NASA. Audi. ABC. Lufthansa. The MTA. Beginning in the 1960s, some of the world's best-known corporate entities were immortalized thanks to the work a group of graphic designers who were responsible for introducing to the notion of "branding." And now, there's an anthology that collects them all in one place.
It's not that branding didn't exist before the 1960s. But this was the era when it became a named art; a service for which companies like British Steel to the New York City Transit Authority were willing to invest heavily, and it produced some of the most recognizable logos in the world today. It wasn't just logos, though. The designers behind these identities were creating whole systems—guidebooks that could serve as rules for designers decades down the road, stipulating everything from type choices to color schemes to gridding to tone to—in NASA's case—the graphics on the Space Shuttle:
As a whole, it's a pretty unexamined part of graphic design history, which makes Manuals 1 such an awesome read. The anthology, produced by UK publishing house Unit Editions, walks you through 20 different identities, each plucked from a different year between 1961-1981. It includes the standards manual for New York City's MTA we wrote about earlier this spring, as well as lesser known manuals that are no less fantastic, all introduced with a foreword by the late Massimo Vignelli.
It's a wonderful and thoughtful walk through an era of design that we still look to for guidance today. Check it out. [Unit Editions]