LogoArchive: A Graphic Design Laboratory
LogoArchive is a series of booklets dedicated to the modernist logo-making of the mid-century. It can be enjoyed as is and just for that. However, the ideas within these booklets, in the words of Ian Anderson “exist both on and below the surface” for anyone with the inclination to dig a bit deeper.
These zines are, perhaps, best described as “free-spaces” to explore the potential of the “total project”, that is, to conceptualise, write and design concurrently, allowing each to inform and impose on each another. For LogoArchive, just as with BP&O, ideas matter. The LogoArchive booklets function as spaces for enquiry, both abstract and concrete. Outside of the booklet, these enquiries are presented as supporting articles here on BP&O, as Zoom events and as social media posts. In this way, the project is a super-narrative, to be understood in different ways and from different points. The project is also a platform for design discourse. Below, an invitation to answer questions by Elliott Moody offered such a platform to share some more of the ideas behind this Extra Issue. The answers below are published in their entirety. You can view the TBI article here.
LogoArchive Akogare is now available on the LogoArchive.shop.
Elliott Moody: What about Japanese design/logos drew you to make a special issue dedicated to them?
Richard Baird: As with previous issues, the zine begins with a set of ideas, not logos. One particular idea, and this dates back to the earliest part of the LogoArchive project, was that the zines would be “free-spaces” to explore ideas, writing and graphic design, concurrently, as the antithesis of a more formal book-making processes. The logos would just be the visual draw to help migrate these “free-spaces”. This notion came from a Japanese design magazine from the 1950s called “graphic design”. Inside, it had a section called “graphic design laboratory”. This was a few pages given over to a guest designer, who would be given a “free-space” to use it to share an idea. These experiments would vary widely between issues, some simple enquiries into form and colour, others would be materially striking and philosophical. In Issue 30 Sugiura Kohei plays with “illu-stereo vision”, and in Issue 14, Awazu Kiyoshi utilizes overprint, glossy and matt semi-transparent paper with illustration. LogoArchive is essentially that section brought to life as a complete booklet. Deryck Jones, suggested the idea of a Japanese zine, and my mind went back to “graphic design laboratory” and how it was an invitation to other designers. That’s where the collaborative component came in. With this idea in mind, it felt natural to honor this reference by choosing to feature Japanese logos.
EM: How did you come to collaborate with Hugh Miller on this issue?
RB: I came across Hugh and his work whilst writing for BP&O and had the pleasure of meeting him back in 2018. Hugh had co-founded the London office of international design studio BOND and, under his direction, had produced a string of projects that wove together elegant ideas, visual sophistication and material subtlety. When it came to the design of this Japan issue, I recognised that I didn’t have the experience necessary to generate an object with the required nuance and knew it would need to be a collaborative Extra Issue. This meeting in 2018, and a further meeting at the LogoArchive x BankerWessel event in February 2020 gave me the impression that Hugh would be an ideal choice.
How challenging is it to continue to evolve the zines within the same format?
It’s tempting to just start knocking out zines around themes every month. There’s an audience completely in on the project and the joy of mid-century modernist logos, which is great. However, for me, it’s not about the logos, but a chance to continually push myself forward, be that as a writer or designer, as a publisher and distributer, or as a collaborator. Each zine must have a concept that exists on AND below the surface. The choice of logos and theme is simply a way to articulate this with the immediacy of form. That’s why it takes so long. Designing is a quick process once I have an idea or a story I want to tell. Of course, that idea or story is limited by my own understanding and experiences. Having built a recognizable format, being able to hand this over to others, so they could tell their story or share their understanding of the world, seemed a natural extension of the project and shared the same spirit as “graphic design laboratory”. Each collaborative issue pushes the project in a new direction, a direction, I myself would never have been able to take alone.
EM: Did working in two languages effect the design process?
RB: There are two aspects to this. It doubled the copy length, which has space and cost implications. This meant doubling the surface area of the zine, now three A3 sheets folded down into A5, and raising the price, slightly. To balance this out in terms of material volume, we dropped the paper weight to 80gsm. This led to the zine’s most prominent material gesture, a semi-transparency. Design then became about, not just the surface, but how we design through the surface and up to three sheets deep so that top sheet and all the layers below felt complete. It was the format of the LogoArchive zine that made such a complex task feasible.
RB: Working in two languages also creates typesetting issues and opportunities. When you can’t read it, it’s difficult to know where to introduce a new line. When we received the Japanese translation, this was unformatted for the zine, just a text document. Hugh had to work with another translator to make sure that we weren’t creating new unintentional meanings by breaking up words. In terms of opportunities, the issue of working with bi-lingual texts fostered conversations between Hugh and I about the theme of cultural bridges. Unless you speak both languages, only one text was relevant in terms of content, we wanted to make both relevant, to make clear the cultural bridge. Type choice and typesetting not only served to work these two languages together on the page in a practical sense, but creates a back and forth, one visually completes the other and transcends the literal reading.
EM: Why was a serif a good fit alongside the Japanese language?
RB: We wanted to develop the theme of “cultural bridges”, just as the Japanese magazines did with their bi-lingual issues back in the 50s 60s and 70s, and IDEA Magazine continues in the tradition of today. Typesetting serves to make this theme more acute. We know that, being bi-lingual, the texts say the same thing, and that one may only be perceived as relevant to the reader. By contrasting typestyle, we further meaning. The reader can understand something more about the ideas of the zine in that contrast, even if they can only read either the English or Japanese.
EM: Why is transparency an integral part of this issue?
RB: There’s a few different aspects to this. Both Hugh and I have our own understanding of this, and it intentionally invites interpretation and involvement on the part of the reader. A shared understanding would be that it creates the impression that the booklet is light and delicate and evokes the material language Hugh and I had experienced ordering various things from Japan. For Hugh, it is a reference to the folded paper lights of Issy Miyake. For me, it is very much rooted in story. That each of the logos in the zine is part of a bigger story, the development of corporate identity programs in Japan. These logos were not designed in isolation, they built on what came before, they have a typology, some of which is rooted in mon, but also Western modernist philosophies. The transparency brings this to life in an appealing way. By overlapping logos we reveal commonalities, then, by intersecting these logos with a historical text by Ian Lynam and Iori Kikuchi we seek to illuminate part of that story. The transparency also means that beautifully orchestrated relationships through the page can reveal themselves as people look closer.