Pentagram - the Design Firm

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As their website will tell you, “Pentagram provides design services across the full spectrum of graphics, identity, architecture, interiors, and products. Our multi-disciplinary structure, with teams from different disciplines working in the same environment, promotes a culture of interchange that adds tremendous value to all creative thinking.” (Pentagram) This vision all began in London in 1962 when Colin Forbes, Alan Fletcher, and Bob Gill came together to form a graphic design consultancy.

Fletcher, Forbes, and Gill came together in 1962 because they felt that they could present a better face as a business than as individuals. Forbes recalls, “Everything was right” that year because there was so much creativity around and they were all the right age. (Pentagram) After about two or three years they took a hard look at their business and realized that most of their business was troubleshooting for advertising firms and they decided that wasn’t what they wanted to do. In 1964, they were working on an exhibition in Milan with Theo Crosby and they decided to all join forces because more often than not, if someone “needed a letterhead” then they also had some kind of environment that would need work. (Pentagram) Bob Gill left the company in 1964 because he asked Crosby how long it would take to build a building and thought it would take too long. So they decided to tall themselves Crosby Fletcher Forbes. Mervyn Kurlansky became a partner in 1969 to help with the increasing load of graphic design projects. In 1972 Crosby Fletcher Forbes began a project for BP Oil, designing service stations and they approached Kenneth Grange to develop the pump equipment. Grange also redesigned the American parking meter that appeared in Britain in the 1960s. This was also the time that Grange starting working on designs for Kenwood appliances and has spent several decades designing for them. There were now five partners: Crosby, Fletcher, Forbes, Kurlansky, and Grange; and on a partners’ weekend they decided that they needed a new name. They got into a fight about what to call themselves and after thumbing through several books, Fletcher found the name Pentagram in a book about black magic. John McConnell joined Pentagram in 1974 and Ron Herron joined in 1977. (Curtis) In 1975, Grange designed the housing of the “Pocket Instamatic” for Kodak and in 1979 he designed the “Parker 25” fountain pen for Parker. (Art Directory) A major landmark for Pentagram was the opening of the office in New York in 1978 by Colin Forbes. There were three main reasons they decided to do this. One of the reasons they decided to open an expansion was that were was a lot of business from America in Europe and they thought that it would be easier for them to get business if they opened a branch in America. Another reason to open the office in New York was over half of the Fortune 500 companies were located in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut and was the biggest market for design in the world. The last main reason was that there “is an international market for design.” (Pentagram) Soon after moving to New York, Forbes met Peter Harrison, who was an emerging US designer, and within twenty-four hours, he was a new partner. David Hillman was an art director and deputy editor of Nova for seven years until he became a partner in 1978. In 1984, Harrison designed the annual report for MCI Communications to show “the organization’s size and the scale and breadth of its telecommunications network activities.” (Pentagram) The next change for Pentagram came in 1986 when they expanded to the west coast. A San Francisco office was opened by Kit and Linda Hinrichs and Neil Shakery because they shared a similar “design philosophy and way of working.” (Pentagram) Robert Wallace, president of Clarks of England, enlisted John McConnell to advise them on a new image. Kit Hinrichs, who focused on the “Englishness” of the brand, carried out the...
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