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Japan--Nippon: Poster Collection 26
Japan--Nippon: Poster Collection 26
by Museum of Design Zurich
Edition: Paperback
Price: $32.84
46 used & new from $19.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Far Eastern promise, December 17, 2014
Bettina Richter, who edited this interesting poster book, says in her Introduction that Japanese posters have long fascinated western creative types because of the mixing of very graphic character of hand-written letters, Japanese visual culture and from the sixties the slowly increasing influence of western commercial art. The 137 well chosen in the book certainly show a very broad range of influences and design, pages eighteen and nineteen show five from 1955 to 1961 with very striking abstractions for Nikon cameras, Idea graphic arts magazine and the peaceful use of nuclear power, pages thirty-eight and thirty-nine has eight designed by Ikko Tanaka from 1968 to 1993 using a mix of Japanese art styles, lettering and abstract shapes.

The book wouldn't be complete without Yusaku Kamekura's famous 1964 Tokyo Olympic posters though these were designed for an international audience so the red sun is the only national emblem used, three are reproduced. I noticed an interesting aspect to many posters in the book, it's not immediately obvious what the message is, probably because lots of them are for concepts rather than selling branded goods that would feature a logo somewhere.

The book is volume twenty-six in the Zurich poster museum collection and different from the other books because it features work from Asia (though book thirteen looked at Chinese typography). The posters are printed on gloss paper with a mix of one, two or four to a page. The back pages acts as an Index with designer credits, dates and sizes.

The book is an excellent short introduction to Japanese poster art.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 17, 2014 7:19 AM PST

75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen
75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen
by Roy Thomas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $115.87
23 used & new from $110.12

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's MARVELous, November 28, 2014
Another giant (and weighty) leap for comics history as Taschen delivers the goods on Marvel. The huge books follows the same format as the story of DC Comics Taschen published in 2010 though with a couple of differences: the five fold-out Timelines in the DC book are now presented as a loose insert printed both sides and folding out to fifty-five inches wide; there is no index, which I find sort of amazing in a title like this.

The editorial covers eight decades of Marvel and author Roy Thomas would seem the obvious choice to write about the company, he was an editor there from 1965 to 1980. The four chapters, each opening like the DC book with a spread wide bit of art printed on thick paper with reflective metallic ink, look at the origins of Martin Goodman and his Timely Comics of which Marvel was a subsidiary group of titles. Timely morphed into Atlas comics in 1951 which eventually, in the early sixties, became the Marvel line that carries on today and the book is right up to date, too, with the cover of Black Widow issue six from July this year.

A nice feature of the editorial are references to comic and media items through the decades and how they related to Marvel and their comic characters. I think the real strength of the book is the art, pages and pages of covers, spreads, individual frames and several examples of cover art (blown up big) as inked but before the color was added. A two-page foldout of Steranko's spread from Strange tales 167 is also included.

The book's production is, as the DC title, first-class. Beautifully printed and bound with all the images getting deep comprehensive captions, eight pages at the back have biogs of several dozen writers and artists who were the real masters of Marvel. Taschen have thoughtfully provided a blue silk bookmark.

Overall a feast for the eyes but what will the next book be about? I'm putting my money on EC comics getting the Taschen treatment, in three or four years time.

See my comment below.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2014 7:58 PM PST

Georg Jensen: Reflections
Georg Jensen: Reflections
by Murray Moss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $52.94
42 used & new from $47.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Bright metal mastery, November 21, 2014
A very handsomely produced coffee-table book about the mastery of the Georg Jensen silversmithy. It is though basically a visual celebration and not a history in words. The large size allows selected works from seven designers to be shown with huge enlargements. They are: Jensen; Johan Rohde; Harald Nielsen; Sigvard Bernadotte; Henning Koppel; Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube; Vernon Panton and a few others in pages near the back of the book in a chapter called Collaboration.

I've been buying Jensen silver for years (as my parents did before me) and I love Koppel's work, his chapter in the book was particularly interesting to me though I thought it was a pity some of his watches aren't shown or the stunning Wave bowl.

A really nice feature is the use of drawings from the Jensen archive showing various jewelery and silver ware and a photo of the real thing. Other color photos, in close-up, bring out the Jensen craftsmanship. It's worth saying that most of the photos in the book are not hard pin-sharp studio ones but what might be called artistic shots, always tastefully done and I think this makes them come alive and show of character of the work.

Despite the excellence of the photography, paper and printing the book has a couple of editorial flaws. The headings and text (fortunately not too much of this) are printed in silver which makes it hard to read in the wrong light, captions are on whole page photos, usually in white but these pages frequently face pages with a photo and generous margins which would easily take the captions.

The book is really a snap-shot to show you how wonderful Jensen silver looks. A comprehensive overview of jewelry can be found in Georg Jensen Jewelry (Published in Association with the Bard Graduate Centre for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture) and the only worthwhile history is Georg Jensen: Silver and Design . This was published in 2004 to celebrate a hundred years of the company, beautifully designed with excellent color photos, hard to find on the net but I think all the Jensen shops still sell copies. Avoid the really dreadful looking 1997 Schiffer book (and the reprint).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 21, 2014 9:21 AM PST

Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression
Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression
by Richard Havers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $51.09
15 used & new from $51.09

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blues of note, November 18, 2014
An excellent addition to Richard Havers first book on Verve and Norman Grantz. This Blue Note title visually follows the same format with plenty of artist photos, LP covers and printed ephemera from the label's past decades. The text, though, follows a different style from the Verve book which interspersed the history of the label with spreads devoted to the performers. In these Blue Note pages seventy-five albums are given a spread or more with a large graphic of the cover, performers, tracks and a few hundred words of background about the album. The first record spread is frequently followed by a page or two with addition photos and related material about the artist.

The first ninety-nine pages cover Alfred Lion's early years and his arrival in New York during 1936. He started Blue Note in 1939 with Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons as the first stars of the label. WW2 slowed recording activity until 1944 when Lion (then thirty-four) started to record a more contemporary sound with Ike Quebec, who became the A&R man for the label. The fifties were the start of Blue Note's golden years and in particular 1953 when Rudy Van Gelder began to record the label's musicians.

I've always thought that part of the success of Blue Note was the sound Van Gelder created in his studio. The tracks always seemed particularly loud with tremendous presence, perfectly in keeping with the feel of East Coast jazz at the time. Page eighty-four says that he recorded the music with high decibels, far more than other sound engineers (in recent years Blue Note CD re-issues have been marketed as 'Rudy Van Gelder masters'). Another original facet of the label was the creative sleeve design by Reid Miles, either using the stunning photos by Francis Wolff taken in the windowless Van Gelder studio or just using type only. Type with maybe with a simple graphic was something other jazz labels picked up on to keep their covers distinctive in a crowded LP market.

The label changed in 1966 when it was bought by Liberty Records and in 1967 Alfred Lion retired. On page 197 he is quoted as saying 'I couldn't communicate with these people at Liberty, I do things my way and suddenly there were too many people and there were all these rules and procedures'. In fact jazz was slowly changing and Blue Note, to my mind, became just another record company releasing LPs with a much broader interpretation of jazz with vocalists a significant part of their artist roster. The book follows these changes and it's interesting to see the covers from the seventies onwards which have completely lost their Reid Miles style. The seventy-five records which the book's editorial is based on go up to 2103 with a release from singer Gregory Porter.

Alfred Lion, Rudy Van Gelder, Reid Miles and Francis Wolff were Blue Note to me in the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties when I was buying their records (now bought all over again with Michael Cuscuna CD re-issues). The book is a wonderful memory jogger for me, as was the Verve one, and it will fascinate others of a certain age. BL fans should also check out the two books of Francis Wolff photos and the lovely Graham Marsh/Glyn Callingham paperback of several hundred LP covers.

* I wonder if Richard Havers will write more books on jazz labels run by individuals: Pacific Jazz with Richard Bock; Contemporary Records and Lester Koenig would seem the next obvious choice.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2014 10:16 AM PST

Identify: Basic Principles of Identity Design in the Iconic Trademarks of Chermayeff & Geismar
Identify: Basic Principles of Identity Design in the Iconic Trademarks of Chermayeff & Geismar
by Ivan Chermayeff
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.10
52 used & new from $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Wordmarks, logos and everything in between, November 12, 2014
A handsomely produced book of some distinctive brand identities created by Chermayeff & Geismar. Some of them must have entered the public consciousness by now: NBC (the peacock) PBS; Chase Manhattan; Mobil; Pan Am; Xerox (before the current one) National Geographic. Others have only been seen within certain industries or outside the US. There are several logos for the Turkish Koc Holdings.

The book, though, was rather disappointing for me because it's not much more than a portfolio of C&G work rather than a visual account of how each design was created. There is some quite detailed text on some of these marks which does in fact sum up the thinking behind the visual but I was expecting to see various roughs and scribbled ideas that created the final design. This does occur in a few but most pages show previous marks on a left-hand page with the logo centered on all the right-hand pages. Also missing is any explanation of why a particular typeface was chosen for those designs that are just typographic.

The pages really should have delivered more and I see that copies can be picked quite cheaply since publication in 2011. Worth getting maybe just to see these logos well printed and in a reasonable size.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 12, 2014 11:56 AM PST

100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design
100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design
by Christian Brandle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $46.47
33 used & new from $42.53

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellence is normal, November 8, 2014
An excellent overview of Swiss graphic creativity. For such a small country and I read in the text that because of the mountains only about three-quarters of the land is habitable, so even more remarkable that in the last few decades the country exported and became famous for the 'Swiss Style'.

What I liked about the book was the comprehensive coverage and I think it's worth listing the Contents: Poster; Typo-graphics; Photo-graphics; Swiss style; Signs & symbols; Corporate design; Adverting; Public affairs; Type; Editorial design. Within each of these chapters, with essays and illustrations, there are some surprises, for example 'Signs & symbols' has sections on map making, traffic signs and banknotes (though surprisingly nothing on the Swiss stamps). The longest chapter is Corporate design, forty-three pages, dealing with Swiss international companies like Swissair, Geigy, Bally and Swatch, they generate a lot of printed material and of course company style manuals. Pages are shown from the manuals of Swissair, Swatch and Federal Railways.

For designers Swiss type needs no introduction and chapters 'Typo-graphics', a section in 'Swiss style' (by Lars Muller this book's publisher) and 'Type' look in detail at the designs that went round the world with Helvetica, the obvious winner. The country was, though, split into two camps, Zurich designers favored Helvetica while those in Basel preferred Univers, designed by Adrian Frutiger.

As the book covers a visual subject it is, of course, a pleasure to read and look through, the upright shape helps, too. Oddly all the text is in Akzidenz Grotesk, a German face designed around 1880, rather than Helvetica (or even Univers). There are 784 illustrations throughout the pages using numbers to identify them for the captions so avoiding the ungainly word directions (left, above, center right, bottom etc). The back pages have work related interviews with five contemporary Swiss designers, followed by a bibliography and Index (Bill, Gerstner, Hofmann, Lhose, Muller-Brockmann and Neuburg predictably get the most surprises there after all)

This could well become the standard reference on Swiss graphics and with a companion title: '100 years of Swiss design' (ISBN 978 3037784419) which looks at furniture and products, you'll have a comprehensive record of the remarkable creative output of a small country in central Europe.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2014 10:45 AM PST

by Laura Meseguer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.37
14 used & new from $18.15

2.0 out of 5 stars Kids in the typo/graphic playground, November 7, 2014
This review is from: TypoMag (Paperback)
Laura Meseguer looks at twenty-nine magazines in this mid-size paperback and they can easily be divided into two sections. Firstly, there are five professional titles: Architectural Review; Monocle; Neo2; New York Times Magazine; Wired. These have an editor, features editor, art editor, picture editor, production editor, sub-editors and each of these has addition staff. Secondly, the other twenty-four are a selection of indie monthly, bi-annual, annual and irregularly published magazines (plus closed ones) that are very personal to their editors and have very little connection to the professional publishing business.

Of the indie ones 'Sang Bleu' is a good example. Published twice a year with three to six hundred pages, the cover and some inside pages are shown and it's clear from these that the visual look is most important element and the readability of the headlines and copy is a poor second. In so many of these indie titles headlines run over text and pictures and perhaps the common element in these pages is that the story is handled as a visual item rather than something that is to be read. I think some of the designers of these indie titles would come completely unstuck if they had to design a real magazine, say a TV listing weekly or maybe a business monthly. Both of these have huge amounts of copy that has to be presented on the page with clarity and intelligence.

Some details about each magazine are shown at the start of their chapters but I noticed that there are no circulation figures, obviously the professional ones sell thousands but the rest I would guess are a few thousand or less, maybe in the hundreds only. Some of the covers don't have bar-codes suggesting they are not distributed through regular channels and are mail only.

The book is a very lightweight look at magazine publishing because of the poor examples used to show the elements that make up pages. For anyone who wants learn about this area of publishing check out Yolanda Zappaterra's 'Editorial design', plus Baines and Haslam's 'Type and typography' is well worth a look.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 7, 2014 12:06 PM PST

The Art of Pin-up
The Art of Pin-up
by Dian Hanson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $136.36
40 used & new from $131.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just like the girl next door, November 6, 2014
This review is from: The Art of Pin-up (Hardcover)
If you have the 1996 Taschen The Great American Pin-Up book you'll already have a lot of the paintings in this book but what you won't have is them beautifully presented in the ultimate pin-up book. What you'll get is worth describing:
1 The book, because of its large size, comes in a box with a carrying handle. Nicely this has two Vargas paintings on the front and back which could even stretch to framing.
2 The first ninety-one pages has a heavily illustrated essay (in English, German, French) about the history of pin-up art and artists. The essay has excellent deep captions to the illustrations.
3 Ten artists are considered in depth, each starts with a several hundred word essay followed by their work and photos of models and other printed ephemera that used the pin-up art, especially calendars
4 Each of the artist chapters starts with spread of thickish colored paper, the artists signature on the left and a tipped color print, frequently a page from a calendar on the right. There's another tipped painting opposite the Contents page.
5 There are three pull-outs of paintings by Elvgren, Petty and Vargas, these are forty-four inches wide.
6 The last forty-three pages have a brief look at fifty other artists (1900 to 1975) with examples of their, some of these are whole page in size.
7 There eight spread wide (twenty-two inches) paintings by Bill Medcalf: one; Petty: two; Vargas: five. Throughout the book there are plenty of whole page paintings, about fifteen inches deep.
8 The paper, binding and printing (in Italy using a 200 screen) are first-class as you expect from Taschen.

Dian Hanson's front of book essay gives some interesting detail about the publishers of pin-up art, especially Brown & Bigelow (without them this book wouldn't exist) Esquire and Playboy. With 546 pages and huge size this must be the ultimate pin-up art book, I doubt they'll be anything better in future years.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 6, 2014 6:58 AM PST

100 Classic Graphic Design Journals
100 Classic Graphic Design Journals
by Steven Heller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $34.12
48 used & new from $28.42

5.0 out of 5 stars Regular interval publishing for designers, November 4, 2014
This latest book from Jason Godfrey is even more of a niche work than his previous excellent Bibliographic which looked at a hundred essential design books. This one covers magazines for designers and the graphic arts industry and there is much to enjoy even though visually each only gets a cover or two and a few inside spreads.

What I liked about the contents is the historical scope, here are publications that started decades ago and a few managed to last until this century, BDG Blatter, a German title ran from 1925 to 2005, Typografia 1888 to the present from Czechoslovakia or the famous Swiss TM, 1933 to the present. The pages from the older magazines are quite fascinating to look at with a range of layout styles, typography and graphics. Nearly all of the titles are what could loosely be called trade journals but nicely a few others are included like @Issue for business and design, Colophon for book lovers, Portfolio for the visual arts.

The book is a treat to look through, designed by the author and the spreads have several pages from each magazine with two or three hundred words about how it started and its editorial point of view. All the magazine spreads have captions with the issue number and date. I was thinking how unlike the pages of this book are when compared to similar design titles put out by Phaidon Press who are somewhat obsessed with too much white space and tiny type. '100 Classic graphic design journals' has plenty of big pictures but none of the pages looks crammed or unreadable.

The ideal book for any graphic designer.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 13, 2014 6:08 AM PST

Eduardo Paolozzi
Eduardo Paolozzi
by Judith Collins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $85.50
6 used & new from $72.44

5.0 out of 5 stars A unique art radical, November 3, 2014
This review is from: Eduardo Paolozzi (Hardcover)
A wonderful monograph that will most likely be the definitive study of this remarkable artist. His work is instantly recognizable whether it's a piece of sculpture, drawing, print, Rosenthal ceramic tableware (1974) or perhaps textile designs for Horrockses Fashions (1953) and millions must have seen his fascinating glass mosaics on the walls of London's Tottenham Court Road subway station (1984). The book reveals through the text and photos the evolving of Paolozzi's creativity. This was particularly noticeable when he changed from the rough brutalist bronze work to the much cleaner lines of aluminum sculpture in the early Sixties. It's interesting to compare the bronze and aluminum work shown in the book's photos because it is so different yet it is clearly by Paolozzi.

I found the chapter on prints (1950 to 2000) particularly fascinating because of the influence of popular culture in his work. Oddly his well known print 'I was a rich man's plaything' (1951) isn't shown in the book. Because it has the word pop in the collage -- it's coming out of a toy gun -- many have attributed this to the start of pop art and in the same way Richard Hamilton's famous 1956 collage 'Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?' prominently features a lollipop with the word pop on the wrapping paper so Hamilton's picture is also considered the start of pop art. The lollipop was a well known candy brand called Tootsie Pop rather than the start of an art genre.

Paolozzi's dazzling 'As is when' portfolio of twelve prints (six shown in the book) from 1965 is considered in detail, it was regarded at the time as a masterpiece of the medium. The 1967 'Universe electronic vacuum' set of ten screen prints shows a similar range of colour, rhythm and vibrancy. His 'Bunk' box of forty-five prints from 1972 was actually a collection of graphic work from 1947 to 1952 but quickly became an icon if his print work.

I thought author Judith Collins did a wonderful job describing Paolozzi's life and work, especially as she writes in a conversational style and avoids the rather elitist text found in many art books. There are 180 colour and 80 mono pictures, a Chronology, lists of major public collections, exhibitions and a bibliography. My only criticism of the book, a minor one, is the rather bland layout and typography (using roman numerals for the Contents for example) but apart from that this is a first-class survey of the brilliant Paolozzi.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 16, 2014 5:15 AM PST

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