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Two designers have launched a Kickstarter to reissue the EPA’s 1977 graphic design manual

Two designers have launched a Kickstarter to reissue the EPA’s 1977 graphic design manual


From the same designers who preserved the 1970s NASA ‘worm’ logo

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Image: Jesse Reed & Hamish Smyth, Partners

Two years ago, Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth put together a Kickstarter project that reissued NASA’s original 1974 design standards, which introduced the iconic “Worm” logo to the world. Now, the pair is back with a new project: a reissue of the 1977 Graphic Standards system for the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 1970, the United States was ill: widespread pollution poisoned water and obstructed the air with smog. When President Richard Nixon established the EPA that year, it was to protect the environment and human health. Congress passed laws to protect the environment and curb pollution. Through an executive order, Nixon reorganized a decentralized series of offices carrying out the research, monitoring and enforcement of those regulations.

While the agency was established in 1970, it found a problem: while the regional offices were all working under the same agency, the graphic design differed from office to office. The redundant design process and inefficiencies in branding resulting in millions of dollars wasted each year. To solve this problem, the EPA went to prominent New York design firm Chermayeff & Geismar. Its task was to establish a unified set of standards for the agency to use across the country. It produced the 1977 US EPA Graphic Standards System.

The firm was known for some of the world’s most iconic images, such as PBS, National Geographic, Mobil Oil, and others. The firm’s partners, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar, and designer Steff Geissbuhler, previously worked with the US Parks service, and set about designing a system to encompass the agency’s wide range of topics, and helped establish a simplified logo. Reed and Smyth note that the system is “an extremely rare manual––even in the design world,” rarely seen by designers.

EPA logo, Chermayeff & Geismar, 1977.
EPA logo, Chermayeff & Geismar, 1977.
Image: Chermayeff & Geismar

Reed and Smyth’s project aims to bring back the original manual by reissuing the guide as a hardcover book. The book will contain all of the original pages of the original standards guide, scanned from the original manuals. Geismar will provide a foreword for the manual, and the book will include 48 pages of images from the Agency’s Documerica Project, as well as an essay by Christopher Bonanos of New York magazine.

The pair are looking to raise just shy of $160,000 (as of the time of writing, they’ve raised $145,167 with 13 days to go). Like the NASA book from 2015, each book will cost $79. A portion of the proceeds from each copy will go to nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice. The books are expected to ship to backers in October.