Formica Forever: Pentagram documents a colourful history

Published:  October 28, 2014
Lucy Waddington

To celebrate their 100th anniversary this year, Formica Laminate — yes, as in the iconic and era-defining surface material — are releasing a commemorative publication with the help of Pentagram called, Formica Forever.  The studio’s Abbott Miller, headed a design that would tell the story of cultural shifts, technical innovations and global growth, spurred by the ubiquitous material.


The design was inspired by a Formica swatch book from the 1960s, complete with perforated pages, as well as over 400 archival images of advertising, photographs and brand ephemera, collected from the Library of Congress. Miller explains, “we didn’t want a cumbersome coffee-table book; we wanted to create something celebratory rather than grandiose, authoritative but also lively.”

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Teaming up with fellow designers at Pentagram, Michael Beirut and Daniel Weil, Formica Forever is the latest in a special campaign from Miller, in documenting a century of innovation and cultural impact through design. The book follows on from a series of laminates — the Anniversary Collection — launched earlier in the year, inspired by Formica’s history and “seamless quality”.


Abbott Miller’s ‘Anniversary Collection’ swatches

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The cover introduces a graphic motif that continues throughout the book; a composition of rectangular Formica specification chips. Appearing as frames for text, and a platform for the contents guide displayed in multiple languages. The softcover book is packaged in a slipcase adorned with Miller’s ‘Endless’ pattern created for the Anniversary Collection, with a logo specially developed by Pentagram appearing on the spine of the case and cover.

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Broken into three distinct sections, the first consists of essays on the company history, the second, an illustrated chronology, while the third shows a portfolio of products divided by hue. As a brand with global reach, the book closes with translations in six languages.

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Design critic Phil Patton, is the first to contribute an essay, with “Growing Global: A Century of the Formica Brand and Business”. Alexandra Lange then supplies, “The Glamour of Utility: Formica Laminate, Design and Luxury”, finished off by Peter York’s “Toward a Wipe-Clean World: Formica Brand in Context”.

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