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February 16, 2012

Pentagram Design, Ltd., London, UK

A Case Study in Color

Author: AdamsMorioka

Pentagram is one of the world's premiere design companies. The firm is notable for its work, its unique business structure, and its longevity. Not given to the styles and trends of the day, Pentagram's work stands the test of time, and the company has been thriving for thirty-three years.

"Pentagram was set up by and for the design partners, so that they can continue their profession undisturbed, and can produce top-class design. Because good design satisfies the client, pleases the consumer, and also rewards the designer. We believe that good ideas, identity, function, aesthetics, and values make design unique."—Justus Oehler, Partner, quoted in Novum Magazine

Pentagram is a multinational, multidisciplinary collaboration of designers who do print and screen graphics, product and environmental design, and architecture. The firm is organized around its nineteen partners, all practicing designers, who work with small dedicated teams and share minimal corporate infrastructure and support personnel. Pentagram has offices in London, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, and Austin. The 138 staff members are augmented by a worldwide network of collaborators who contribute to the capabilities of the firm. "I suppose it is a bit of a cult," mused partner John McConnell in an article in FT.com (a division of London's Financial Times). "I suppose that's how we behave in some ways."

Since its 1972 London founding, Pentagram, named for its original five principals, has been one of the most influential graphic, product, and architectural firms in the world. The firm is known for its many partners' unique talents and idiosyncrasies. In addition, the firm has always allowed for and encouraged many voices in design, rather than adhere to strict orthodoxies about the way Pentagram work should look. Pentagram has an ideology of idea-based design. This approach, says Randall Rothenberg in Pentagram Book Five, "asserted that design communicated both viscerally and intellectually, that it gratified the soul at the same time it satisfied the mind. As such, communication through design could not be achieved by the imposition of a strict set of rules or by the intrusion of an artistic vision." Each problem is unique and therefore invites a single solution appropriate to the problem—and that is essentially the designers' color philosophy as well. Color choices are made intelligently in keeping with the demands of each project.

Featured here are projects from Pentagram's European offices, representing the work of some of the eight partners and fifty employees, including principals David Hillman, John McConnell, Justus Oehler, and John Rushworth, along with designers Mathew Richardson, Jan Pluer, Liza Enebeis, Rob Duncan, and Hazel Macmillan. These pieces illustrate the variety of ways in which Pentagram's idea-based approach plays out in terms of color.

Source: Color Design Workbook

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