Category: Design

Graphic novel


Building Stories (2012) is a creative visual storytelling statement. A big cardboard box contains fourteen elements: books, booklets, magazines, newspapers and pamphlets. All the various parts work together to tell the story of the residents of a Chicago apartment building. It can be read in any order.

The superbly crafted illustrations are often almost infographic in style. Below, the back cover index.

A poster-sized spread.

Other examples from the book.

Available on Amazon:

Chris also produced a limited edition “Multi-Story Building Model” to accompany “Building Stories”. Several sheets of card that can be cut up and assembled to make a detailed 3D version of the building. You can see it assembled in the Chris Ware section of the Adam Baumgold Gallery’s website:

Some other work by Chris. Below, “Leftovers” from the New Yorker, 2006. Click for a larger version.

Examples of Chris’s New Yorker covers.



The Picto watch (designed in 1984) takes timekeeping down to the minimum.

Softer Than Steel chair by Nendo for Desalto. Nendo’s simple and elegant work:

Chocolatexture by Nendo for MAISON&OBJET. Chocolates as representations of Japanese words for texture.

Symbols can say a lot with an economy of image. Like this classic atomic icon.

Swiss graphic design has an inherent simplicity:

Camera designed by Jonathan Ive and Marc Newson.

Album covers The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd, 1973.

Coexist, The xx, 2012.

Words of wisdom Some well used quotes, but they’re still worth revisiting:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary, so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann

John Maeda’s book is a thought-provoking read:

Paper graphics


Petals by Charlene Lam.

“I currently live in Umeå, a city at latitude 63° 50′ N in northern Sweden. Our winter days are short and summer days are long. Using the lengths of daylight for the first of each month, I created a visualization with 12 “petals”. The outer loop of each petal represents the 24 hours in the day; the inner loop is the length of daylight, ranging from 4h 33m on January 1 to 20h 34m on July 1. The simple lines suggest the passing of time, as well as the promise of spring to come.”
This elegant graphic won a paper-based visualization competition.

Bert Simons makes portraits of people out of paper. After taking photographs, he uses 3D software to produce the printout that, when cut and folded, magically creates a faceted recreation of the person.

Hang your friends heads on the wall like hunting trophies!

The technique developed further.

Gretchen Nash has a suitcase of childhood letters and notes that she analyzed into categories (like swear words, nicknames and holidays), and then used paper to make infographics for a book, “Dear Gretchen”. It was her senior thesis project at CalArts.

For this Good 100 issue, a team led by guest art director Brian Rea, produced all the illustrations from cut paper.

The left over pieces made a fun spread.

Less but better


For forty years, the iconic German designer applied his careful, minimalist aesthetic to the Braun product line. His work has been a considerable (and recognized) influence on Jonathan Ive, who is the Chief Design Officer of Apple, and the connection is easy to see.

The SK4 is known as “Snow White’s coffin”, a reference to its transparent plexiglass lid. The nickname was coined by Braun’s competitors. This radio/record player, called a “Phonosuper” by Braun, was designed in 1956.

Rough concept drawings (below) by Rams.

By the way, I’m wearing this watch while writing this post.

Dieter Ram’s ten design principles.

Good design:
1. is innovative.
2. makes a product useful.
3. is aesthetic.
4. makes a product understandable.
5. is unobtrusive.
6. is honest.
7. is long-lasting.
8. is thorough down to the last detail.
9. is environmentally friendly.
10. involves as little design as possible.

A good Dieter Rams resource:



Order applied to chaos is a main principle of information design. Todd McLellan is a master of the craft of careful positioning. His book “Things Come Apart” has many great examples. (

A blog for people who like to see things arranged in an ordered way.

This IKEA cookbook cleverly uses the same principle.

Ursus Wherli is a Swiss genius who wants to tidy up everything.

The dataviz album cover


The iconic art for Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures (1979) was designed by Peter Saville. The source was a stacked plot in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy (1977) that shows pulses from the first pulsar to be discovered, CP 1919.

The image remains very popular today. I wonder if many people know where it comes from?

3D version by Marvin Bratke.

The Unknown Pleasures image has been the source for many tattoos. Below is an extreme example.

The vinyl version is a packaging gem.

Details below.


Jen Christiansen’s excellent blog has two posts about the scientific background:

Jen told me that when she wears her cat lovers’ shirt (designed by Tobe Fonseca), a lot of people ask about it.

Bayer’s masterpiece



This informational gem took five years to produce and contains a few thousand infographic items. I don’t own a copy, but Michael Stoll, who I mentioned in an earlier post ( ), has one (naturally) in his superb collection of historical information design. I was in Augsburg two weeks ago, and was able to examine the real thing, instead of looking at digital images. Seeing design in it’s original format, as opposed to looking at different sizes and variable image quality online (or in this blog, for that matter) is a vastly different experience. Often difficult to achieve, but worth the effort.


The atlas was produced for the Container Corporation of America to commemorate their twenty-fifth anniversary. 30,000 copies were printed. They were distributed to customers as a gift, and given to numerous colleges and universities. It was never produced commercially, or reprinted, so original atlases in good condition are quite rare, and thus expensive to acquire.

A team of three designers worked under Bayer to develop a graphic language for the book, using the color system that had been developed for CCA by Egbert Jacobsen. Bayer did his own research, traveling widely to assemble the information. There are many design influences to be seen in the pages, like the Isotype system of pictograms. I’m struck by how it looks so modern, sixty-three years after publication. It shows the staying power of precise, clear information design.


Herbert Bayer was a Renaissance Man. A graphic designer, typographer, photographer, artist, interior designer and architect who studied and taught at the legendary Bauhaus school. He emigrated to the U.S. before the Second World War, and produced all kinds of impressive design across many fields.




These images are from the David Rumsey Map Collection. See the full atlas in high-res there: