The excellent Standards Manual design series announces next title

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The coolest one in my opinion is the NASA project, salvaged in the same way from a dogeared original into a beautiful book.

Which I greatly covet.


The future was so bright. No wonder shades used to be more popular.

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On the one hand bringing order out of chaos is a noble goal and design can be a critical tool for this. The NYC subway is a good example of this. They don’t even mention in the clip that it was in many ways still 3 separate subways at that point, the BMT, IRT, and the IND. I also like the color and graphical coding that they show for EPA documents.

On the other hand, these sorts of exercise can enforce by fiat a sort of banal sameness, not just within an organization, but across them. The universality of a narrow range of similar fonts in all of these is an example of bland, fashion driven sameness. Indeed the struggle between NASA’s meatball and worm insignia are illustrative of the downside of design IMHO. The meatball is complicated, difficult to easily resize and render in different colors, on different backgrounds, but full of narrative content, and history. The worm is spare, easy to resize, and indeed immediately distinguishable when shrunk down to a tiny size. But it is completely devoid of any narrative element. It could just as easily be the symbol of a auto-maker or an ISP. Indeed, by removing the cross strokes in the "A"s, it could just as easily be read as VSVN in the uncertain orientation of space.

Farming these sorts of projects out to outside companies means that you get good and consistent graphics, but the fact that the designers are usually more in love with their designs than the objects that their designs go onto often shows.

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I dunno. For me personally, I find that the “loved” design attaches itself to the object, and becomes inseparable from it. In a good way. Something like this would make a more banal EPA pamphlet more attractive for me (admittedly, a graphic design fetishist) to read, so it would have done its job.

It’s beautiful and emotional stuff, even if a lot of that has to do with its bittersweet, modern context.

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