Germano Facetti, 1926-2006

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

The Guardian Unlimited has Rick Poynor's article on the man who was art director for Penguin Books between 1961-1972, along with a gallery of some of his covers.

Nick Shinn's picture

He must have been my favourite designer when I was growing up, but I didn't know it till I read about him in Eye a few years ago.

First, he designed "Man Must Measure - the Wonderful World of Mathematics" in 1955, which was a book that had a big influence on me at an early age. It didn't seem like maths at all, it was more like a colorful history of the world that was all pictures and diagrams, which I still remember, like the sun shinging down a well at the equator at midday, or how an abacus worked. I also recently discovered that Lancelot Hogben, who wrote it, was a Marxist, propagandist for progress -- those guys must have gotten inside my head. And then I was really into poetry when I was a teenager, and had all "The Penguin Modern Poets" with Facetti's covers. Funny, the covers were very mod, but the guts of the text was set in Monotype Bembo, a legacy from Tschicold's day.

1964. Conceptual art.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Nicely worn and torn, Nick. Got any more covers to share?

Nick Shinn's picture

This goes with the Thesaurus. Designed by Keith Whitehead in 1965, Facetti was the AD.
But I got it mainly for the rude words.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

On Design Observer, William Drenttel notes that the Guardian has also published a proper obituary, written by Richard Hollis.

It turns out that Facetti was actually born in 1928, but I don't know how to edit the title of this post (or if I can even do that!).

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Thanks for fixing the post's title, Typophile moderator(s).

William Berkson's picture

This is from 1966. I don't know if it is from the earlier era of designs led by Hans Schmoller, or even Tschichold. Does anybody know? They seem to have had a series of great designers.

Nick Shinn's picture

I have the 1958 edition, with the same cover (only 2/6!), so it's pre-Facetti.

William Berkson's picture

It says that the first edition was 1950. I was thinking that the covers might have changed, but it looks like not. In any case it must have been Hans Schmoller who did the design--St. Bride had an exibit on him last spring at Typotechnica. But a similar kind of thing, not exactly the same, was done by Tschichold, as I see in the Rauri McLean bio on him.

Wonderful stuff, the whole run of years of those Penguins.

I guess what always attracted me particularly were the good looking covers that were purely typographic--no photos. These had a certain calm, literary quality that was lovely.

They weren't afraid of white space, or of type.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Alan Powers, in his wonderful Front Cover, has a spread that features some Penguin poetry books from the same period, also using pattern papers on the covers... Apparently they are from the Hans Schmoller era (post-1949). Powers also mentions that a German designer, Elisabeth Friedlander, created the pattern for one of the poetry covers he shows in his book, and adds that she began working for Penguin in 1948.

Nick Shinn's picture

This dates from 1962, design by Stephen Russ, AD Facetti.
Nice update of the genre.

BTW, note the shortening cheat on the descender of the "g" in the bottom line: it has the "Myriad" form. I wonder how they did that, on demand or a special font.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Lovely color and texture composition.

sara waterson's picture

Germano wFacetti as actually born in 1926, as per all the online obits in Italian.
I don't know why all the English ones have got it wrong.
He was a great man. I'd been writing him a long letter to send for his 80th next month...
None of the obits gives any real idea of his anarchic and mischievous intelligence, and the sheer fun of being in his company

Resquiet in pace, my dear friend

Eluard's picture

Hello folks, I’m new here (first post!) but I couldn’t resist commenting on the passing of Germano Facetti. Like Nick Shinn, it was his cover designs for Penguin, along with Penguin’s wonderful taste in typography, that awoke me to a love of books when I was a teenager. His cover designs for the Modern Classics series also introduced me to a lot of painters that, at that time, I hadn’t come across. Under his art direction Penguin seemed to be a repository for the best of European culture in the 20-th Century. I had — and still have — most of the Modern European Poets series and his Modern Classics series.

I think it was under him that Penguin achieved true greatness, emerging from the austerity of the war years to present books as a passport to enlightened values. After 1980, or thereabouts, British book publishing lost its way and has never quite recovered, imho. So much that is produced there looks shoddily conceived and executed. But Germano Facetti was a light that shone in my teenage years and I owe him a debt of thanks for that.

Cheers to you all — this is a wonderful forum for the lover of type and print.


jonathanpierini's picture

Hey everybody,
I'm new here too!
I just saw this topic about Germano Facetti and I'd like
to send you this link:

At the link you'll find only informations in italian,
really sorry for that, here some infos

An exibition about him is gonna have place
at Museo Diffuso della Resistenza,
della Deportazione, della Guerra,
dei Diritti e della Libertà
corso Valdocco 4/a – Torino

Thursday January 24th 2008, 17.00
The exibition will last until April 27th 2008

rs_donsata's picture

I started reading Phil Baine's Peguin by Design last week and so I found about Germano Facetti yesterday.

He made some inspiring work indeed.

I'm thinking about buying Penguin's Great Ideas Box Set just for the covers (and then maybe I will read a couple of the books a year).


sara waterson's picture

<< I think it was under him that Penguin achieved true greatness, emerging from the austerity of the war years to present books as a passport to enlightened values >>

Facetti could have no finer epitaph - it was exactly what he set out to achieve and he would be so proud to read the comments here

But could someone please correct his d.o.b. I know it's so, 1926, as he was just a bit less than 20 years my senior and we would laugh about it. And I saw his passport!

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Hi, Sara, and thanks for the info. I started the thread, so I guess I should correct it. :-)

(And from the evidence of the first few comments in this thread, I started out using the date of 1926, then had it changed to 1928 because of what I read in the British newspapers! Now I'm going to change it back.)

The Guardian's obituary still says 1928, if you look it up. The Times obituary also uses the 1928 date.

I've just done a search on Google and found some articles that give 1926 as Facetti's date of birth:

The Wikipedia article helpfully lists "sources citing 1926 as Facetti's year of birth, not 1928"! This led me to the Design Museum's page on Penguin Books:

"The rigorous application of colour, grid and typography in those early paperbacks instilled Penguin with a commitment to design from the start. The company then strengthened its design ethos under the direction of the German typographer Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) during the 1940s and the Italian art director Germano Facetti (1926-) in the 1960s."

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Done! The title of this thread now has the correct year of birth for Germano Facetti. (So, contrary to what the British obituaries stated, he was 79 when he passed away, not 77.)

Thanks again, Sara!

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