Today marks the launch of Designers & Books’ Kickstarter campaign to breathe new life into Ladislav Sutnar: Visual Design in Action, a seminal work of graphic design and a hallmark of book publishing. Out of print for over 40 years, the “iconic book on modern graphic design” created by arguably one of 20th century’s greatest designers is prime for republication. On board to serve as editors are Steven Heller and designer and filmmaker Reto Caduff, along with printing and production guidance by publisher Lars Müller. If funded, backers can expect to receive their copy (along with a supplementary booklet of previously unpublished material) as soon as this fall. It’s all part of a Designers & Books initiative to “bring back into the public eye important out-of-print design books and introduce them to new audiences.”
To make the edition “as beautiful as it was in its original form,” they need funding for an array of papers and inks that will keep the reprint as true to the original format as possible. The goal is to create a “perfect replica” using contemporary printing and production methods that would meet the stringent standards Sutnar himself set forth in his 1961 design. But his strict attention to detail comes at a cost.
Acting as designer, writer, and publisher (he paid all of the costs for the original printing himself when he failed to find a publisher to finance the project), Sutnar ensures that every bit of the book will be executed exactly how he envisioned it. But Heller and Steve Kroeter of Designers & Books aren’t just turning to Kickstarter to help raise the amount of money the reprint will take, they’re hoping it’ll help them find the book’s ideal readership as well. Kroeter calls Kickstarter the “salvation of niche publishing in the 21st century.”
Not familiar with Sutnar’s work and his incredible legacy? Shame on you. (Kidding.) We’ll catch you up quickly: Born in Pilsen (a 2015 European Capital of Culture), Ladislav Sutnar (1897-1976) emigrated from the Czech Republic to the United States in 1939 to design the Czech Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair. Although he had a background in industrial and exhibition design, Sutnar worked primarily as graphic designer in the States, and was known for incorporating Constructivist elements into his work and for championing clear communication. Sutnar has been credited with developing the field of information design, simplifying complex ideas through images, charts, and graphs (he developed the use of parentheses around area codes in telephone numbers). He was a proponent of Modernism in all of its forms and translated the movement’s clarity and efficiency into his graphic work. Sutnar wrote Catalog Design—New Patterns in Product Information (1944) and Catalog Design Progress (1950). Also an accomplished publisher, Sutnar produced several books including Design for Point-of-Sale (1952) and Package Design: The Force of Visual Selling (1953). He was among the first to incorporate double-page spreads in his layouts and this signified an innovative approach to presenting information across pages in print.