Lance Wyman #tbt

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Lance Wyman (b.1937)

American graphic designer Lance Wyman is perhaps most famous for his work on the 1968 Summer Olympics held in Mexico. An absolute masterpiece, spawning a career that I think just about everyone would be in awe of.

Being a master of icons earned Wyman clients such as the National Zoo in Washington DC, the Minnesota Zoo, the Washington Metro map (1970’s) and more recently a poster for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Wyman is without a doubt an innovator, with an exceptionally unique approach to design.

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On speaking of his famous work for the Mexico ’68 Olympics, Wyman sights geometry as the reason behind his logo and subsequent typeface. The geometry of the five olympic rings enabled him to generate the ubiquitous ’68’ which triggered the rest of the visuals.

Wyman’s work in Mexico didn’t end with the Olympics as shortly after he used his skills to work on the Metro system—applying his knowledge of pictograms and experience of working with signage systems to adapt his designs to a a permanent urban structure.

I really admire Wyman’s passionate approach to design, specifically his love of storytelling. Wyman’s work manages to unify a playfulness with a practicality rendering his work timeless. There’s a concept and a story with everything he designs, even down to the choice of colours, every single detail is taken care of. As Wyman puts it himself,

“Graphic design is all about telling stories, but visual stories.”

With his strong rooted background in wayfinding Wyman regularly lends his brain to Parsons School of Design in New York, where he has taught  ‘Corporate and Wayfinding Design’ since 1973, alongside running his studio ‘Wyman & Cannan’ with fellow designer, Bill Cannan.

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The subtlety in Wyman’s work is nothing short of genius, this is shown especially well in his work for Minnesota Zoo. The core logo sets the precedent for the branding, using the image of a grazing moose to form an ‘M’ in Wyman’s effortless style. The accompanying typography continues to cleverly merge animals with letterforms while still maintaining the look of simplicity and minimalism.

It’s no coincidence that Wyman’s strong grasp of wayfinding and pictogram design enriched his branding abilities allowing for a perfect marriage between the two disciplines to unfold within the Minnesota Zoo branding. In an interview with Adrian Shaughnessy (of Unit Editions), Wyman addressed this notion stating,

“The idea of combining branding  with wayfinding has really been key to a lot of the major programmes I’ve done.”

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To honour the phenomenal achivements of Lance Wyman and his contributions to graphic design, London based independent publishing house Unit Editions has recently published an in-depth book about Lance Wyman, titled, ‘Lance Wyman: The Monograph‘. It celebrates his vast body of work as well as featuring some never before published pieces and a selection of pages from Wyman’s log books.

Definitely worth a purchase for anyone looking to learn more about the wonder that is Lance Wyman!

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We will return with more design history in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime why not take a look through our #tbt archives and learn a bit more about some of our graphic design legends!