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March 2, 2010

Eric Baker and Tyler Blik are a pair of noted graphic and identity designers, though perhaps their greatest legacy in American design will come not from their work as designers, but as design historians. Authors of 1985's very important Trademarks of the 20s and 30s, the pair has since complied and published catalogs of American trademarks big and small for the decades reaching up until the 1980s. This year Chronicle Books has published a survey of those works: American Trademark A Compendium.

Easily one of the most iconic logs of the 1960s, James Bond's 007 trademark still feels groovy, sexy, and sophisticated. This GI Joe tradmark from 1965 certainly isn't the one I grew up with, though I like Joe's face.
Easily one of the most iconic logs of the 1960s, James Bond's 007 trademark still feels groovy, sexy, and sophisticated. This GI Joe tradmark from 1965 certainly isn't the one I grew up with, though I like Joe's face.
1 / 11
For a great 70s vibe, little works better than looping lines and chunky blocks of perforated color.
For a great 70s vibe, little works better than looping lines and chunky blocks of perforated color.
2 / 11
Much of American Trademark is organized graphically as opposed to temporally. Here the crown carries the day.
Much of American Trademark is organized graphically as opposed to temporally. Here the crown carries the day.
3 / 11
Two plays on a gridded globe, we have a car painting company on the left and AIFS-Delaware, a group that promotes foreign study, on the right.
Two plays on a gridded globe, we have a car painting company on the left and AIFS-Delaware, a group that promotes foreign study, on the right.
4 / 11
Whimsical, playful, and every inch the 60s, these four treatments evoke their era even before the viewer can make out what they say.
Whimsical, playful, and every inch the 60s, these four treatments evoke their era even before the viewer can make out what they say.
5 / 11
Zippy, energetic type treatments from the 20s and 30s.
Zippy, energetic type treatments from the 20s and 30s.
6 / 11
The Fairchild Aviation Corp. sought to suggest something classical with its Pegasus design from 1929. Solid, sturdy, cerebral stuff. This company wanted to let you know that it stood for something.
The Fairchild Aviation Corp. sought to suggest something classical with its Pegasus design from 1929. Solid, sturdy, cerebral stuff. This company wanted to let you know that it stood for something.
7 / 11
8 / 11
A rather regal peacock, this 1962 mark represented Carole Accessories, a Los Angeles purveyor of real and costume jewelery.
A rather regal peacock, this 1962 mark represented Carole Accessories, a Los Angeles purveyor of real and costume jewelery.
9 / 11
An icon itself, the Monkees logo is from 1966.
An icon itself, the Monkees logo is from 1966.
10 / 11
Still in use, this trademark for the United Way from 1974 has endured the decades.
Still in use, this trademark for the United Way from 1974 has endured the decades.
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Easily one of the most iconic logs of the 1960s, James Bond's 007 trademark still feels groovy, sexy, and sophisticated. This GI Joe tradmark from 1965 certainly isn't the one I grew up with, though I like Joe's face.
Easily one of the most iconic logs of the 1960s, James Bond's 007 trademark still feels groovy, sexy, and sophisticated. This GI Joe tradmark from 1965 certainly isn't the one I grew up with, though I like Joe's face.

The book is a wonderful romp through the identity design avant la lettre, and runs the gamut from forgotten waffle houses to logos that feel utterly timeless. Organizing things by type, Baker and Blik's book is at once kitschy and reverent, backward-looking and contemporary. Graphic design luminaries like Paula Scher, Clive Piercy, and Charles Anderson weigh in with their takes and remembrences of trademarks of yore, each extolling the merits of design unencumbered, perhaps even ignorant, of all the trappings that currently lard "design culture."

American Trademark will be available later this month from Chronicle Books.

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