Marian Bantjes’s Top 5

We asked Marian Bantjes to select her favorites in five categories of design: logo, branding system, wayfinding/signage/environmental, poster, and packaging. Below, she explains why each of her choices speaks to her. (We want to know your favorites, too. Share them in the Comments section at the bottom of this page.)

Designer: Luigi Broggini

My favourite logo is AGIP (the Italian oil and gas company, aka ENI), which I love for so many reasons. It’s so unique and instantly recognizable. It’s not abstract: not a box or a circle or a swoosh or any other meaningless shape. It’s a six-legged dog with heraldic overtones. It’s a fire-breathing six-legged dog!!! It’s about 65 years old and was reportedly the winner of a design competition that drew 4,000 entries and was won by a sculptor. It would never, ever, ever be accepted as a logo by a corporation today: Nobody would have the balls.

BRANDING SYSTEM: Government of Canada
Designers: Various

I kind of love my country, and my country’s flag, and even my country’s branding system. The Canada word mark with the flag nestled above the last “a" was designed by Jim Donahue with McLaren Advertising in 1965 for the Canadian Government Travel Bureau, and then it was integrated into the identity system for the Government of Canada as a whole in 1980, at which time it was presumably combined with the more staid, stacked columns of English and French in Helvetica and the independent flag. The original word mark was created in a modified Baskerville, though there have been some oddly suspicious versions of the typeface, adjusted typeface, or replaced typeface. Regardless, what astonishes me most is how incredibly consistently it’s been applied across a huge number of government agencies and projects nationwide, for 37 years. It is a part of my cultural landscape and I would fight to the death anyone who proposed changing it.

Designers: Various

In Vancouver, where I almost live now, and did live for a couple of decades, there has developed an ad hoc system of neighbourhood banners. Going strictly by my memory, they started on the bridges, where banners of no determined sponsorship would appear every year, hanging from the lampposts across the bridges. At that time they were designed by designers, artists, children, presumably through some arts application process. There were usually two to four variations on a theme, and usually only images, no words. Then they started to promote events in the city, and banners started to creep into neighbourhoods: again largely for aesthetic reasons to begin with. Now they are all throughout the city, and every neighbourhood has their own, which change each year. My former design company was once commissioned to design some for spring, and we were hired by the neighbourhood business association, so I assume that most of the banners come to exist in the same way. These banners are not always great. In fact they are often upsettingly awful, and yet I have really come to like how they identify neighbourhoods. The ones on the bridges are, lamentably, sometimes coopted by corporate interests, and I miss the abstractions from decades ago. And yet, as an overall Vancouver thing, consistent in its inconsistency, I like them a lot.

POSTER: 1995 Public Theatre
Designer: Paula Scher

This is a very difficult category because I know so many poster designers, personally and not; alive and dead. I have a small collection of posters, and there are about 20 by various friends that I am really lusting after. But I’ve chosen Paula Scher’s 1995 Public Theatre poster for “Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk” because it is the poster I want the most, and because it’s a real, honest-to-god functioning street poster. It’s not an obscure artsy thing, it’s a grab-your-attention, come-see-this-shit, working poster that moves and dances and makes me want to go see that show right now, tonight! Plus, I want to hang it on my wall.

PACKAGING: Milk cartons
Designer: Disputed

At the risk of elevating the banal, I am going to say that my favourite packaging is the milk carton. While some brands’ graphics are better than others, I think that the very limited printing technique (usually two colours with extreme resistance to detail) keeps most milk carton graphics from getting out of control. I have spent a lot of time staring at milk cartons on the table while I eat my breakfast. I infinitely prefer them to the cacophony of cereal boxes, and they frequently feature cows, and I like cows. Sometimes they perform a humanitarian service by listing lost people on the side. They’ve been around in relatively the same form for about 100 years. They have no removable parts, have an ingenious spout/sealing fold, and best of all they are recyclable and compostable. What more do you want?

Are any of Marian’s top five among your favorites? Share your thoughts on her choices (and yours) in the Comments section. 

Marian Bantjes lives and works from an island off the West coast of Canada. She has been variously described as a typographer, designer, artist, and writer. She has spoken at more than 100 events worldwide, and her work has been published in many books and international magazines and is included in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. In 2010, Thames & Hudson published her book I Wonder, and in 2013 they published a giant monograph of her work, Pretty Pictures. She is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI). 

February 23, 2016

Banff sign courtesy Chris Phan; immigation sign courtesy TheTruthAbout...; neighborhood banners courtesy The Flag Shop