Design Management Michael Farr, Hodder& Stoughton Ltd. £2 15s Michael Farr's wholly admirable book comes at the right psychological moment. The present Government has been talking since 1964 in fairly large terms about 'modernisation'; and although some expected to see rather quicker moves in that direction, it becomes increasingly clear that most of the initiative will have to come (and it has always been so) from industry itself. Fine words, as Sir Walter Scott and Bernard Shaw put it, butter no parsnips.
Readers of DESIGN have already had a sample of Mr Farr's practical approach, and have enjoyed his lucid style. Chapter 7, headed Briefs and Briefings, and reproduced in DESIGN 208/45-52 under the title Putting it Plainly, should have whetted the appetite for more.
I use the expression "the right psychological moment" for another reason. I believe that a kind of plateau has been reached in the matter of identifying the management of design as an indivisible, a total, commercial function. That design is a management operation and that it has to be managed are ideas generally, if reluctantly, accepted by a growing number of people. What is not yet accepted is that something more than acceptance of an idea is needed. To put it bluntly, something must be done about it. Farr has so planned his book that companies reading it, from the smallest to the largest, having reached the plateau of thinking I have described, should now be helped up to the final summit in a highly practical and realistic way. The case histories that illumine the book are fascinating, and the 'hows' of design management as much as the 'whys' are excellently unfolded.
I suspect that the author, whose work in this field has been untiring, and whose own company is having a deserving success in it, would put one point that he makes above all others. This is about the need for a professional approach to design management. We simply cannot afford any longer the amateurism that has so often shunted design matters into the sidings of capricious judgement or 'hunch'. This is not to say that there will not always be a need for the sixth sense, the inner eye, the intuitive design revelation. But Farr - and Pilditch and Scott recently in The Business of Product Design have done much to claw the idea of proper design management down from the limbo of half-expressed aspirations and specify it unequivocally as a responsibility of top management. Indeed, the other important general point Farr makes is that this is a problem (and goodness knows the ColD has devoted hours of time and millions of words to putting this across) which must get its stimulus from the very top. It is the chief executive who must tee the pace-setter.
It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to have read and reviewed both the Farr and the Pilditch and Scott books. And, if one may obtrude a tiny personal note, something of a consolation - or should I say consolidation ? - because those of us who have been preaching the design management gospel (in and out of Haymarket) for nearly 10 years are cheered to see the progress that is being made. Roger Falk
Of the Just Shaping of Letters Albrecht Durer, Constable & Co Ltd. As The Script Letter Tommy Thompson, Constable & Co Ltd. 8s The Composition of Reading Matter James Moran, Wace & Co Ltd. £1 10s In 1917, the Grolier Club of New York published Of the Just Shaping of Letters, a translation from the Latin by R. T. Nichol of the 1535 reprinting of The Applied Geometry of Albrecht Durer, BookIII. In this Durerset down, for "young men of happy talent for the Art Pictorial", diagrams and instructions for the construction of roman capitals, illustrated with woodcut letters 4 cm in height. These show some freedom when compared with the outline construction diagrams, and are slightly more robustforms. The treatise is rounded off with a similar section on the black letter miniscules.
Dover has issued a useful photolitho reprint (published here by Constable) of the 1917 version: text and illustrations are the same size, but the publisher's claim that it is unaltered is untrue, for the same text area is less happily placed in a format of reduced page size with smaller margins. This is a great pity because the Grolier is quite superb, and of great value as an example of book design and production.
The Grolier Club published only 218 copies, printed with great care by Emery Walker and Wilfred Merton at the Mall Press, Hammersmith, while large numbers of sixteenth century versions were produced. The British Museum has one Grolier and three sixteenth century versions from the period 1525-38, the best being the 1525-1528 printings of the books bound as one volume. The other two are 1538 reprints, with the text reset and not, as befits the narrow Gothic forms, evenly and closely spaced. They are in fact less carefully put together than the earlier one - the block of the two capital Ds is upside down, the verticals on the right and bowls on the left.
The Dover has a pattern of nine Qs like drifting balloons on the cover, but one should not be put off by this - it is good value at 10s. As a copy book, it would offer some advantages for the student to whom the more usual, highly refined versions of classical capitals appear unattainable. Durer shows as many as three versions of some letters, and the choice this offers quickens the development of a critical attitude: assurance can come from finding homely imperfections in some of his letters.
Another 'how to do it' just reissued is The Script Letter, Its Form, Construction and Application - a revised version of the Studio Publications 1939 book. Tommy Thompson, who has spent a lifetime studying and perfecting his work, has designed several faces, and has carried out a great deal of lettering for advertising and publishing. In the States he might be considered the grand old man of letterforms, at least when viewed from Madison Avenue.
In this book, he sketches the history and development of script forms, and quotes and reproduces from the copy books of the writing masters. It is surprising that his study of and love for these lively forerunners should leave his own work apparently untouched. With the aid of set square, tracing paper and a mapping pen outline technique, he has sterilised the form of all its vitality: does this mean that scripts are no longer useful letter forms, and have died after years of uninventive repetition ?
The James Moran book is seemingly a compact, yet comprehensive, survey in 80 well illustrated pages of the history of type composition. It ranges from hand setting, through mechanical and photographic methods, and on to the computer developments of today. The book is very well designed by Alan Mycroft (although one might have certain reservations about the lithe printed covers). It is regrettable that the text setting itself is not of high standard, and that its reproduction by offset is so variable in quality. Some pages are thin and emaciated, and it must pain Moran and Mycroft to see this, for it does not do justice to their efforts or to Gill's fine, strong Joanna type. Brian Yates