Bob Noorda Design celebrates the work of a Dutch master in Italy

A new book from Moleskine surveys the work of Bob Noorda, the Dutch designer who along with Massimo Vignelli at Unimark helped pioneer the idea of the holistic brand image and the use of visual guidelines in identity projects

Bob Noorda Design is one of the last projects that the designer himself worked on (he died in 2010 aged 82), and so the Moleskine book features some of his final graphic work, alongside examinations of his most celebrated projects and numerous drawings and writings from the 1950s onwards.

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Expanding on Noorda’s original book project, editor Mario Piazza has incorporated a biographical section and extensive critical notes on the designer’s work. Projects are also introduced by Giovanni Baule who puts forward the case for Noorda’s significance as a graphic innovator.

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Though born in Amsterdam, Noorda worked primarily in Milan and went on to become an Italian citizen. In 1964, he worked on the signage for the Milan subway system, winning the first of four Compasso d’Oro Awards that he would go on to receive.

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A year later, he and designer Massimo Vignelli founded Unimark International, the studio that became famous for its modernist approach and work for clients such as IBM, Pirelli, Olivetti and department store La Rinascente.

Within Italy, work for companies such as Agip (below), Eni and Enel, publishers Feltrinelli, Mondadori and Garzanti, would go on to form an important part of the visual aesthetic of Italian industry.

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One of the most well known projects Noorda was involved in was Unimark’s redesign of the New York subway’s communications system (see two spreads from the book below).

In 1966, the studio was commissioned by the New York City Transit Authority to modernise its subway signage and graphics. Essentially the job was to unify a disparate collection of typefaces and signs, replacing them with clean and bold typography (originally designed as black on white, this was eventually reversed because the signs got dirty).

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According to publishers Moleskine, Bob Noorda Design also takes a wider look “at the evolution of the concept of the corporate image as a company’s visual and identifying principle, the importance and significance of good graphics to define a company’s direction and the value that a brand and a logo possess as icons of the collective imagery.”

Since 2009, Moleskine has documented the creative process in its The Hand of… series (covering Architect, Designer and Graphic Designer to date), and produced a detailed study of the work of US artist and designer, John Alcorn.

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Bob Noorda Design is published by Moleskine (€35/$39) and available from moleskine.com. The book has been made possible thanks to the support of Noord’s family and 24 ORE Cultura

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