designers books

Published by Sébastien Hayez

  • Cover with emboss on the title. The stencil font remains the logo of all 3 issues.

  • No table of content, just a landing page.

  • Insert printed on a heavy paper

Portfolio #1
(Frank Zachary, 1950, USA)

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Written by Sébastien Hayez, 4 years ago, 3 Comments


Frank Zachary (editor)
Alexey Brodovitch (Art Director)

Zebra Press, Cincinnati
Volume 1, Number 1
Winter 1950
First Edition
Softcover with wrappers

Alexey Brodovitch (1898-1971) is a legend in graphic design: during his 25-year tenure as art director of Harper’s Bazaar, he exerted tremendous influence on the direction of design and photography. A passionate teacher of graphic design, advocate of photography and collaborator with many prominent photographers, Brodovitch is often credited with having a major influence on the acceptance of European modernism in America. His use of assymetrical layouts, white space, & dynamic imagery changed the nature of magazine design. He was responsible for exposing everyday Americans to avant-garde artists by commissioning work from cutting-edge artists such as Cassandre, Dali, Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, etc.


‘Portfolio’ is considered Brodovitch’s greatest achievement– although short-lived, the magazine captured the dynamic work of some of his emerging star students from his famous Design Laboratory, including Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Art Kane.

The list of contents and contributors for Portfolio magazine reads like a guest list at some great event hosted by an enlightened art patron. “Producing a magazine is not unlike giving a party — the editor-in-chief has to be a good master of ceremonies.” according to Frank Zachary.

Like Brodovitch, Zachary likened publication design to cinematography, where the pacing of visual sequences plays an important role. Art directing and editing are one and the same thing — you have to keep your eye on both the visual and verbal narration line. “You have to tell two stories, one in words, one in pictures, completely separate — but like railroad track, leading to the same place.” Zachary recounted to Martin Pedersen in Graphis Publications (Zurich, Graphis Press Corp., 1992).

“Astonish me!” was Brodovitch’s often quoted exhortation to students attending his “Design Laboratory” classes over the years. Though borrowing “étonnez-moi!” from the Russian ballet master Sergei Diaghilev, with this charge, Brodovitch indeed set in motion the application of the modernist ethos to American graphic design and photography.

Brodovitch’s legacy was given a boost by the publication of a major monograph on his work in 2002 by Phaidon. The Phaidon book reproduces every single page of each issue of Portfolio– a very unusual tribute.



The first issue includes 6 bound-in giftwrap paper samples, a Paul Rand trademark insert and a tipped-in Bodoni type specimen sheet, and the highest quality printing available in the early 1950s.


  • Giambattista Bodoni: short article about his modern typeface with many illustrations.
  • Design From the Mathematicians
  • E. McKnight Kauffer: Poster Designer: includes many poster and sketchbook designs; several of the poster illustrations are full-page reproductions.
  • Xerography: New Visual Effects with Powder and Electricity
  • Trademarks by Paul Rand: short article with bound-in fold-out booklet featuring 12 trademarks.
  • Giantism: USA
  • The Good Looking Package: includes 6 bound-in giftwrap paper samples, with information about the stores, designs,artist and producers.
  • The Gift to Be Simple: Shaker design: short article and 8 pages of illustrations of their art.
  • Saul Steinberg: short article and 7 full page illustrations of his cartoons.
  • Photography in Fashion: Portfolios by Irving Penn and Richard Avedon: Irving Penn: short article and 9 photos, 8 full-page; and Richard Avedon: short article 9 photographs, 8 full-page.
  • News Portfolio: Record album cover art by David Stone Martin; designs by Bradbury Thompson, Paul Rand, Alvin Lustig; Knoll Furniture sales brochure by Herbert Matter; miscellaneous designs by A. M. Cassandre, Jean Carlu, Raymond Loewy, Le Corbusier, Ben Nicholson, Kasimir Malevich and others.

About Sébastien Hayez

Art director, graphic designer & illustrator from Lyon, France. Admin at Co-admin of the Facebook group Archives Graphiques Curator at Writer at The Shelf, issue 2.

  1. Todd ChildersNovember 16, 2013, 5:10 am

    Seeing Brodovitch’s masterpiece in its whole form is a dream come true. I have seen several spreads over the years via Graphis, Eye, and design history text books. Thank you very much! I only wish that I could have seen it before my lecture at TYPO Berlin: Shift. The article on mathematics in design would have been very useful for explaining how mathematical principles were investigated by the mid-century concrete artists featured in my presentation. Thank you very much! I have book marked your wonderful site and plan to return to it often!

    Todd Childers

    PS: You have wonderful colleagues in Jonathan Turner and Display!

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    […] Por si no conocían la revista Porfolio, obra maestra del diseñador Alexey Brodovitch, el blog Designers Books tiene una imagen de todas sus […]

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