Books of 2012 — FUSE 1–20

Published:  December 12, 2012
Heath Killen
Books of 2012 — FUSE 1–20

FUSE (1 — 20)
From Invention to Antimatter: Twenty Years of Fuse
Publisher: TASCHEN
Editors: Neville Brody & Jon Wozencroft
9.1 x 7.2 x 2.5 inches
416 pages
Includes posters & download material

I’m sharing my favourite design books from 2012 this week, which so far have included titles from the world of minimal architecture to the cutting edge of contemporary visual design. Today features what is effectively a box set, compiling the entire, legendary, FUSE magazine archive into one tidy little time capsule. The editors behind the set are also the founders of FUSE itself, and need very little in the way of introduction. Neville Brody is President of the D&AD, Head of the Communication Art & Design department at the Royal College of Arts, and simply one of the most influential and important graphic designers of all time. Jon Wozencroft is a senior tutor in visual communication, author of The Graphic Language of Neville Brody 1 & 2, founder of the innovative audiovisual publisher Touch, and is sought out by institutions worldwide for his insight and knowledge into the world of design.

Launched by Brody and Wozencroft in 1991, FUSE was a truly ground-breaking publication. Some of the most well know and important designers of the time (and still today) participated in the project, which was essentially an exploration of new ideas in type design, harnessing emerging technology and building on philosophical foundations and conceptual frameworks. FUSE was in essence a participatory laboratory that encouraged risk taking and celebrated experimentation.

Some examples? There’s David Crow’s Creation 6, a collection of heiroglyphs which distill creation myths into pictograms for users to set according to their own beliefs. Tobias Frere-Jones’ Reactor, a noisy, distorted typeface, was inspired by Nikolai Tesla’s research into vibrations. Jon Wozencroft ruminates on the possibilities of language in a post-apocalyptic age of scarcity. Tibor Kalman reduces the alphabet entirely to a series of emotional button like character-proxies. The list goes on, and only gets more esoteric and fascinating the deeper you dig.

Being a TASCHEN publication, it is naturally a high quality product. The set is housed in a bespoke, utilitarian cardboard box – emulating the way the original magazine and floppy disk set was packaged. There’s something enormously pleasurable about ripping through the label and unfolding the box, which opens to reveal 10 folded posters from the newly (and exclusively) commissioned 19th and 20th editions of FUSE.  Attached to the inside of the box is a FUSE keycard, in its own clear plastic wallet, which provides an access key to download some of the featured fonts, vectors, and supplemental PDFs. Then there is the book itself, which is an exhaustive retrospective of FUSE, complete with reproductions of the out-of-print issues 1 to 18. In addition to this, there is new editorial content from Wozencroft and guests such as Adrian Shaughnessey, and it also contains reports from the FUSE conferences which happened in the mid 90′s.

The book (or box) is comprehensive to say the least – dense in ideas and content. I must admit I still haven’t read every word. I’m actually taking my time with it to savour the details and let the sheer volume sink in.  Some of the work may seem dated, even unpalatable to some, but to me it all still feels radical and expressive, something which seems to be missing today. Most new typographic design tends to feel like it’s being driven solely by the pursuit of technical perfection – which is certainly important and often results in great work – however I do lament the loss of the revolutionary spirit that’s showcased in FUSE. The art based approach which is about using technology to deconstruct form and push language in new directions. John Wozencroft goes some way to addressing the absence of iconoclastic ambition in his opening essay (skewering education, design culture, and commercialism in the process) but the book itself is a powerful reminder that design is actually always on the frontier, and that we should never stop pushing, experimenting, playing, and investigating.

FUSE 1-20

FUSE 1 Layout

Max Kisman / Linear Konstrukt

Neville Brody / F State

Malcolm Garrett / Stealth

Fuse 1-20: Visual Index


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