Now Open: The People’s Graphic Design Archive
A new digital platform for documentation and research is set to reveal a more inclusive history, and the ideal complement to Letterform Archive’s physical collection.
The story of graphic design is traditionally written by award winners, major brands, and big names. Their work is heralded in trade journals and design annuals, established as canon in college text books, and archived in museums and special collections. Meanwhile, the wider world of design — which can have as much impact on its audience — goes unrecorded. This includes objects that are widely seen but under-appreciated, or hyper-local and lesser-known, but no less remarkable. And that work is often designed by underrepresented or marginalized people.
Letterform Archive is proud to be the fiscal sponsor of The People’s Graphic Design Archive. Nearly a decade in the making, and yet just getting started, the PGDA is a crowd-sourced virtual archive of inclusive graphic design history. The PGDA includes everything from finished projects to process, photos, correspondence, oral histories, anecdotes, articles, essays, and other supporting material. You’ll find all sorts of information and links to other relevant archives, too.
The project is spearheaded by co-directors Brockett Horne, Briar Levit, Louise Sandhaus, and Morgan Searcy, but the most important aspect of the PGDA is in the name: The People! Everyone can be a part of rewriting design history by submitting their own treasures. The team worked with the folks who built Fonts In Use (especially developer Rob Meek), along with designer Abby Chen, to create a platform that lets anyone quickly contribute digital images of finished projects, process, photos, letters, oral histories, anecdotes, published and unpublished articles, essays, and other historical material. You can add many different file formats including JPGs, PDFs, videos, and audio files, as well as links.
The PGDA hosts regular Graphic Design Roadshows where the public is invited to bring hidden gems from their own collections to learn some historical context and add the items to the site. The next stop is San Francisco on October 2 as part of the Gray Area Festival. See more PGDA events on their site.
As the PGDA’s fiscal sponsor, Letterform Archive provides fiduciary oversight, financial management, and other administrative services. We also extend our nonprofit status to cover the PGDA. In this capacity, we help manage charitable gifts to the organization, so all donations made on behalf of the PGDA are tax-deductible and will go directly to the project. Our own Kate Long and Stephen Coles also pitch in with advice on metadata structure, archiving strategies, and building an online community.
The PGDA is the first member of the nascent Letterform Archive Digital Collective, a connected family of online resources for design education, inspiration, and research — with other members to be announced in the future. Each platform in the collective hosts specific graphic design collections in digital format and operates independently but with shared values, goals, and plans for future integration. We see these resources as the perfect complement to the physical holdings represented in our Online Archive as we seek to preserve and share a more inclusive history of graphic design. Stay tuned for more news about about the Digital Collective soon.