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The Design Encyclopedia

It is UnderConsideration’s pleasure to announce the launch of our latest online initiative: the design encyclopedia.

Inspired by the groundbreaking Wikipedia, as well as Typophile’s growing TypoWiki, the design encyclopedia strives to document, define, track and distill the world through its design implications. Pretty much anything — from movies to presidents to can openers to pop(corn) — can be, in one way or another, defined by design. Through the open environment that Wikis provide, we hope that you can help us build this important resource. We have started with some profession-specific entries — ranging from Emigre to Abbott Miller to AIGA — that should help springboard definitions that are outward reaching into the larger contexts of culture, politics, branding, economics, history, sports and more (i.e., Mountain Dew, Kleenex or USA Network).

At this moment we encourage your participation to help us build this important resource. If you are a graphic designer, own a design firm or by the luck of the stars you are involved in any related field (photography, illustration, art and architecture or industrial, motion, web or textile design) we urge you to add your information to the encyclopedia and at the same time add any information you have on projects that you have worked on. The best explanation we can quickly provide is: There will be entries for Saul Bass and Paul Rand, but there needs to be entries for AT&T, United Way, UPS, Enron, and these should be defined by the work of these legendary designers and how it has evolved over time — yes, there will be an entry for Futurebrand.

The design encyclopedia has been an idea brewing in our crazy heads for the past six months and it has only been in this past month, with the help of Pretty’s developer-extraordinaire Su, that we have been able to put together a Beta version. This means it’s working but we reserve the right to change anything we want at any point while acknowledging that the site is not perfect — but our eagerness got the best of us as we wanted this live by the start of AIGA’s National Conference in Boston so that we could whisper it around. Thanks to Jason’s mention after our panel, it has already been blogged quite a bit, going, literally and metaphorically, from 0 to a 100 quite fast.

As this grows we will look for your support with contributions as well as the overall well being of this (vulnerable yet potentially fruiful) wiki.

Let’s show the world what design does for us.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ARCHIVE ID 2424 FILED UNDER Speak Up Announcements
PUBLISHED ON Sep.22.2005 BY Bryony & Armin
Jolo’s comment is:

Great....! Thanks. Join the revolution. :D

On Sep.22.2005 at 09:26 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Nice one, Bryony & Armin! This is going to be very valuable.

(Love the 80s logo.)

On Sep.22.2005 at 09:32 AM
Derrick Schultz’s comment is:

I happened upon this last week and thought I'd made a mistake, or was at least going to wake up from a dream.

its a great idea, and i think it will be a huge resource for a lot of designers who dont normally have access to this type of information.

On Sep.22.2005 at 12:14 PM
John D.’s comment is:

Very Nice!

On Sep.22.2005 at 12:22 PM
Kevin’s comment is:

Amazing work guys. But I've always wondered with wiki's, how are they moderated, or is it simply through entropy and flux... After a quick browse (and especially when using the index) I noticed SpotCo has posted dozens of their designs. I am assuming this is not what an encyvlopedia is for and that this is bad practice... flame away!

On Sep.22.2005 at 01:54 PM
Armin’s comment is:


Bryony was the one that added all of SpotCo's work, it was not bad practice on their part. We took SpotCo's work as an example of how mainstream posters have a "design" story behind them… Right now we only have the poster and a credit, but eventually, wouldn't it be great to have a complete visual record of how The Diary of Anne Frank has been interpreted through the decades, in different countries and by different designers and artists? So, SpotCo's posters have helped us get these topics started.

Also, on any given page, if you click the "Old Revisions" button at the top of the page you can see who created the entry and who has made changes to clarify any doubts.

We are equally encouraging people to submit their own info… while this may lead to some entries looking like a design directory we feel that if they take the time to explain a couple of projects or add information to another entry that could be their client the encyclopedia will immediately become richer.

> But I've always wondered with wiki's, how are they moderated, or is it simply through entropy and flux...

Well, we are counting on people's good faith, which has worked most of the time for us here on Speak Up. At this point we spend a good amount of time looking at the changes and entries to see how they are shaping up, eventually we would love to have a group of trusted editors that will help moderate it. But, mostly, it's believing that if you give people something good, they will treat it good.

On Sep.22.2005 at 02:06 PM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

Have I been holed up in print design so long that I’ve never noticed the trace feature anywhere else? That has to be one of the most useful UI features I’ve seen in a long time, especially on a site suited for browsing.

Thanks so much for taking the initiative with this!

On Sep.22.2005 at 03:29 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

Two quick comments; It should be interesting to see how the DesignMaven takes this project on, and secondly and more seriously, I'm curious to see if this will be a future evolution of A History of Graphic Design starting to take form.

On Sep.22.2005 at 03:34 PM
fatknuckle’s comment is:

Great work! My only problem with it was th Spot Co. stuff as well. I thought that it was some kind of ad or portfolio. I think more relative text as to why an entry matters would have definitely helped in this instance.

I was pretty stoked to see Rohner Letterpress on there as well (I use them often.) The entry seemed again like an advertisement but I would suppose through the course of evoloution people may reference what Letterpress is and how it relates to the bigger picture.

The majority of us certainly understand the bigger picture of such a resource, others may try and take advantage but in its infancy, pretty damn sweet.

On Sep.22.2005 at 05:32 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Since graphic design is really about promotion, it's probably inevitable that a lot of the content will seem like, well, promotion. ;o)

Nice project, Armin. Impressive!

On Sep.22.2005 at 05:36 PM
pk’s comment is:

the rohner entry wasn't an ad; i added it -- but i didn't know much about them. i only added what i knew, whichw as that pretty much every designer i know in chicago admires their work.

On Sep.22.2005 at 05:36 PM
pk’s comment is:

also, to michael:

It should be interesting to see how the DesignMaven takes this project on

i would think that anyone contributing to the project would have the sense to keep any personal agenda out of it. it's pretty clear that the project isn't about creating messages with an orchestrated meaning, it's about sharing resources and histories -- something design has not done well so far.

On Sep.22.2005 at 05:41 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

On Sep.22.2005 at 05:53 PM
rurry’s comment is:

Love it!!! Absolutely love it!!! Nice work!

On Sep.22.2005 at 06:10 PM
Shahla’s comment is:

I followed the link from DO (thanks Michael B.) to the design encyclopedia late last night and was looking at this wonderful project (database?)! There’s so much that needs to be done here —thanks, you two, for getting it started. Immediately, I found x-height and wanted to add how it was once (in England?) called z-height —correct me if I'm wrong. I looked through Emil Ruder’s Typography; it hadn’t an index in the Hastings House 1984 edition and Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style yet couldn’t find it. So a typography teacher of mine must have mentioned it in class. A quick search brought up a link to a glossary which lists z-height as the height of the lowercase letters that have ascenders which is is not always the same as the cap-height.

Which is correct?

On Sep.22.2005 at 06:41 PM
Tom’s comment is:

I didn't realize that's how wikipedias work...fascinating. This is a very timely project; I hope it takes off. Thanks.

On Sep.22.2005 at 06:59 PM
fatknuckle’s comment is:


I didnt mean you intended it as an ad. TDC is a resource. People like myself who have used them in the past can add information and other resource links.

It took me a while to find them (being in Ohio) and if somesort of a comprehensive list existed then it may have saved me a bunch of time.

Hopefully it will be more than a practical directory of services, rather an indexed, hypertexted, everything exed compendium of all things design.

On Sep.22.2005 at 07:00 PM
Bryony’s comment is:


I understand your concern, and I guess I got ahead of myself on this one, being a particular interest of mine and seeing SpotCo as a spring board. The idea is to develop the content, (although not complete at this point) as in the case of Man of La Mancha. I still have lots of work to do, and I would love to know who design each of the posters and items I have been able to find. Additionally I am in the process of writing to SpotCo, in order to obtain more information in regards to the design process and challenges they faced in this particular project.

On Sep.22.2005 at 07:43 PM
Randy’s comment is:

Wonderful! Thanks guys. Can't wait to see it grow.

I'm confident the "portfolio" feeling will be diminished when the database is more comprehensive.

On Sep.22.2005 at 10:15 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:


"It should be interesting to see how the DesignMaven takes this project on"

"i would think that anyone contributing to the project would have the sense to keep any personal agenda out of it".

You just RUINED my wonderderful gift to you and SU. The Cover of Die Neue Graphik Since Richard P. Lohse is one of my all time favorite Designers. And he is listed on the site. Also perused his Gallery Exhibition.

Of course, you know how much I love you and Su.

So I'll ponder changing my mind.

Michael Surtees

Thanks I learned about this on Design Observer.

I went to the Design Dictionary site late Wednesday Night or Early Morning. Typed in Bass', and Rand's, name got the appropriate response. Work coming soon. I said Ok who's providing the work. Arm is on the Board of AIGA. Wonder if he has access to the Archives?

Typed in Glaser's name, Paula Scher, got responses. Then typed in DesignMaven didn't get a Damn thing. I said OooooKaaaaay. Typed in Armin Vit, Byrony full blown Bios. I said OoooooKaaaaay, they're really padding this thing for themselves. =-D

I saw all the Speak Up Authors including Gunnar and TAN.

I typed in Micheal Surtees, Steve Heller, Raymond Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss, Phillip Meggs, Eugene Grossman, Tony Spaeth, Morton Goldsholl, Herb Lubalin, Rose Marie Tissi, Don Ervin, Tony Spaeth, Seymour Chwast, Jonathan Selikov, Landor, Lippincott & Margulies, Alan Siegel, Michael Bierut. I didn't get any comments. Nothing, Zero, Ziltch. Suddenly, I realized I was in Good Company; the Design Encyclopedia was a Work In Progress. Because No Way in Hell Arm would've OMITTED his BOSS my Big Brother Michael Bierut from the Encyclopedia.

Arm that may have been me taking it from Zero to 100. At least I'm Guilty of some of it.

Anyway Family, Ingenious Project. Should be a wonderful resource. I'll provide 411 on Identity Designers maybe a sample or two of their work. If time allows.

My First Speak Up Editorial will be the Critique Design Encyclopedia Identity.

Most important, many thanks for making the Design Encyclopedia Inclusive.


P.S. I just reconfigured my hard drive and downloading Software. If you read this Stephano I haven't forgot to respond to your inquiry. Will do so sometime today or Sat.

On Sep.23.2005 at 08:24 AM
Valon’s comment is:

Crazy-Cool !!!

On Sep.23.2005 at 11:53 AM
Bryony’s comment is:


Indeed a work in progress. I look forward to finding your bio soon, as well as some good information about obscure and not-so-obscure work that you keep in your archives.

My First Speak Up Editorial will be the Critique Design Encyclopedia Identity.

care to share at this point?

On Sep.23.2005 at 01:50 PM
Derrick Schultz’s comment is:

Are you taking user commentary in this thread, or should we stick to e-mailing bugs/hopeful fixes?

On Sep.23.2005 at 02:31 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

it would be better (and easier for us to manage) to email us with bugs at:


On Sep.23.2005 at 02:35 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:


Actually I'm quite Jealous of the Identity.

Wish I'd created it. Did anybody at Pentagram or Addison> have any input. Sure to win a plethora of awards.

It reeks Michael Bierut's Creative Direction.

Not saying you Guys aren't CAPABLE.

A cop-out, I'm not as much interested in posting my own bio; inasmuch as I want to provide information for people like Rose Marie Tissi, Elinor & Joe Selame, Jerry Kuyper, Tony Spaeth, Gene Grossman, Lindon Leader, Robert W. Taylor, Mamoru & Anne Shimokochi, and a few other noted Practioners.

BTW, The Science Museum in BOSTON was Designed by Elinor & Joe Selame Founders of BrandEquity International.

I also wonder if this is a way for you and Arm to try and surpass my archive. (LOL)

Ingenious Project, will definitely go down in History within the Annals of Design.


On Sep.23.2005 at 03:55 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

Maven, thank you for ascribing my direction, creative or otherwise, to the handsome TDE logo.

I wish it were so, but I had nothing to do with Bryony's beautiful design.

On Sep.23.2005 at 07:44 PM
Su’s comment is:

Of course, you know how much I love you and Su.

Assuming this refers to Su(me), and not SU(here), I think a correction is in order.

You apparently love PK. Me, on the other hand, I would guess you tolerate by association, and that only after having revealed your true feelings to my GMail account, and backpedalling after finding out who you were talking to.

On Sep.23.2005 at 10:47 PM
pk’s comment is:

and backpedalling after finding out who you were talking to.

and who he was attached to; which i thought was one of the most pandering things i've ever seen written.

On Sep.23.2005 at 11:03 PM
Steven Heller’s comment is:

Congratulations. Though the idea has been attempted before - notably by Cooper Union - it requires continual vetting and constant updating so to avoid the anecdotal mistakes that are so common in design history. BUT If it works - and given A&B's tenacity it has a good chance - the encyclopedia will be a valuable historical resource for ALL of us, or simply a great forum for arguing and analyzing the developing history. Either way, in this venue oversight is usefull, and as they say, blog responsibly.

On Sep.24.2005 at 10:12 AM
Caren Litherland’s comment is:

What a compelling, generous resource. Thanks!

I have a question about the "Sample Work" element of the entries. Why not, in the interest of fast loading times, limit the section to one sample? (I'm sure that most of us commenting here have high-speed connections—but many elsewhere in the world do not.) The internet is centrifugal; it's all about linking. So if the entry on, for example, Sagmeister links to sagmeister.com, as well as to the Design Museum retrospective and other sources, is it helpful to offer a slew of images of his work? It seems to me that usability is diminished if a user has to scroll through a series of rather large images to reach outbound links.

On the other hand, the generosity inherent in this project may resist any such strictures. I just wonder if the redundancy is necessary or helpful.

At any rate, I love TDE. Thanks again.

On Sep.24.2005 at 04:34 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Caren, thanks for the feedback, we had not considered that... But we will now. And thanks for your many contributions!

On Sep.24.2005 at 06:41 PM
Caren Litherland’s comment is:

As Bj�rk would say, the pleasure is all mine. And thanks, Armin, for responding so quickly and taking my comments into consideration.

As for my contributions, I feel like I'm operating in "free association" mode. I go from the W3C to Bruce Rogers to Agnieszka Gasparska. A wild ride, but a lot of fun.



On Sep.24.2005 at 07:36 PM
Jack Woltz’s comment is:

>after finding out who you were talking to

>>and who he was attached to

"Why didn't you tell me you were with the Corleone family?"

The Godfather, 1972

On Sep.24.2005 at 08:15 PM
pk’s comment is:

in light of steven's "blog responsibly" comment above, i feel like i should make a little bit of a distinction: the design encyclopedia is not a weblog. it's a wiki. a weblog is about sharing and discussing in an opinionated way. a wiki is not so much like that; it is more of an encyclopedia model.

(while i've never found anything that specifically states a wiki is neutral and factual in tone, that is the most common usage, hence my definition.)

On Sep.24.2005 at 08:52 PM
Caren Litherland’s comment is:
From "An Attempted Explanation," a note about the rules of (Wiki) engagement:
The design encyclopedia is not about opinions or subjectivity. Facts and information are the standard.
On Sep.24.2005 at 11:21 PM
Tom G’s comment is:

but what is a "fact", really? Are we really so sure that we are dealing with facts? And aren't all histories subjective at least because they are necessarily exclusionary? ...

the theory savage may have to return soon...

On Sep.25.2005 at 02:15 AM
pk’s comment is:

thanks, caren. i didn't see that. i guess consider my message an underscore.

On Sep.25.2005 at 02:49 AM
Shahla’s comment is:

I appreciate the cyan-magenta-yellow use in the sea of k (reversed-out) and have used the color combination myself before. In this instance the 3 bars that comprise E pop out and appear chunkier because of the lighter color so it could be tweaked a bit. And though it may seem forced I wonder what the stacked bars would look like as a substitute for the dot in the �i’ of �encyclopedia’ if incorporated with the project’s full name.

Very nice identity, Bryony. Since the �ink’ linkage in this logo can be read as a promise of a version of it actually being printed some day, I like this venture very much.

* * * * *

On the x-height/z-height question, it could be that both are correct.

Perhaps what we know as x-height today was once z-height. It made sense to me when it was explained that the top horizontal stroke of the lowercase z and the bottom parallel indicated the limit more precisely. And later on it switched sense to mean the height of b, d, f, h, k, et cetera —although I can’t imagine why. Logically we’d expect typographers to have named it by referring to one of the actual letters.

Class* discussions aside, there should be a better name for the height of lowercase ascenders in a typeface, specifically to distinguish it from the cap height. To revise a �dictionary of typography’, from a �naming’ standpoint, bee, dee, ef, aitch, kay and ell (tee’s ascender is not as tall) can be studied:

b-height or d-height,

f-height or h-height (not this one),

k-height (this could work because it’s like an ex with the top left extended) or l-height.

Even though �z’ is more descriptive of �x-height’ (the name has stuck; the mark is graphic for a filled-in box) and delineates the top and bottom better, I’m happy for z-height to simply have a place in the history of typographic terminology as the precursor of x-height (it apparently has*) when older texts and information are uncovered and added to the web.

*mentioned up-thread this information was disseminated in a course on typography.

On Sep.25.2005 at 04:53 AM
Su’s comment is:

but what is a "fact", really? Are we really so sure that we are dealing with facts? And aren't all histories subjective at least because they are necessarily exclusionary?

Um, is there actually a need to make this a philosophical debate?

Even asking that question should lead you directly to knowing better than to confuse "fact" with [your preferred term for Universally Objective Incontrovertible TRUTH]. I don't think anybody is deluding themselves into thinking TDE will be the final word on anything. Intentional or not, it was well-named. It's one available resource, nothing more, and anybody who uses a single reference for any substantial research gets what they deserve.

Yes, all the facts[sic] in the wiki could theoretically be contested/corrected. There's a form that lets you register and edit things. That's precisely what it's there for.

To return to the actual matter at hand here: Try and avoid knowingly putting agenda & opinion(Everything Futurebrand touches turns to crap), fiction(Debbie Millman eats kittens), or outright lies(Chester designed Helvetica) in the content. If you see something wrong, don't spend your time agonizing over the (non-)existence of truth in an imperfect world, just fix it.

the theory savage may have to return soon...

Dun, dun, DUN!!!

On Sep.25.2005 at 06:50 AM
Armin’s comment is:

In a way, the great thing about tde is that there is no room for subjectivity and Bryony and I can be much more swift and heartless when it comes to deleting "opinions" or "adjectives" that we feel are gratuitous and unnecessary — unlike, say, Speak Up, where we let a lot of things fly.

In regards to "what is fact" in history… I am sure it's a great debate and, for one, I can tell you that we are not attempting to pass as historians, we simply want to document, in one single place, everything we can about design and how design affects and reflects everything we deal with day by day. Perhaps this is part of the job description of a historian after all.

And when we talk about "facts", we are talking about simple things, like fact Paul Rand designed the UPS logo, fact Futurebrand redesigned the UPS logo in 2004, etc. There is no contesting these, that's what we mean by facts. We don't want: "In 2004, the shameless hacks that are Futurebrand destroyed all sense of design standards by stupidly redesigning the UPS logo with a stupid looking shield piece of shit, shall they burn in hell for the rest of eternity". We don't want that, no.

On Sep.25.2005 at 09:38 AM
Caren Litherland’s comment is:
pk wrote:
thanks, caren. i didn't see that.

The only reason I saw it is that I went back and read the Rules of (Wiki) Engagement after Armin removed a withering comment I had made about the Bush administration in one of the entries. I thought: "Oops, maybe there are, like, rules...or something, that I should know about."

And yeah, I remember my theory and I know that truth is illusory and all that. So I guess the hard and fast rule is just: keep subjectivity out of it. But...does that mean we can't have an entry called "Death to Helvetica"?

On Sep.25.2005 at 10:57 AM
Maya Drozdz’s comment is:

By using the term design, do you mean graphic design, or design in a broader sense, including areas like industrial design?

Thanks for initiating this resource.

On Sep.25.2005 at 11:19 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Maya, yup, design in the broader sense. But being that it's been started by graphic designers I suspect the initial stages of tde will be graphic design heavy. Which is good actually, because we need to establish how many things are graphic designed and that design is not just about the diminution of the iPod.

On Sep.25.2005 at 12:47 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Michael B.:

Many thanks, the CITI Arch for the "D" is what got me. Along with the "+" symbol for the "t".

Definitely, Intelligent Design.

pk and Su:

Where is the Love???

Have you GUYS no SHAME???

To Error is HUMAN to forgive Divine.

Charge the incident to my Head and not to my Heart.

If you Guys look at Entourage, think of me as that Type A Personality and Over The Top ever Lovable Agent Arie Gold.

The season Finale, Arie's secretary ask him not to use Epithets and refrain from degrading his persona. He ask Arie to Promise.

Arie said, I can't Promise not to use them or degrade you. But, if you come to work for me I'll promise I'll always apologize.

Su, I immediately sent you a Hallmark Card.

I've known pk longer and do not differentiate. My love is abundant and Equal.

Anyway, you Guys had me Chuckling after reading the comments.


P.S. Arm I agree the comments within The Design Encyclopedia should by UNBIASED.

On Sep.26.2005 at 10:21 AM
Zoelle’s comment is:


It is good to see a design resource constructed by an extremely broad community of people. I am especially excited to learn about people, designs, and techniques which are not widely publicized. When shopping for books on design I get the feeling that they are like high school year books. Too much time is spent highlighting the �cool kids’ (Rand etc.) and very little information is available about people and firms who also deserve recognition. I’m sure that DM has some lesser known people in mind that he would like to push into the spotlight.

On Sep.28.2005 at 03:35 PM
Caren Litherland’s comment is:

Another question: have you considered implementing a tagging system (cf. technorati, de.licio.us, flickr) as a means of light organization and greater cross-pollination across entries? I'm not familiar with the CMS (DocuWiki) but it seems fairly straightforward.

Just a thought.

The encyclopedia seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Kudos!



On Sep.28.2005 at 08:02 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

I thought I would frequent The Design Encyclopedia more often, but I haven't for one reason. I don't know what to type/search. What I like about

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page is that I'm going to be able to read an article that I would never have known to search for. I realize there's a recent addition side bar at TDE, but couldn't there be an alphabetized list of all words entered? Does this function already exist and I can't find it?

One other subtle thing, I think the wishlist deserves it's own link as opposed to being placed within the Playground. It might encourage more people take on some of the words. Also, is there a way to suggest other terms that may be of interest?

Thanks for this soapbox moment.

On Sep.29.2005 at 04:24 PM
Derrick Schultz’s comment is:


scroll to the bottom and click on index (at the far right). that will show you the entire list of names. kind of hidden, but it is there.

also, you can add to the wishlist by editing the playground and adding names through the sam syntax.

On Sep.29.2005 at 04:48 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

Thanks a ton Derrick, looks like I've got some catching up to do.

On Sep.29.2005 at 04:52 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> What I like about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page is that I'm going to be able to read an article that I would never have known to search for.

Eventually, the home page for TDE will be much more exciting, with recommended browsing and some other goodies.

> but couldn't there be an alphabetized list of all words entered?

In the main page, under the "Get started" subtitle, and at the bottom-right of every page is a link to the index, which lists every entry. We eventually want to move that index button to the top.

> I think the wishlist deserves it's own link as opposed to being placed within the Playground.

Yup... It will.

> Also, is there a way to suggest other terms that may be of interest?

You can add them to the wishlist!

On Sep.29.2005 at 04:54 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

Speedy service today, thanks Armin.

On Sep.29.2005 at 05:15 PM
Catarina Clemente’s comment is:

Thank you for this helpfull and supporting iniciative!!

On Oct.09.2005 at 11:27 AM
chris p’s comment is:

I am looking for a comprehensive Bio on Jerry Kuyper. If you have any good links, could you share them with me?

Haven't had much luck browsing.

On May.11.2006 at 06:08 PM