Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design

phaidongraphicarchive0_320Wow — A book that isn’t a book.

This is a collection of 500 examples of the best in graphic design from around the world. Everything from newspapers; to logos; to corporate design; to typefaces.

Nothing new there. (It feels like there are lots of those kinds of publications).

But this one is special.

Why? Because each example of design has been printed on a card and placed in a box instead of being printed on the pages of a book

This is genius. Phaidon have recognised that the book format keeps control with the publisher  - the order and structure of the pages is defined by them.

But the whole point of an archive like this is that different people want different things from it. So by turning it into a box of cards Phaidon can let everyone arrange the archive according to their own tastes and needs (Just like people used to do with vinyl records in the old days)

There is no need for a blurb — just an instruction:

The dividers that come with this ‘book in a box’ allow you to define how you want to organise, whether it is chronologically, alphabetically, by designer or by subject.

We love it: Thinking outside the box — By coming up with the idea of a box.

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20th Century World Architecture


OK so this spine in it’s purest form is not so special. But what makes it important is that it forms part of the carry bag which this book comes in.

Every copy is supplied in its own bag which has been designed by Catalog in Holland and is engineered from a single sheet of paper.

It is a very clever way of adding value to the book.

Not only does it look cool but it also protect the books in the retail environment and make them easier for customers to carry home (especially important given its potentially off-putting size and weight)

Everyone is talking about how print books need to step up their game if they want to compete with digital. Lots of people talk blithely about ‘production values’ but here is something genuinely fresh and innovative.

It makes us very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for those publishers who have the imagination to think beyond the obvious


concreteThis week is PHAIDON WEEK on — For the very simple reason that  they are doing things with design and packaging that we can all learn from…

Normally at Fixabook we try to stay away from the purely beautiful. Our preference is to focus on the strategic aspects of design.

But to be honest we couldn’t resist this cover. It is gorgeous.

Even so there is a cleverness to it: Most obviously the choice of an imprint of  wooden planks as a means of focusing on concrete.

This little bit of playfulness softens the starkness of the title and at the same time disrupts our (probably negative) pre-conceptions about concrete.

It means that the cover has ended up being intriguing, beautiful and tactile — none of which we would have expected.

Quite simply it makes us want to open the book and learn more.

Job done.

The tactile element is heightened by the embossing on the cover. This is something that normally we hate because it rarely adds anything to the design but a lot to the cost. In this case though, the effect is very seductive.

Finally, one cannot let this cover go without picking up on the Publisher branding on the front. Many people argue that logos ‘spoil’ their designs. This belies a lack of understanding of the bigger picture and the increasing need for publishers to move in this direction as the world goes digital.

We would simply add to our previous comments on this subject that if Phaidon can slap a logo on their usually gorgeous covers — then frankly, anyone can do it.

The Art of Looking Sideways

sideways This is one of the great books on design and creativity.

So lots of pressure on the designers to come up with a jacket that stood apart.

They achieved this by doing something deceptively simple — The cover is nothing more than a long list of questions that challenge us to think differently.

And of course, given the title, they are all printed sideways

This device works brilliantly on the spine, as at once it gives us a snapshot of the content of the book. It works like a ‘Blurb on the Spine’ in that respect.

However it also ensures that the spine is an integral part of the overall design and not something that sits apart — in that awakward narrow space between the two covers

(If you look closely at the image here you can see how the questions continue on either side of the spine in one continuous flow across both jackets).

All very elegant, clean and simple.

Just like the author advocates throughout this tome.

Fish: Recipes from the Sea

fish-recipes-from-the-seaIt’s just so refreshing to see a cookery title that is a covetable design object in itself.

By challenging convention, with a simple graphic and a non-glossy finish, Fish immediately stands out in a crowded market.

This stunning cover has turned it from the functional to the desirable — a coffee-table cook book that everyone will want to display as well as use.

Phaidon’s design pedigree is serving it incredibly well in the cookery section. More conventional publishers would do well to learn some lessons from this.

India Cookbook

india-cookbookGorgeous…Of course we expect that from Phaidon and this book is another packaging triumph. The overall design concept was to make the book look and feel like a cooking ingredient. Simple and somewhat obvious but it has been carried off with panache — particularly in those versions that arrive in a soft cotton bag. The spine plays its part in the conceit quite beautifully. What makes it so charming is the addition of the weight  (“1.5kg”). In itself, not a big thing but it it is amusing and it attracts comment — and for a spine that is quite an achievement.

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be

nowgoodThis could have ended up looking like a very sorry little self help book. The title is too long, the author is someone that not many people have heard of and the publishers want their logo on the front…

The use of silver and gold in the title was a valiant attempt at breaking up the title and making it more readable (if a little crass) but it is the simple addition of the most audacious strapline in publishing history that has turned this cover into a beauty.

Funny, intelligent and the perfect summation of everything that the book stands for – the publisher did well to agree to run with it.