9 Jan

Pentagram have a huge history in the design world, and are still a huge design company today covering most disciplines. Founded by Alan Fletcher and born out of Fletcher, Forbes and Gill, who were the first big British design firm in the 1960’s. Pentagram went onto design famous identities for Shell, Reuters, United Airlines, Star Alliance and Citibank. Pentagram’s architectural design’s are seen at the Harley Davies Museum and Chester Racecourse, books designs which are too numerous to sum up here, editorial design for the Guardian (1988), The New York Times Magazine, Interactive work for United Airlines, The new York Jets and the M.I.T., Interior designs for Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class cabins and the Natural History Musem. Pentagrams trade marks can be seen on Penguin Books, Phaidon Press, Getty Images and Wagamama, and their packaging is seen at Tesco (finest range), Swatch, Boots Shapers Range, and Tiffany’s store in NYC. Pentragam have product designed Dell Computers, Nike Watches and Poloroid Cameras and thie signage systems can be seem in Lower Manhatten, Toronto International Airport, San Francisco Zoo, The National Maritime Museum and the New York Botanical Garden.

Fletcher spent the next two decades at Pentagram, a period over which the firm grew from five to eleven partners and opened offices in New York and San Francisco. In the face of this expansion, he maintained the most economic of teams, usually employing between two and five people. This allowed him to combine large-scale identity projects, such as that for the Commercial Bank of Kuwait, with small-scale commissions that offered greater scope for his graphic wit and idiosyncrasy. Fletcher’s portfolio from these years – published in the monograph Beware Wet Paint – is a combination of carefully crafted logos and spontaneous graphic epiphanies. Nothing is heavy handed, and the sketches and doodles demonstrate his ingenuity and charm.
Much of Fletcher’s work from the Pentagram period survives. His logotype for London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, for example, has proved itself fit for its purpose and has thus transcended its era. Crafted from the classic typeface Bodoni, Fletcher’s design creates a single unit from the museum’s nickname – the V&A – by allowing the serif of the ampersand to stand in for the bridge of the A. Although Fletcher would not have used a traditional typeface such as Bodoni in this fashion in the early 1960s, the strength and singularity of the idea behind this design is consistent with his career-long approach. Similarly his logotype for the Institute of Directors, in which the initials of the title are scaled according their relative importance – a medium-sized ‘I’, small ‘O’ and big ‘D’ – appears more conservative than his earlier designs at first glance. Yet, in terms of rigour and restraint, it is utterly in keeping.
His work is so inspiring and so different to what I have seen before; I loved his collage work and his typography logo design work
Fletcher sadly died in September 2006.

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