Most articles about Colin Forbes focus on the founding of Pentagram. Which he did. So if you want the full story about that, there is a website surprisingly devoted just to Pentagram. But, I am surprised how quickly that story takes the lead. For me, his work is the big story. It’s smart. Period. It’s not clever in a “isn’t that cute and clever,” way. It’s intelligent and connects with viewer on many levels. This isn’t easy. I can make something that’s clever: it’s an “I” and an exclamation point at the same time. I can make something smart: chart 1 leads to the text determining a desired response. And I can make something beautiful: Oooh, those orange poppies in a mass on a purple background look great.
It’s hard to do all three things at once. Forbes’ work doesn’t fall back on hackneyed clichés or overly rational, yet dull, presentations. It connects with us emotionally, and provides a pay-off of understanding combined with joy.
Forbes changed the business of a design practice, and was a successful and lauded AIGA President. However, his most important contribution is his ability to make great design look effortless and provide delight. There is a wall at the AIGA National Design Center that has portraits of all AIGA Presidents. When I first saw my photo up there I had two reactions. First, do my eyes look cross-eyed in that photo? And second, how in the hell did I end up on the same wall as Colin Forbes. His eyes don’t look cross-eyed.