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Angus Hyland

The Typographic Circle Presents Angus Hyland

Angus’ work has been widely published and exhibited and has received over one hundred creative awards. He also featured in the Independent on Sunday’s “Top Ten Graphic Designers in the UK”. He was the curator of Picture This, a British Council touring exhibition featuring the work of contemporary London-based illustrators, and Ballpoint, an exhibition featuring works by fifty artists created with or inspired by the traditional ballpoint pen. Angus has edited five books on graphic design: Pen and Mouse: Commercial Art and Digital Illustration; Hand to Eye: Contemporary Illustration; C/ID: Visual Identity and Branding for the Arts (with Emily King); SYMBOL (with Steven Bateman); and his bestselling volume on contemporary illustration, The Picture Book. He was elected a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) in 1999. In 2002 he received an honorary Master of Arts from The Surrey Institute of Art & Design.

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Angus Hyland studied information design at the London College of Printing and graphic art and design at the Royal College of Art. After running his own successful studio in Soho for ten years, he became a partner in Pentagram’s London offices in 1998.


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Angus Hyland On Logo’s “It breaks all conventions. It’s kind of ugly in its weirdness, which probably would have never got through a boardroom now.”

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What makes a successful logo? A successful logo is one that endures. It’s got to eventually behonest to the product it describes. It’s got to be simple. It’s got tobe functional. And it has to have that other thing: It’s got to havecharacter. Is there any classic cautionary tale? There’s a number. A recent one would be the Gap, when they rebranded and then reverted. We don’t really go, “Wow, I’m in lovewith the Gap logo,” until someone replaces it with something we’renot in love with. It’s very hard to rebrand a very established brand without there being kickback.

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Are there any designs you’ve done that you’re embarrassed by now? Everybody has a drawer of shame. But I won’t open it for you. Discuss creative and corporate clashes.  Every creative project I’ve been in has been a compromise between the two parties. If that compromise is developed carefully and communicated well, it will undoubtedly improve the end product. It’s not unlike Michelangelo and the Pope.

Must be hard to get charm into a logo today. Absolutely. Charm is an attribute that comes about through instinct. It’s not necessarily been organized into vertical chain of thought. Charm comes in from left field. The more anodyne the process, the more it’s going to chop off all the charm. Penguin is an example. Penguin is interesting because penguins have very little to do with the product. Penguins are illiterate! I suspect that original penguin wasn’t intended to be solidified into that logo. It was much more of an organic mascot like Bibendum, the Michelin Man. But through time it’s become fixed. I didn’t realize the Michelin Man had a name. If you look at early advertising, he’s this strange tire monster. It’s so idiosyncratic. There’s just no way a committee could have come up with that. You look at the mascots of the 2012 U.K. Olympics, and they’re so anodyne and thought through. No charm. Is there a logo you wish you’d done? There are many. My very favorite [trade] mark is the World Wildlife Fund. I’d love to have done that. That’s the one. The giant panda is the perfect choice; the way it’s drawn is charming and very enduring.

Is there a cardinal rule in designing a logo? No. Some of the most dysfunctional logo types can be the most enduring.

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Online, people are furious when Facebook or Twitter redesigns, but that typically lasts five minutes. The same could be said for a magazine redesign: No matter howgood it is, it’s a paradigm shift for the readers. You’ll meetresistance. Truth is, if it’s better, that resistance will quickly dieaway and everyone will be happy. Less so with a [trade] mark. It’sless about function and much more what we associate with it.

Such as? Pirelli [tires] breaks a lot of typographic rules with its overly stretched P; the longer the word, the more horizontal it becomes and the less functional it is. It breaks all conventions. It’s kind of ugly in its weirdness, which probably would have never got through a boardroom now. It’s part of its charm and distinctiveness.


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Angus Hyland has designed a limited edition series of four different posters to be given away at his talk for The Typographic Circle on 19 January at JWT in Knightsbridge. The posters illustrate the talk title, “Symbol, Mark and a Typeface.” The evening will be divided into two parts, the first based around Hyland’s book Symbol, which analyses enduring trademarks, and the second on his ten-year collaboration with Cass Art, the iconic art materials retailer. Lithography was kindly provided by Gavin Martin Colournet and Zen Pure White paper supplied by GF Smith.

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Penguin commissioned Angus Hyland and his team to design a new series of five of Virginia Woolf’s major works in hardback editions. The designs reference authentic period elements but do so in an entirely contemporary manner. The dust jackets feature abstract compositions in the spirit of the textile designs of the Omega Workshop. The Workshop was founded by members of the Bloomsbury Group who included Woolf herself, her sister Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant. The typography utilises Albertus, designed by Berthold Wolpe, and Gill Sans, designed by Eric Gill, both of whom were British typographers of the period.

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Owned and run by its worldwide network of partners, Pentagram produces groundbreaking creative work across all disciplines, from architecture to identity. Partner Angus Hyland takes Nick Carson through his corner of the collective portfolio. Name-checked among the UK’s top 10 graphic designers by the Independent On Sunday in 2002, Angus Hyland has a minimalist approach to his craft. A Pentagram partner for 10 years, this has won him a clutch of other accolades, including a D&AD Silver Award, two Big Crit Critics Awards and the Grand Prix from the Scottish Design Awards.

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“Graphic design is useful in the fact that it’s so diverse, and Pentagram’s a generalist agency,” he continues. Certainly with the combined expertise of the 17 partner-designers spread across London, New York, San Francisco, Austin and Berlin, this collective can design anything from a business card to a building, fittings and all. “Some partners are more specialised than others,” Hyland concedes, “but on the whole we’ll take on whatever comes through.”

All of which means that, in the context of personal self-promotion, the situation of a Pentagram partner is slightly out of the ordinary. Hyland stresses the difference between a portfolio and an archive, extolling the virtues of keeping the latter up-to-date and easily accessible. Pentagram files each piece of work with two captions: 50 words of basic context, and a more detailed conceptual explanation five times that length. But this shouldn’t be used to justify yourself: “It should be self-evident that the way you’ve solved the problem is clever.” While most creative professionals won’t have enough of a back-catalogue to fill the rows of rainbow shelves that Pentagram boasts, the basic principles of maintaining a carefully managed archive in this way can scale to fit any level of experience, and it makes compiling a bespoke portfolio a quick and efficient exercise. “If your archive’s big enough, you can cherrypick anything,” reasons Hyland. “Putting everything in is rarely the best thing to do: targeting your audience is all part of the communication process.”

Taking his own advice, he explains a recent project. “Matter is a nightclub, part of the O2 Arena,” he begins. “But when they While each partner operates autonomously came to us, they didn’t have a name or an - cross-discipline collaboration is common, identity - just this empty space.” but projects are always steered by one Although the client already operated lead partner - Pentagram’s archives are communal, available for any partner well-established clubbing brand Fabric, to dip into when pitching for new work, they were keen to keep the two venues

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Hyland fans out a selection of past projects on the table. “Oh no, I don’t have a top three,” he muses, when asked about his favourites in his portfolio. “Everything anyone ever does is flawed; you’re always looking to improve upon those flaws for the next project.

even if they weren’t personally involved in the project. The company also publishes regular volumes of work and ideas, including the Black Book, an 800-page cherry-picked compilation of the last few years’ creative output.


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recognisably different. “When they came to see us they liked the portfolio, but the truth of it is, this is a destination, not a product or service,” argues Hyland. “It is what it is: the experience. It’s about being there.” In short, there’s no sense branding an empty shell.

Among the shortlist they provided was ‘Matter’, a word that hints at the raw, elemental structure of the space - a similar, albeit grittier, ethos to the name ‘Fabric’. “It seemed useful to draw some of the equity of Fabric into Matter,” Hyland acknowledges, “but so that they feel like cousins, not twins.” Unusually, the first graphical solution they presented was accepted, perhaps owing to its simplicity and versatility. “We wanted something from which you could extract the name, and still have a visible mark,” Hyland explains. “We also wanted to do something antithetical to the circular Dome. Architecturally, Matter is very different to everything else that’s there: it pierces the edge, setting off from the O2 Arena as a sharp, angular thing.” The resulting logo combines clean, sans serif type with two ‘L’-shaped sections, forming a rectangular frame that fits the proportions of the golden section: a classical aesthetic rule that Hyland

Compared to one of Pentagram’s large blue-chip corporate accounts, where brand usage guidelines can stretch over 500 pages or more, the documentation they left behind was minimal - partly testament to the simplicity and versatility of the concept. “It’s not a corporate logo; it should live and breathe on its own,” opines Hyland. When documenting the work in a portfolio, therefore, a healthy range of applications is crucial to demonstrate its full potential: “Its simplicity belies the fact that it’s actually very recognisable.” Besides his day-to-day work, Hyland also brings his substantial experience of publishing design - including book covers for Canongate, Phaidon, Penguin and Polygon - to Laurence King Publishing, having acted as their consultant creative director for the last four years. His involvement in the second project is less clear-cut than the first: “My concern is the overall list; the Laurence King brand,” he explains. With no internal resources,

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“I basically help run a roster of designers.” the arts-focused publishing house puts out up to 80 illustrated books each year, on themes that tally well with Pentagram: graphic design, architecture, product design and fashion. Hyland outlines his role: “I basically help run a roster of designers. I chair, for want of a better word, the design meeting when concepts come in, and shape and facilitate that on the client side. I do design the occasional cover, but less and less.” So in a self-promotional capacity, especially given that art direction is - as with all work created under their roof - credited to Pentagram rather than Hyland, how would he present this project in his personal portfolio? “I would explain it exactly as I just have to you,” he bats back. “We design a lot of the corporate stuff, so I’d put it in my portfolio; it works well as an overview of all the titles.” The last project he reveals is a stylish edition of Coleridge’s Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, commissioned by illustration agency Heart. Part of a literary series called Beat, it acts as a showcasing platform for their talent.

“All the volumes are different, but they share the same format,” Hyland explains. “They wanted each of their illustrators to illustrate one bit of the text, and our job was to come up with the look and feel. Because this is an ancient text, we opted for a traditional, bookish feel.” Heart had already allocated illustrators to particular extracts of the poem, but rather than laying out artwork at the end of the process, Hyland’s team at Pentagram created the “design super-structure” within which they could work, a process that he likens to curating a Royal Academy exhibition. “They either worked absolutely within the allocated frames, exploded outside of them, or even integrated them into their work. We used a particular shade of petrol blue throughout - not just for the text, but we gave it to all the illustrators as the sea colour, to help tie the diverse range of styles together.” From Hyland’s 25-year archive, all the projects that we’ve discussed have been recent ones: but then he’s an advocate of careful pruning, and believes that older work is often superseded. “Prior to Pentagram, very little would still make it

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Illustrating the benefits of running a truly multidisciplinary practice, Hyland successfully brokered a relationship with a fellow Pentagram partner, architect and interior designer William Russell. “Six months later, when there was a clearer sense of the design - how they divided the space, what kind of people they were looking to bring in - we started to look at it in terms of a name.”

respectfully calls “sacred geometry”. With the word-mark removed, these sections become Tetris-style architectural components in their own right, echoed throughout the club’s interior. “This was a holistic project: everything from the name to the cocktail menu and the wood on the dance floor,” Hyland goes on. Including the interior design of the vast three-floor space, it took the best part of a year from start to finish. His team’s task was to produce a strong, identifiable brand to tie it all together, but he reasons that elements of that can be subliminal, such as the logo’s geometrically perfect backbone: “It doesn’t have to be selfevident, otherwise we’d all just be doing big ideas that hit you in the face.”

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“A book with this depth of content will be a ‘must have’ for those who are involved with brand and identity development. The extended case studies on some of the most celebrated symbol designs will no doubt be most insightful. It’s certainly a book I’ll be adding to the library and returning to for some inspiration and refreshment.”

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Symbol

– Filip Jansky

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The book features over 1300 symbols, organized into groups and sub-groups according to their visual characteristics. Each category includes a short introduction on who the symbol was designed for, the designer, and in some cases, what the symbol stands for. These sections are interspersed with short case studies on both classic and more recently designed symbols.

The book features over 1300 symbols, organized into groups and sub-groups according to their visual characteristics. Each category includes a short introduction on who the symbol was designed for, the designer, and in some cases, what the symbol stands for. These sections are interspersed with short case studies on both classic and more recently designed symbols.

“The idea behind this book, is to explore the visual language of symbols according to its most basic element: form.”

Angus Hyland

“Symbols, your logo, are the crucial part of an identity system. Some may say that they’re dead, but I take the view that it’s like the cherry on the cupcake; it’s emblematic, it’s signature. A lot of branding agencies would say that contemporary branding allows you to be so immersive that you can put your finger over the Apple and you know you’re still in Apple. But if you take away the mark all together, then it’s bereft—it doesn’t have that final signature, that full stop, that mark of excellence.” -Angus Hyland

Hyland writes in his preface to Symbol, The collected symbols are categorized by visual type, either abstract or representational designs, and include 1,300 examples using

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Symbol is a comprehensive resource for anyone interested in graphic design. Did you know, for instance, that the CND symbol (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958, now universally used to symbolize peace, is built out of semaphore for the letters N and D?

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Our Q & A with Angus Hyland, whose new book, Symbol, examines everything from Apple’s apple logo to the CBS eye

I had this idea: there are lots and lots of books on trademarks and logos, but no one had specifically concentrated on pure symbols, trademarks which are made out of pictures more than words. Unlike, say Coca-Cola, think Apple. And then I thought, actually there must be quite a few [symbols] in the world. And, if we edited a survey of them wouldn’t it be great if they were categorized based by form. Symbols, your logo, are the crucial part of an identity system. Some may say that they’re dead, but I take the view that it’s like the cherry on the cupcake; it’s emblematic, it’s signature. A lot of branding agencies would say that contemporary branding allows you to be so immersive that you can put your finger over the Apple and you know you’re still in Apple. But if you take away the mark all together, then it’s bereft—it doesn’t have that final signature, that full stop, that mark of excellence. The modern contemporary view on branding is that it’s a fully immersive nose-to-tail experience, so that means it’s not just your logo, but it’s actually the entire visual application of the identity.

It’s the colors you use, the material, even the sound of the door on the car. It’s a more sophisticated discipline than just creating a mark. I would say, this is perfectly true, but the signature has to be somehow visualized in some form or another. Otherwise all of that good will is not channeled into one focal point. Yeah, I noticed that the book is organized by symbol type--circular logos are with circular logos, bird symbols are with bird symbols, etc. Why did you decide to arrange them like that? There are a lot of symbols in this world that use a circle as their basis. There are all different types of companies doing different types of things, but their symbols share something in common—they’re all derived from the circle, or the square, or the triangle, or a flower, or a tree, or a dragon. Wouldn’t it be great to get all of those together so when you see them gently amorphous across the pages, you see these shapes, which have something in common? And then, it was basically done by type. Section one was abstract shapes, really basic, platonic—circles, squares, etc—until we’d run out of basic shapes, and the second section was representational. Say, trees or birds or faces or crowns.

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Besides categorizing them by type, how did I liked the idea of multiples; I didn’t like the you decide to present the shapes? idea of actually producing one painting and selling it. I liked the idea of being They are all done in black and white, much more present in the world and in the so you concentrate the reader on the vernacular. So I was drawn to commercial graphic quality. It unifies them and it art. concentrates them in a pure graphic form. And punctuated between these pages of In truth, I got drawn to graphic design thousands of symbols are case studies of through a combination of two things. One ones that are sort of very established and was I love Tintin books. I didn’t come from enduring. a reading family. After getting my comics, I realized that this character Tintin existed, I Also, in terms of their pure aesthetics, one loved him, and for some reason I still do to thing you can say about any trademark this day. is that they’re judged as much by their associations. We tend to have good Second, we had these letter-set catalogs— feelings about the World Wildlife Fund they’re little lettering catalogs for panda bear because we associate it with transfers, specimen catalogs. It was the doing good. Likewise, with Apple, we combination of those two things and associate it with quality products. Those my record collection. You know getting marks become part of our fabric, of our records which were heavily packaged—you everyday. And we do have an emotional get stickers, and posters. I thought this is attachment to that. But, if you took away great, I want to do that. I can’t play the the associations and looked at them purely guitar, but I can maybe make the artwork. from the point of view aesthetically, they have another kind of function. We don’t How many logos are in the book? tend to look at them in those terms. So it’s kind of an interesting exercise to put them I think about 1,300. It took six months of on a page and kind of remove them. research. We were just trying to get as many quality marks as we could get. Even looking at the logos as they’re laid out in your book, can we ever see them as just The book mentions you couldn’t use every shapes? symbol you found. Did you struggle with some companies? Nope, it’s very hard to actually disassociate. My argument would always That’s true, because quite often they were be that they carry brand equity. The best registered trademarks. You can’t separate ones are solid, candid, and memorable out the symbol from the logo type, and the containers of good feelings we have about point of this book was to kind of try to take a company. Those are the ones that work. the words away, and to look at these purely in terms of the visual language. You graduated from London’s Royal College of Art. What steered you to commercial The thing is that organizations are art? incredibly protective of their trademarks. Organizations don’t really think too much

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How did you come up with the concept for a book of symbols?

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