The Marvel universe is vast, spreading across comic books, films, TV shows and video games, with a cast of hundreds of characters and a multitude of worlds and storylines. Pages and pages have been written about the influence of the publisher, but a surprisingly small amount of that is about its approach to design. Marvel By Design – a new book from Gestalten, published in partnership with Marvel – aims to address that by delving into the media brand’s contribution to the wider world of visual culture. Topics include how its covers have traditionally been crafted, its pages designed, its lettering made and – perhaps the best part – how Marvel’s stable of logos was created and then adapted over the years.
Liz Stinson, executive editor of the AIGA’s Eye on Design site, has edited the 320-page book, which is stuffed with vibrant archive imagery from some of Marvel’s best-loved titles, including X-Men, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel and Ghost Rider. “I think that comics are a different form of design,” she tells CR. “They may not be design in the traditional sense – from a traditional design perspective where you’re judging something on clarity and precision and inventiveness and execution.”
As Stinson says, graphic design created for comic books is, obviously, not quite like graphic design created for real-life brands. The work in Marvel By Design is often loud, bright and, occasionally, eye-rollingly obvious. But therein lies its charm.