Back in 1975 famed design agency Chermayeff & Geismar was tapped to create a branding and graphics standards system for the then still relatively new Environmental Protection Agency. What resulted was something that’s virtually inconceivable today: an exquisitely executed, thoughtful, comprehensive design solution produced and implemented for a government agency. Now, some forty years later, the embodiment of that solution, the “1977 EPA Graphic Standards System” manual, is being reissued as a hardcover book by the people who made possible the recent, successful reissues of standards manuals for the New York City Transit Authority and NASA, in partnership with Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, the most recent incarnation of the original agency, and AIGA, who were entrusted with an original copy in their design archives. The project is currently raising funds on Kickstarter, and Wired has this writeup. The project’s brief video is also a great tour of the document.
While I’m actually happy that important artifacts of design history like this are finding an audience through these reissues, I’m intensely curious about who exactly is buying them. Are they younger or older? What is their median income? Are they professional designers or just fans of graphic design? And maybe the most important question of all: are these reissues actually expanding the audience for design history, or the profession as a whole?
Incidentally, the glory days for Chermayeff & Geismar’s system were brief; within a few years they collided unceremoniously with the Reagan era. In 1981, Reagan appointed Anne Gorsuch—mother to dubiously installed Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch—to head the agency and she let it founder, unsurprisingly.