Lance Wyman is the most civic-minded of designers. If you think of American graphic design – flat, primary colour, almost too bold, deceptively simple – chances are that’s Lance Wyman, or was influenced by him. He created for public spaces and made it look easy. His career start in industrial design gave him a facility with environmental graphic design which was a new idea at the time. His iconography and wayfinding systems in the sixties looks much like a smartphone interface today. At the time a client of his on being shown the icons said “what do you think we are, a bunch of goddamned illiterates?”
Of his logo designs shown here, the M is for Minnesota Zoo (and for moose. He made a whole alphabet menagerie), the CR is for Camino Real Hotel, the fabulous W is his own logo, and the blue H is for HYSLA, a steel manufacturer.
Wyman’s seminal piece of work is the Mexican 68 Olympics. It was based on a simple idea, finding a visual relationship between the 6 and 8, the Olympic rings and the parallel lines of a running track. The genius of it is how he applied that visual language to the Olympic village and the whole city. Imagine the excitement of making your way through those swooping stripey walkways to get to your seat. Even the black and white icons he created are not quite the expected curved corner squares, they are silhouettes of the numbers six and eight.
Of course ’68 was the Olympics that Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a black power salute to protest racism in America. Lance worked with Puma last year to create a special version of the logo, this time with a dove, to commemorate 50 years since the silent gesture.
More recently he created a really beautiful poster to fundraise for Obama’s first election. The more famous piece of that series is Shepard Fairey’s Hope poster, but I prefer Lance’s. It’s so graceful and elegant, and American with the lightest touch. I love the way he placed the single riging star in the 0 of 08.
Someone at Offset asked Lance and Bruno Maag about stakeholders. Maag spoke about how important it is to speak to stakeholders beyond just the brand manager and marketing manager. Lance had a story. He was doing a city signage system and before presenting it to the city council he brought it to the local police to drive around as he always did, to see how it felt in situ and to pick their brains. They told him those graphics were never going to work out. Why not? Because the municipal heads of the districts in question were not speaking to each other.