Spring 2010

Spectacle and knowledge

Every Thing Design: The Collections of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Editors: Christian Brändle, Verena Formanek
Idea, design / image editing: Irma Boom
Hatje Cantz, £26

This elegant mini-brick of a book, designed by Irma Boom, reproduces a selection of 700 items from what must be a vast archive of design objects and graphic items in the collection of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.

At 125 x 154mm this kind of diminutive picture book format has been devalued by some publishers in recent years with the result that one tends to flick through it with low expectations rather than methodically browse. With this book the driving logic of one object per page generates its 864-page length.

At the heart of the book, several essays by museum curators explain, in academic tones, the issues and difficulties in collecting design objects. The most interesting of these is by the V&A’s Glenn Adamson, who outlines a ‘postmodern’ tradition of collecting, gathering both the everyday and the ‘rare, fine and exotic’, which has resulted in museums such as the V&A and Museum für Gestaltung having a dual identity of being both ‘a repository of knowledge and an engine of spectacle’.

This duality is reflected in some of the book’s image pairings which draw out similarities and contrasts of content or form. For example, the combined talents of Interbrand Zintzmeyer & Lux and Dalton Maag in producing a BMW brochure in 2004 are completely outdone by Eric de Coulon’s superb car race poster ‘VI Internationales Klausenrennen’, 1927. Or the juxtaposition of two popular icons of their respective times, as in Shepard Fairey’s 2008 Obama poster ‘Hope’ facing Milton Glaser’s brilliant ‘Dylan’ image of 1966.

First published in Eye no. 75 vol. 19 2010


EYE75

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.