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Letraset, design and music

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be featuring a selection of highlights from our Letraset book, our visual history of the rubdown lettering system that revolutionised typographic expression. In our first post we look at how Letraset helped to bring about the visual language of punk and became a staple of the DIY attitude to music-making established in the late 1970s and early 80s. Letraset: The DIY Typography Revolution is available now from the Unit Editions shop. In recent years, articles on Letraset have appeared in leading design magazines, and events have been held celebrating the craft and expert knowledge that underpinned the making of the Letraset typographic system. This enthusiasm extends to a new younger generation of designers who have known nothing but the computer screen and...

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Impact 1.0 & 2.0: Type only!

This month we’re featuring highlights from our two-volume Impact books that bring together some of the best covers created for design magazines and journals from the 1920s to the present day (both are now £29 each in the Unit shop, or available as a bundle for £50). For our fourth post, we’re putting the focus on type – and looking at some of the most interesting typographic approaches to covers that feature in the two books. [Our first post, on Swiss titles from the mid-1950s, is here; our second, on 1960s type and pattern experiments, is here; our third, on IDEA magazine, is here.] Type-based covers have been a staple of design magazines since their inception. Some of the fine examples of designs for both Grafische...

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Impact 1.0 & 2.0: IDEA magazine

This month we’re featuring highlights from our two-volume Impact books that bring together some of the best covers created for design magazines and journals from the 1920s to the present day (both now £29 each in the Unit shop). For our third post, we’ve picked four covers from Japan's IDEA magazine. [Our first post, on Swiss titles from the mid-1950s, is here; our second, on 1960s type and pattern experiments, is here.] Founded in 1953, IDEA is a quarterly showcase of graphic design, typography and communications. Since its earliest editions it has spotlighted various areas of design practice by approach and also location. During the 1950s and 60s, for example, it reported on design work from specific parts of Japan – from the Hokuriku District to Hokkaido –...

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Impact 1.0: The 1960s and visual experimentation

This month we’re featuring highlights from our two-volume Impact books that bring together some of the best covers created for design magazines and journals from the 1920s to the present day (both now £29 each in the Unit shop). For our second post, we’ve picked four magazine covers from the 1960s that show some of the experimental approaches in type and pattern that design titles were using at the time. [Our first post, on Swiss titles from the mid-1950s, is here.] Canadian designer Carl Dair designed all six issues of A Typographic Quest, a slim booklet that was published as the house journal of the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company (Westvaco) in 1964. Shown above is the cover of its second issue which...

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Impact 1.0: Swiss magazine covers from the 1950s

This month we’re featuring highlights from our two-volume Impact books that bring together some of the best covers created for design magazines and journals from the 1920s to the present day (both now £29 each in the Unit shop). For our first post, we’ve picked four great Swiss magazine covers from the 1950s that employ minimal techniques for maximum effect. [Our second post, on 1960s experiments with type and pattern, is here.] By the early 1950s, both the Zürich-based Graphis magazine and Bern's Typographische Monatsblätter journal were well-established Swiss design titles – founded in 1944 and 1933, respectively. The two Graphis covers shown here, for issues 46 and 50, date from 1953 and together illustrate the clean slate approach that the magazine took...

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Rick Poynor on the posters of the National Theatre.

Rick Poynor is a writer and critic, and Professor of Design and Visual Culture at the University of Reading. He is the author of numerous books on design and visual culture, and was the founding editor of Eye magazine. In 2017, he curated an exhibition of the posters advertising the plays of the National Theatre. He also wrote and edited a book (National Theatre: A Design History) celebrating half a century of the NT’s poster designs, which Unit Editions was delighted to publish. In this interview, Rick discusses key issue surrounding the posters and their role in the promotion and visualisation of theatrical performances.  

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Ben Bos (1930—2017)

For Ben Bos’s 80th birthday in 2010, his wife Elly Bos asked Adrian Shaughnessy to write a short text about Ben for inclusion in the book she produced as a birthday celebration. This is a slightly edited version of that text. _ When Elly Bos asked me to write an introduction to a book celebrating Ben’s 80th birthday, I did something I hadn’t done before, I read Ben’s biography Design of a Lifetime. I knew the book well, but I only knew it as a compendium of Ben’s striking graphic design. I hadn’t read the text. This was remiss of me: the text is extraordinary. Ben’s place in graphic design history is secure. At its best, his design is characterised by...

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In conversation with Simon Johnston, co-founder of 8vo and Octavo

Simon Johnston was educated at Bath Academy of Art and at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel, Switzerland. In the 1980s he co-founded the design studio 8vo in London, and was instigator and co-editor of the typography journal Octavo. Later he relocated to California, where his current design practice, Simon Johnston Design, focuses on publications for galleries and museums. He is a professor and Creative Director of the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT) at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. In 2017 he launched the publishing house Verb Editions (.com). He is contributing a foreword to the forthcoming book, Octavo Redux. Your current practice encompasses design, teaching, publishing and art. Do you bring the same sensibility to each of these disciplines, or...

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In conversation with Octavo's Mark Holt & Hamish Muir: part two.

The second part of our conversation with Hamish Muir and Mark Holt.Unit Editions: You have often cited your dissatisfaction with the state of British graphic design in the late 80s. What was so bad about it, and in what way was Octavo a riposte to that state of affairs?  Hamish Muir and Mark Holt: As we said in our editorial for Octavo #1, British design was very parochial, full of in-jokes and cultural references that did not transfer well across European boundaries. There appeared to be a love affair with symmetry. A lot of design was cute, banal, or twee, and terribly British in a Dick van Dyke-like parody kind of way. Much of the typography around was simply in service...

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In conversation with Octavo's Mark Holt & Hamish Muir

Between the years 1986 and 1992, as part of the design studio 8vo, Hamish Muir and Mark Holt designed and edited eight editions of the typography journal Octavo. The magazine, except for #8, which was a CD-Rom, was always A4, always 16pp, always used the typeface (Unica), and always with a trace cover, has passed into typographic legend. Long out of print, the journal is now being revived in the book Octavo Redux. It is also the subject of a fund-raising campaign on Kickstarter. You can find out more about it here: 
 Muir and Holt spoke to us at length about the immanent re-publication of their journal. Here is part one of the discussion. Part two will follow shortly. ...

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