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Letterform Archive Featured in New Book: Collecting Graphic Design

The Optik Books title highlights 10 collections around the world which specialize in a discipline that is traditionally overlooked by art and design institutions.

Letterform Archive in Collecting Graphic Design

Archives are more than just warehouses; they are greenhouses for the nurturing of narratives. Out of archival seeds, mighty stories grow. — Steven Heller on Collecting Graphic Design

A5/10: Collecting Graphic Design — The Archiving of the Visual
A5/10: Collecting Graphic Design — The Archiving of the Visual, Optik Books, 2021

Based in Düsseldorf, Jens Müller has authored, edited, and published dozens of books on design. The A5 series — under his own Optik Books imprint — offers affordable and beautifully documented snapshots of design history at a digestible length and (you guessed it) A5 size. The 10th volume in this series, Collecting Graphic Design, calls attention to the few institutions and private collectors who concentrate on preserving and sharing objects of graphic design, such as posters, logos, book covers, design manuals, and ephemera.

We’re honored to be among archives from Buenos Aires to Berlin, and Paris to Tokyo. Featured collections include the Graphic Design Documentation Center of Aiap in Milan, the Sammlung Grafikdesign Kunstbibliothek in Berlin, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Swiss Graphic Design Foundation.

Several spreads are devoted to each featured collection. In choosing what objects to include in the book, we naturally focused on those things you can’t see anywhere else: both original artwork and unique artifacts of design process — the sketches, proofs, comps, and other elements that lead to final product and tell the story of graphic design.

Letterform Archive in Collecting Graphic Design
Original artwork by Ross F. George, inventor of the Speedball pen and text books; and Zuzana Licko, type designer at Emigre.

Given the extent of our collection, and the fact that we simply have so many favorites, making these choices can be challenge. Fortunately, the Online Archive made the process feasible and rewarding. The site already represents key highlights of the collection, and the Tables feature makes it fairly straightforward to curate, arrange, and share a set of images. (The last of these features — Table Sharing — will soon be available to members!) So, thanks to Tables, here’s a preview of the images we sent to Jens, including a few that didn’t make the cut.

An Online Archive Table with selections for Collecting Graphic Design
An Online Archive Table with selections for Collecting Graphic Design.

It’s useful to experience these items online, in the context of the rest of our digitized collection, but we do recommend seeing them in print. It also gives you the opportunity to meet other members of our small but passionate community of design archivists. Get your own copy of Collecting Graphic Design directly from Optik Books.