Facetti and many illustrators working within Marber’s design discipline.
Marber's box of tricks
Marber’s now-classic horizontally fragmented cover structure has never dated and still stands up as an outstanding piece of 20th-century modernist design.
Above just a few of the 70 odd covers designed by Romek Marber
Many designers worked within Marber’s cover grid, and eventually Facetti extended its use beyond crime to general fiction and non-fiction.
Alan Aldridge Penguin's fiction art director from 1965 to 1967
One of the young designers to surface in the mid-1960s was Alan Aldridge, who was commissioned by Facetti on a number of covers. He later took over the reins from him as fiction art director.
Aldridge inside the box
As is the way of all young Turks, they rarely want to go with the existing order; within a very short space of time, Aldridge dispensed with the Marber grid, leaving designers, illustrators and photographers a blank canvas and full colour to work with.
Aldridge covers out of the box
And so ended Penguin’s instantly recognisable house style. But, as they say, what comes around goes around.
For more on the designers mentioned in this post just click onto the individual names:
This is Roy Kuhlman, the American graphic designer born in 1932 who sadly departed for the big studio in the sky in 2007.
He started out as a painter but was unable to make a living, so he looked for an alternative to using his abstract ideas, and this brought him to the world of graphics. He became best known to the design community via his cover designs for US publisher Grove Press, which started as a simple freelance relationship in 1952 and spanned almost two decades. Kuhlman was reportedly paid $50 per cover design and, due to financial constraints, was often limited to only two colour lines. But that didn’t stop Kuhlman from creating a very recognisable personality for the publishing house and for himself. He had a minimal graphic vocabulary, avoiding literal representation, as he always maintained that he could not draw well.
Outside of Grove Press, he worked for a range of clients, from advertising agency Sudler & Hennessey to Columbia Records and Benton & Bowles. At the latter, he worked on the IBM campaign Mathematics Serving Man, for which he won the AIGA Best Ads of the Year Award in 1960. He worked until his retirement in the 1980s but continued to make his own photographic experiments. In 1995, he was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame. In his final years, he was taken by the horrors of dementia.
The above beautiful cover for Evergreen magazine by Roy from 1965 must have surely been an influence for Annie Leibovitz when photographing John Lennon's nude embrace of Yoko Ono taken in 1980.
For me, his graphic approach links with that of two British graphic designers, Keith Cunningham and John Sewell, their work has a very similar feel. Take a look. Keith Cunningham John Sewell
My wish for the design community in 2016 is to vehemently resist the increasing requests from clients to free creative pitch.
Sadly many are still doing it. And it is not just the young, hungry and nieve. A number of established, award-winning design consultancies engaged in free pitching, albeit under the radar. (but not low enough because people leak)
If you believe in yourself and have integrity then don't give away the talent you have worked hard for. It devalues all of the training, financial and personal investment. To take part in these unpaid lotteries makes what we do as designers appear frivolous, worthless and disposable to these unprincipled people.
So don't fall for it, have respect for yourself and the industry you are part of. The more you go along with it the more damage you do to our industry. Just say no and name and shame the shoddy organisations that request these free creative pitches.
And hereis a link to a little video that I have featured before that puts creative free pitching in perspective.