Most graphic designers love the FedEx logo. Designed by Landor Associates, it’s simple, it’s clean, it’s been around since 1994 but still doesn’t look dated. The thing most designers really love about it, however, is the ‘hidden’ arrow. The little nod to progress and movement that sits in the negative space between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’. Practically everyone (designer or otherwise) knows it’s there, but being in on the worst kept secret in design does give a feeling of being in the know.
To be honest, we’re no different. We think it’s a brilliant piece of design and, like many designers, discovered it many years ago on page 28 of a book called A Smile In The Mind by Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart (the latter, incidentally, is one of the founding members of The Partners).
First published in 1996, it’s a study of witty thinking in design. The book showcases logos, posters, packaging, business cards, invitations, letterheads and many other pieces of design which show the designer at their most playful. Using humour and visual tricks to communicating the message, whilst giving the intended audience something to ‘get’ and feel good about getting.
Notable contributors to the book include the legend that is Alan Fletcher and his poster work, Paul Rand‘s classic UPS logo, Herb Lubalin‘s masthead for Mother and Child Magazine, a generous helping of Bob Gill and hundreds of other exponents of thoughtful, ideas-led design.
A Smile In The Mind isn’t a particularly fashionable book these days. The work (spanning a century of design from the 1890s to the 1990s) is concerned less with style and focused fully on problem solving. Some of the work hasn’t aged particularly well, whilst some of it looks as fresh and brilliant as it ever has. Regardless of how cool it is, it holds a firm place on our bookshelf and we love it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the book, we highly recommend it. Whether you’re a fresh-faced student ready to conquer the industry or a jaded old battle-scarred veteran of the design world, there’s bound to be something within the pages of this book that you can take inspiration from. You never know, it might even make you smile.
Thanks for reading,
Phil & Tom