How hard can it be to take a book on an agreeable subject and arrive at an unprejudiced and critical assessment of it? Very hard, sometimes. Take the work of the German graphic artist Gerd Arntz, for example. Driven by social idealism he drew over four thousand pictograms, in the process preparing the way for the international language of symbols that helps us all find our way through the world. A pioneer of communication.
Collected in a book, these images find their way to the spectator long before he has had a chance to come to an opinion about their carrier. That, after all, is what they were made for. If the design of such a book is entrusted to a designer with some affinity for the material, and if the designer resists the temptation to make things too sophisticated, what you get is this: a wonderful book for the browsers among us.
Generally there is only one thing happening at the same time on each page, but it’s always something you want to know more about. Whether you’re looking at a single page-filling pictogram or a page of twenty-four images of various means of transport, or the statistical graphics that Arntz made in his later years in The Hague, the process is always intriguing: communicating faster by leaving more out.
Also just right is the choice of an integral binding, though unfortunately it has turned out rather bumpy. Not all panel members found the general impression of the cover equally convincing. But then there’s that light bulb on the spine. Have that on your bookshelf for a while and you’re sure to get attached to it.
Bronze medal, Best Book Design from all over the World, Leipzig 2011