Cwoffee with Aunt Maira?

Everyone loves Maira Kalman. She’s the cool aunt in the city that teenage kids run away to when they decide that their parents are hopelessly square. She’s embodies the civilized, thoughtful and sentimental qualities particular to New York City. You just want to take her to coffee and never come back. Conference organizers know this.

Maira was the M in M&Co and, while it is difficult to define each individual’s contribution to the output of the firm based on design credits alone, her illustration and inspiration crop up again and again throughout the M&Co and Colors years. With the death of husband and professional partner, Tibor, from non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999, Maira has simultaneously kept his work in the public eye and established herself as a beloved New York cultural icon and, in diverse media, one of the most respected artists working in America today.

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Grand Central Station Mural: 1999

The breadth of Kalman’s interests and talents is awesome, ranging from brilliant children’s books, covers for the New Yorker, theatrical set designs, and a mural in Grand Central Station, to an entirely unpredictable bestseller in the form of an illustrated edition of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and a newly launched New York Times illustrated blog, And the Pursuit of Happiness, following on the success of her earlier blog, The Principles of Uncertainty, published as a highly acclaimed book in 2007.

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What Pete Ate from A-Z

Smartypants (Pete In School)

? 2003: Maira Kalman

Typical of Kalman’s children’s books, the Pete series is so universal and yet so intensely personal that it’s hard not to feel like you’ve lived next door to Pete and the gang for years. What Pete Ate ranks as one of the most original and delightful alphabet books ever written and Smartypants (Pete in School) captures a child’s view of school as intensely exciting while being fraught with potential social disaster. (2003: Puffin Books; ISBN 978039923362351699 & 2003: Putnam Juvenile; ISBN 0399234780)

I was out walking the dear dog (who is a sweet meal ticket – two books about him, one New Yorker cover and a back page) and I saw 500 things that made me want to make art. – MK

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of John J. Harvey

? 2005: Maira Kalman

Among the most astonishing and heartbreaking children’s books ever written. An extraordinary tale of the heroism of ordinary people and the potential for seemingly trivial efforts and acts of kindness to be important beyond reckoning. We won’t even try to summarize here. (2005: Puffin Books; ISBN 0399239537)

Next Stop Grand Central

? 2001: Maira Kalman

Grand Central is the functional heart of the greatest city of the Twentieth-Century. A wonder made all the more wonderful because it is so much more than a wonder. Here Kalman offers a passionate celebration of “the busiest, fastest, biggest place there is.” (2001: Puffin Books; ISBN 069811888x)

What Pete Ate from A-Z: $20.95
Smartypants (Pete In School): $23.95
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of John J. Harvey: $25.50
Next Stop Grand Central (paper only): $9.99

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Elements of Style

? 1959 (2005): William Strunk, E. B. White & Maira Kalman

This classic manual has conveyed the principles of plain English style to millions of readers. So what would possess an artist to illustrate the work and then spend several years in an effort to convince first, the original publisher and later, the authors’ estates to allow its publication? And why is the result so bizarrely engaging? (2005: Penguin Books; ISBN 1594200696)

Principles of Uncertainty

? 2007: Maira Kalman

Principles originally ran from May of 2006 to April of 2007 as an illustrated blog on the New York Times Op-Extra page. Like peeking into your favourite artist’s personal sketchbook, this sequence of thematic visual studies defies easy classification. It is a sort of stream-of-consciousness, existential meditation on life and death, love and loss. (2007: Penguin Press; ISBN 9781594201349)

Elements of Style: $34.95
Principles of Uncertainty: $35.50

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To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at: info@swipe.com.

… simply the decent setting of type and the intelligent layout of pictures based on a rigorous study of content – DB

Much has been made of Jan Tschichold’s time at Penguin and his influence on post-war British book design. However, modernist ideas and asymmetric layout only gradually supplanted Victorian and Edwardian design principles (typified by the inexpensive Collins Classic or the prestige editions of A. & C. Black) and did so through the efforts of many British designers and educators. Of particular importance was a group associated with the Central School of Art and Design in London, chief among them was Anthony Froshaug, who, alongside Herbert Spencer and Edward Wright, shifted the focus of the school’s curriculum away from the lettering tradition toward typography in the modern sense, focusing on legibility and a more austere approach, eschewing ornamentation in favour of clarity and subservience to content.

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Notes on Book Design

? 2004: Derek Birdsall

Among the most noteworthy of the Central School’s graduates of this period, Birdsall’s dedication to asymmetric layout, sympathetic use of grids, and flawless integration of text and image provide the clearest expression to the ideals of purity and structure inherent in Tschichold’s new conception of the book. Notes on Book Design presents 360 spreads from some 50 books, designed over a span of 40 years, ranging in scale from Penguin paperbacks to brilliant catalogues raisonné for the Yale Univeristy Press and recently, the complete redesign of The Church of England’s book of Common Worship. This is, quite simply, the most useful and inspiring book on non-fiction book design we have ever stocked. (2004: Yale University; ISBN 0300103476)

Derek Birdsall is also one of the coauthors of the lovely illustrated study Paul Rand: Modernist Designer.

Anthony Froshaug: Typography and Texts, Documents of a Life

? 2001: Robin Kinross, Editor

After Anthony Froshaug’s death in 1984 Robin Kinross was asked to help organize his archive, launching a project that would take Kinross more than 15 years to complete. Froshaug is renowned both as a designer and as an educator, first at the Central School, then at the storied Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm with Otl Aicher and finally at the Royal College of Art with John Lewis. An innovative approach to biography, this two volume book traces the life and work of England’s most passionate advocate of modernism in graphic design by presenting nearly 500 pages of original source documents, annotated by the editor. The first volume covers Froshaug’s work as a designer and printer and contains many of his writings on typography, the second volume provides day-to-day documents, from correspondence and personal notes to course outlines. (2001: Hyphen Press; ISBN 090725909x)

Pioneers of Modern Typography, Revised Edition

? 1969 (2004): Herbert Spencer & Rick Poynor

Originally published in 1969, Pioneers remains the only comprehensive English-language study of the multitude of twentieth-century avant-garde art movements in relation to the development of modern graphic design and typography. In the introduction Spencer describes the rationale for the work as follows:

Modern typography does not have its origins in the conventional printing industry. Its roots are entwined with those of twentieth-century painting, poetry and architecture, and it flowered quite suddenly and dramatically in the twenty years following the publication of Marinetti’s Futurist manifesto in 1909. – HS

Interestingly, in a review of Spencer’s work, reproduced in volume 2 of Anthony Froshaug: Typography and Texts, Documents of a Life, his Central School colleague seems less convinced of the influence of these movements:

What is not true, is to suggest that the random placing of letterforms, not ranged in lines, has anything to do with the proper business of typesetting, which is the arrangement of characters of constant body dimension from crown to sole of shoes, in words and sentences and phrases, divided according to the mode of their time – using the punctuation and syntax then accepted. – AF

(2004: MIT Press; ISBN 0262693038)

Unfortunately out-of-print is The Liberated Page, an anthology of articles drawn from Spencer’s ground-breaking journal Typographica.

Notes on Book Design: $64.95, now: $34.95
Anthony Froshaug: Typography and Texts, Documents of a Life: $92.95
Pioneers of Modern Typography, Revised Edition: $41.95

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To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at: info@swipe.com.

After 20 years I discovered that design is just language and the real issue is what you use that language to say. – TK

Tastes change. Movements and ideas that once seemed sublime, when seen through the lens of time, often appear ridiculous … or not. Happily, the design and the professional practice of Tibor Kalman continue to offer inspiration to any young designer well enough informed to be familiar with his work. In the early 1980s Kalman, and his New York City design practice M&Co, pioneered the ‘no compromise, no apology’ approach to design that so many small studios now aspire to. More than a decade before the fashionable design manifestos of the late ’90s, M&Co consistently created iconoclastic, progressive and culturally relevant work driven foremost by the designer’s personal values (we will consider the formidable cultural contributions of his partner Maira Kalman in a separate post). As Editor-in-Chief of the Benetton™ magazine Colors, Kalman created a body of work that is among the most powerful in American graphic design history, before he was forced to leave by his (ultimately-fatal) non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1995. Kalman was also the prototypical design entrepreneur and produced a series of subtle product designs under the M&Co brand, a few of which are still in production from the Museum of Modern Art and Projects™ of Bedford, Mass.

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M&Co Wristwatches

? 1984: Tibor Kalman, Maira Kalman & Alexander Isley

Originally conceived as a line for ’80 design retailer Sointu, the M&Co watch line was quickly brought in-house and became the most identifiable product bearing the M&Co brand. Watches were designed on a collaborative basis during studio downtime (thus the engraved motto “Waste Not a Moment”). The present versions are faithful reissues produced under license by Projects and feature a black electroplated aluminum case, Swiss quartz movement by ETA, a scratch-resistant mineral glass crystal, and a top-stitched, glove leather lined band with matching black buckle.

M&Co Askew Wristwatch: $147.95

Askew is typical of M&Co’s playful approach to the logic of analog time representation: as long as the familiar twelve is at the top of the dial, the location of the remainder of the numbers is irrelevant.

M&Co Ten-One-Four Wristwatch: $147.95

The first and most acclaimed of M&Co’s watch designs, Ten-One-Four again plays on the conventions of the watch face. From Maira’s sketchpad, the three random hours provide the minimum markings necessary to accurately pick out the time of day.

M&Co Bodoni Wristwatch: $147.95

The most traditional design to come out of the M&Co watch program, Bodoni celebrates the first great modern serif typeface design by Giambattista Bodoni in Parma, Italy in the late 18th century.

M&Co 5 O’Clock Wristwatch: $147.95

5 o’clock is the best time. Time to go for a drink. Time to go home. Time to see friends and family.

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M&Co Sky Umbrella

? 1992: Tibor Kalman

Introduced in 1992 and one of MoMA’s perpetual bestsellers, this witty umbrella sports an eternally cheerful sky designed by Tibor Kalman.

M&Co Sky Umbrella: $74.95

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M&Co Paperweights

? 1984: Tibor Kalman

A paperweight that empathizes with the fate of most of the paper it holds down. Made from rigid vinyl, silk screened and hand-crumpled so that no two are identical.

M&Co Paperweight, Legal Pad or Blueprint: $39.95

Unfortunately the excellent monograph Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist edited by Michael Bierut and Peter Hall for Princeton Architectural Press is, for the time being, unavailable. We have, for several months, hoped in vain for a swift reprint.

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To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at: info@swipe.com.

Children's Books by Graphic Designers, Part 2: Bob Gill

Bob Gill is one of the most influential figures in post-war graphic design and has the kind of biography that could easily be reimagined as a sitcom. Born in Brooklyn in 1931, Gill put himself through art school playing piano in the Catskills. In 1962, in Austin Powers’ London, he co-founded Fletcher / Forbes / Gill which today is known as Pentagram; in ’67 he designed the first Beatles album cover for Apple Records; in ’75 he directed a hardcore porno (Double Exposure of Holly) in New York; in ’79 he created Beatlemania for Broadway (1006 performances); and in ’81 he published one of the best-selling graphic design books of all time, Forget all the rules you ever learned about graphic design. Including the ones in this book. (unfortunately long out-of-print). And somewhere in between he created wonderful, whimsical children’s books, alone and in collaboration with Alastair Reid, the renowned translator of Borges and Neruda.

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A Balloon for a Blunderbuss

? 1961: Bob Gill & Alastair Reid

Gill’s most enduring children’s book, the illustrations for this classic ‘trade-up’ scenario are bold and exciting and the concept evokes perfectly a kid’s train of thought. (2008: Phaidon Press; ISBN 9780714848730)

An odd example of life imitating art is the widely publicized story of Kyle MacDonald who, through a series of internet trades, began with paperclip and ended up with a house. –David

What Colour is Your World?

? 1962: Bob Gill

How we see the world around us has a lot to do with the assumptions we bring to perception. Here Gill asks children to consider taking an artist’s view of colour as more of a creative choice than an immutable attribute. (2008: Phaidon Press; ISBN 9780714848501)

I Keep Changing

? 1971: Bob Gill & Alastair Reid

Are you brave or afraid, slow or fast, ravenous or full? That all depends on when you’re being asked. It is thanks to Edizioni Corraini in Mantua, Italy that this Gill / Reid classic is available, so this edition is dual language, English and Italian. (2008: Edizioni Corraini; ISBN 9788875701628)

Balloon for a Blunderbuss: $14.95
What Colour is Your World?: $14.95
I Keep Changing: $32.95

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To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at: info@swipe.com.