An Inscribed Copy
Ladislav Sutnar: VISUAL DESIGN IN ACTION. NYC: Hastings House, 1961. First edition. Published in an edition of less than 1,000 copies. INSCRIBED by Ladislav Sutnar on front free endpaper. A fine hardcover book bound in full, decorated cloth with a near-fine uncoated dust jacket printed in one color. The DJ is lightly sunned to the spine and has trivial edgewear to the the spine base and crown. Interior unmarked and very clean. The Holliston Mills Lynton natural cloth covers are wonderfully bright. Out-of-print and very uncommon. Book design and typography by the author.
In terms of design, production and contents, this is the most beautiful graphic design monograph I have ever encountered.
8.75 x 12..5 hardcover book with 188 pages; 36 pages in color; 342 black illustrations, printed in both offset and letterpress. A truly magnificent production and one of the true high points of American Graphic Design. My highest recommendation.
In her preface, Mildred Constantine wrote: " There is a force and meaningful consistency in Sutnar's entire body of work, which permits him to express himself with a rich diversity in exhibition design and the broad variations of graphic design. Sutnar has the assured stature of th integrated designer."
"Designed in its entirety by Sutnar, this important work is a textual and visual exposition of the principles of visual design, employing throughout the theoretical and realized designs of Sutnar from his earliest work in Czechoslovakia in the twenties to the end of the fifties. Not only is the work a landmark of didactic interpretation of the new design (inspired by the early 20th century Avant-garde), but it is -- in its typography, mise en page, use of materials -- a superb realization of its premises. The technical care used by Sutnar in the organization and production of this book (the letterpress reproduction on Kromekote entailed three runs through the press to achieve the deep and resonate blacks which prevail) has by the present date become virtually impossible to duplicate. As an achievement of design and production, the book deserved the numerous awards which it received . . . " -- Arthur A. Cohen
Steven Heller provides this background history: "Sutnar's client base was eroding by the early 1960s. He lost his job with Sweet's because the systems in place obviated the need for a full-time art director and information research department. At a particularly difficult time, Sutnar's friends banded together to inform the business community about his work. The result was the traveling exhibition Ladislav Sutnar: Visual Design in Action, which was curated by Allon Schoener but meticulously designed by Sutnar himself. The exhibition was the basis for the book of the same name, which, because he could not find a publisher who would pay the high production costs, Sutnar financed out of his own pocket and sold for the hefty price of $15. Sutnar had previously edited Design for Point of Sale (1952) and Package Design (1953), which showcased exemplary work by others, but Visual Design in Action featured his own work as a model on which to base contemporary design. Sales were not very brisk, although today the book is a rare treasure."
Boy, that's an understatement.
Visual Design in Action is organized in three sections:
Principles and Attributes: Visual interest, Visual Simplicity and Visual Continuity. Visual interest is, says Sutnar, " a force of inventive design which will excite and hold attention on the objective. Visual interest draws [viewers] into the process and seeks their participation by arousing their curiosity."
US Information Design Progress: devoted to the presentation of a series of case studies completed by Sutnar for Addo-X, Knoll + Drake, Vera, Sweet's, Carr's, Theatre Arts and others. Color portfolios demonstrate the realization of Sutnar's principles in advertising, business papers, direct mail, industrial catalogues, exhibits and displays, design for education, magazines, book design, signs, symbol, and information design.
Early modern Design Concept: traces the emergence of the modern design concept through a showing of Sutnar's formative works done in Europe between 1929 and 1938.
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