Working in association with Lance Wyman, we have recently completed the design phase of a wayfinding and branding system for Union Station Washington. After considerable research, and the creation of a detailed masterplan document, the key proposal of this difficult and complex project is an overhead light track and fingerboard system, clearly defining the major circulation routes, and providing directional information to a carefully chosen hierarchy of destinations.
As part of the Dream Library Project, a series of mini-libraries for the New York Public School System, sponsored by McGraw-Hill and in association with Helpern Architects, we developed a series of animal forms created entirely out of typographic characters. These AlphaPets (we have about thirty to date) are designed to act as a learning stimulus for young schoolchildren. They are intended to be installed on hanging ceiling baffles and other components within the library spaces: a low-cost solution for creating a stimulating learning environment. Designers Saki Tanaka and Millie Lin in our studio were responsible for most of these and for pretending that it was hard work.
For those of us who have to deal with symbols and icons on a regular basis, and there can’t be many of us who don’t nowadays, Mies Hora’s new publication Official Signs and Icons 2 is a wonderful resource. It comes both as a book and a CD (containing outline EPS files) which you can buy separately or as a set.
In eleven chapters, it brings together in one volume, pretty much every symbol you will ever need to wrestle with, including highway and transportations signs, safety symbols, recreational symbols and some nerdy stuff for electronics, computers, meteorology, and labelling. Most fun is the chapter which shows each character of the alphabet in signal flags, semaphore positions, Morse code, American Sign Language, and Braille.
There have been several such books published from time to time since Henry Dreyfus’ 1972 Symbol Sourcebook, which still contains the most fascinating and esoteric selections, such as hobo signs. But for symbols with everyday applications, if you aren’t planning to jump a freight train, Mies has excelled himself in putting together this exhaustive collection (although I must admit I gave him a little help with some of those relating to accessibility).
The cultural differences between the UK and the US still astound. On recently visiting London, I noticed that Charles Jencks’ new book, Iconic Architecture, was bedecked not with mouse architecture as in the US (Frank Gehry’s Disney thing in LA), but with a highly amusing and pyrotechnic rendition of Norman Foster’s St. Mary Axe building in London, (known as the erotic gherkin to Brits) about to go into orbit. Are we in America taking ourselves too seriously? As a book designer among other things, I am sad that Rizzoli could not entertain such an entertaining (and Iconic) cover here. (On the subject of two cultures divided by a common language, gherkin in English translates to Pickle, like the thing you put in sandwiches, in American.)