This is the first in a small series of previously unpublished short essays to feature a selection of objects that have served as inspiration for designers. Each item would have about 150 or so words written to describe them and what inspiration they provided. The book unfortunately didn’t get published, and I thought it’d be great to share some of the shorts in a series of posts here on our Bulletin.
Since being introduced by my grandparents to camping, hiking, and the mountains as a kid, I have longed to be there. My grandmother was a very strong, creative woman and inspired a curiosity of the world in me. Needless to say, I hike—A LOT. No hiking trip to any park—especially National Parks—can start without picking up the latest brochure at the ranger station. Current guides today are still based off of the infamous designer Massimo Vignelli’s orderly Unigrid, which is what makes the two shown here special: they are a part of the problem he and the National Park Service (NPS) sought to fix. Pre-1977, which as the year Vignelli assigned the new brand system, NPS collateral was a cacophony of styles and sizes. It was like the brand system was made up of a multitude of brands, likely because a different person (designer?) created the piece without consideration of the style of any other parks collectively.
These guides are two of many given to me for safe keeping by an uncle-in-law. His grandparents collected a brochure for nearly every place they traveled to. They are special to me not just for their connection to design history, but for the simplicity of two color design and map rendering. I have no idea who designed this brochure style, but whomever it was, did a pretty visually stunning and useful job prior to the new order to come later.
I return to these brochures from time to time as a reminder of how to use less for more, and also to break some of my own ideas about design systems. Outside of design, I think of the previous owners traveling the country, collecting their own artifacts and accidentally leaving behind markers of culture.
PS. Standards Manual just published this fantastic collection of the NPS guides in “Parks”. Check it out here.