Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ladislav Sutnar

One of my absolute favorite designers is Ladislav Sutnar. Born in Czechoslovakia, he was the pioneer of information design. Overshadowed by his contemporaries, the Constructivist and Bauhaus typemasters El Lissitsky and Moholy-Nagy respectively, Sutnar is a relatively unsung leader of Modern objective typography. He worked in America in the years after the war and made Constructivism both functional and playful in it's application to catalog design. In the early 1960s he was hired by Bell systems to develop a variety of design programs. One of the things he was responsible for creating was the area code parentheses.

The thing that has always impressed me the most, was how he was able to take what appeared to be very uninteresting, mundane items and create interesting organized catalogs. Sutnar was the art director for the F. W. Dodge's Sweet's Catalog Service from 1941 to 1960. This was America's leading producer and distributor of trade and manufacturing catalogs. I can't imagine what a daunting task that would have been, to take all of that uninspired product and form some user friendly, graphically pleasing informational pamphlets. The images above are some samples I have of Sutnar's skill at doing what he did best. I think his use of typography, his creative way of getting the best use out of a limited palette, and his way of organizing his information are all very inspirational. As far as I'm concerned, nobody does it better.

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