Design studio Carter Wong has produced an A to Z of bicycle headbadges, all of which come from the collection of Jeff Conner, a cycling-obsessed biology professor from Michigan…
Hundreds of examples of these small, slightly curved metal shields are contained within A Cycling Lexicon, which is curated and designed by the London-based studio.
Conner explains in the book how he only started to collect headbadges in earnest three years ago. Prior to this small-scale (and house-friendly) hobby his passion for bikes extended to owning eight of them.
His badge collection, however, celebrates the “little pieces of art riveted onto the headset of your bicycle”, as designer Paul Smith writes in his introduction. Smith, a cycling afficianado, also has a connection to the home of the most famous British make in the book – Raleigh of Nottingham.
The badges’ size is certainly no barrier to invention. With a canvas usually no bigger than a couple of postage stamps the designs reveal a fascination with notions connected to cycling, as Carter Wong’s Phil Carter notes in his text in the book.
There are symbols of freedom and speed – with wings and birds abounding – and also a debt to heraldic animals (serpents, lions and eagles, in particular), with ideas of strength and precision also conveyed in the designs.
Moreover, the headbadges also hard back to the birth of the “era of affordable mobility” – many pre-date car badges, for example – and usually reflect the maker’s location in the world.
With its gold edges and compact size, the book has a biblical look perhaps reflecting the sacred regard with which this unshowy art form is held. Yet part of the charm of the work featured is that it is unsung – each piece the product of an uncredited designer.
At 400 pages the lexicon includes a wealth of bicycle art from all over the world, but it remains an ongoing collection, too – Conner still needs to find a ‘Q’ and an ‘X’.
A Cycling Lexicon (£20) can be ordered from the Carter Wong design shop at carterwongdesignshop.com.