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Inside Standards Manual, the NYC bookstore dedicated to archiving graphic design history

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

If you’re a fan of graphic design history, you might be familiar with Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth. The duo are best known for reissuing the EPA and NASA’s graphics standard manuals from the 1970s and turning them into books for designers, history buffs, coffee-table book collectors, or anyone who appreciates a little bit of the era’s design aesthetics. Having mostly marketed and sold their books from the internet, Reed and Smyth opened a dedicated bookstore in Brooklyn this summer — and it acts almost as a mini museum of vintage industrial graphics design.

Standards Manual, the store, doesn’t just showcase titles from Reed and Smyth’s imprint, though a few do sit prominently on one wall. (It’s hard to miss, given the shelf acts like feature wall, with a simple black-and-white color scheme and a bold pop of red.)

Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth.
Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth.

You can also find a variety of books relating to graphic designs from publishers including HarperCollins, Hachette, Taschen, Unit Editions, and Yale University Press, with titles like The Elements of Color and How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul. Reed and Smyth call the shop “the only graphic design bookstore in New York.” Or, at least, one that actively exists with a collection this extensive.

“We decided to really, instead of just sitting here with books, we wanted to sell all the books that we love,” Reed tells The Verge.

The storefront also doubles as the pair’s design office, Order, where they continue to work on reprints, branding projects, and original titles. Today, the imprint is releasing its latest title, New York City Transit Authority: Objects, which highlights photographs of artifacts collected from New York City’s mass transit system. The book comes as a follow to The NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual, which showcases various color schemes and a whole lot of Helvetica that went into designing New York’s iconic subway logos and bus iconography.

While Objects doesn’t entirely fit in to the graphic design theme from Standards Manual’s prior releases, it does offer the same minimalist appeal for those who enjoy learning (and seeing) how things looked just a few decades ago. Rainbow is not exactly how I would describe the MTA’s current bus line aesthetic, but things appeared a bit more groovy just some few years back.

The book offers photographs of recent memorabilia as well, including the Supreme-branded metro cards that quickly became hot commodity among hypebeasts this past winter, among other iconic imagery that appeared on the back of many metro cards. Of course, there are also photos of what came before metro cards: gold tokens and paper tickets that granted riders access to the trains and buses.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

In the past, Reed and Smyth have offered their NASA graphics manual reprint up as a free download, but the two hope that the bookstore will help create a niche community in real life around those who love this specific era of design.

Standards Manual is located at 212 Franklin Street in Brooklyn, New York.