Kit Hinrichs’s Top 5

Create Magazine asked Kit Hinrichs to pick his favorites in five categories of design: logo, branding system, wayfinding/signage/environmental, poster, and packaging. Below, he shares his choices and explains why they speak to him. (What do you think of his choices? Share your thoughts in the Comments section at the bottom of the page.)

Designer: William Golden

Inspired by the hex signs he found on Shaker barns in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, creative director William Golden created the CBS Eye in 1951 for legendary Frank Stanton, CEO of Columbia Broadcasting Systems. Sixty-five years later, it’s still going strong. Like other classic icons, the CBS Eye has an unlimited shelf life primarily because it’s memorable, it communicates without illustrating, it works in all mediums at various sizes, and anyone can draw it. 


Designer: Danne & Blackburn

Rarely do I look to the Federal Government for graphic inspiration. (Nor does anyone.) But there is always the exception. NASA commissioned Dick Danne and Bruce Blackburn to design the identity of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The branding system was extensive, with applications on everything from logos on business cards to space shuttles.

Critically acclaimed by practitioners globally for its thoroughness and design sophistication, it was mothballed by a new director in 1992 for the previous symbol, known simply as the “meatball.” The style guide was recently part of a very successful Kickstarter campaign, which brought the identity and style guide back into the consciousness of a new generation. Who knows, maybe there will be a reversal on its use by the time we send astronauts to Mars.  


WAY FINDING/SIGNAGE: Seattle’s Manhole Covers
Designer: Anne Knight

For several years, whenever I traveled to Seattle, one of the joys of touring the city was the unique way-finding system within, or rather on top of, the manhole covers around the city. The map, designed by Anne Knight in 1977, has a “you are here” polished bead indicating where you are on the relief map of the city. In addition, key landmarks of Seattle are also indicated on the map. An interesting, functional system for a great walking city. One of its flaws is that it has no compass rose for orientation.


Designer: Milton Glaser

Perhaps because I was a rookie designer in New York City in the 1960s, where Milton’s imagery was everywhere—magazine covers, billboards, advertising, packaging and, of course, posters—it left an indelible impression on me and has shaped my design thinking for the balance of my career. The poster not only represented the "Rock Star Rebel" of the generation, its visual energy represented the entire generation, period. The poster has already transcended my generation into the nether world of international graphic icon. 

Sidenote: Many designers and collectors, like myself, haunt old record stores looking for graphic gold. Several years ago, while sorting through old Vinyl records I found Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, with the poster still intact, for a whopping $13.  So don’t give up looking for your own piece of design history. It’s out there somewhere.


PACKAGING: Coca Cola Contour Bottle
Designer: The Root Glass Company

2015 was the 100th anniversary of the “contour bottle” for Coca-Cola. Even with the multiple iterations of Coke’s graphic packaging, the shape equity established by the contour bottle stands as an example of simple, effective, practical, and memorable packaging. 

The beautiful, elegant aluminum container is a wonderful contemporary interpretation of the classic contour, maintaining the basic integrity of the original form. That plus the overall “Coke Red” package makes the final rendition stunning!

Are any of Kit's top five among your favorites? Share your thoughts on his choices (and yours) in the Comments section. 


Kit Hinrichs served as principal in design offices in New York and San Francisco and spent 23 years as a partner of Pentagram before opening Studio Hinrichs in 2009. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Library of Congress. He co-authored five books, including Typewise and Long May She. He co-founded @issue: The Journal of Business and Design and launched the @issue Design Conference. Kit has chaired the AIGA California Show, the AIGA Business Conference, and San Francisco Design Lecture Series. He has also co-chaired the Alliance Graphique Internationale San Francisco Congress. Kit is an AIGA medalist.

April 28, 2016