Rare & Beautiful

A Flowering of Creativity: Ladislav Sutnar and F. T. Marinetti

A new look at two innovative graphic design books from the past.

By Peter Kraus May 14, 2019

Although separated by a generation, Ladislav Sutnar (1897–1976), known as the father of modern information design, and F. T. Marinetti (1876–1944), the founder of the modern art movement known as Futurism, were both multidisciplinary innovators who experimented with typography and advertising design in ways that remain remarkably fresh today. Among their many graphic design publications, we chose two books to highlight: Ladislav Sutnar’s Package Design: The Force of Visual Selling, issued in 1953, and F. T. Marinetti’s Les Mots en Liberté Futuristes, published in 1919, 100 years ago.


Package Design: The Force of Visual Selling by Ladislav Sutnar (1953)

Following World War I, there was a tremendous flowering of creativity in newly created Czechoslovakia in the fields of typography, design, and the graphic arts. Among the most prominent designers was Ladislav Sutnar (1897–1976), a pioneer of information design, and a master of advertising, posters, magazine and book design, exhibition design, and typography.

Cover of Package Design: The Force of Visual Selling.

In Czechoslovakia Sutnar was primarily involved in designing book covers, among the most notable of which are those he made for the Czech editions of the works of George Bernard Shaw. He also achieved a certain level of renown as a toy designer.

Sutnar emigrated to the United States in 1938, where he remained until his death in 1976. In America, he produced four classic works: Catalog Design Progress (1950), Design for Point of Sale (1952), Package Design: The Force of Visual Selling (1953), and Visual Design in Action (1961), all of which are now extremely difficult to find in good condition. (Designers & Books collaborated with Lars Müller Publishers on a facsimile of Visual Design in Action in 2015.) His work is very much in the ground-breaking tradition of his distinguished contemporaries Piet Zwart in Holland, Jan Tschichold in Germany, and El Lissitzky in Russia, and like theirs continues to have a profound effect on the way we look at design.

In Package Design, Sutnar discusses and illustrates the fine points of product packaging. The book is filled with examples of everything from fashion to hardware, and contains work by a host of leading designers, including Alexey Brodovitch, Donald Deskey, Alexander Liberman, Raymond Loewy, and Paul Rand.

Interior spread from Package Design.


Les Mots en Liberté Futuristes by F.T. Marinetti (1919)

Filippo Tommaso (F. T.) Marinetti (1876–1944), a prose writer, novelist, poet, and dramatist, was the main influence behind the Italian Futurist movement—a movement he launched with the publication of his manifesto (Manifesto del Futurismo) in 1909. Although an Italian, he spent most of his life in France, where many of his most important writings were first published.

Original paper wrapper for Les Mots en Liberté Futuristes.

The Futurist movement provided substantial impetus to the experimental use of typography in book design. This revolutionary approach can be traced back to Alfred Jarry’s Les Minutes de Sable, Memorial of 1894 and was continued with Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés of 1914, and cemented by Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes of 1918, all four works paving the way for the Dadaists and Russian Futurists. Marinetti stated, “My revolution is directed at what is known as the typographic harmony of the page, which is contrary to the flux and movement of style.”

While the Futurist movement produced a substantial body of literature, most of it was in the form of broadsides or magazines, with relatively few actual books. Marinetti’s Les Mots en Liberté Futuristes (Futurist words in freedom) is one of these few books, and one that perfectly encapsulates the movement. Robert Johnson has called it “the major typographical masterpiece of the futurist movement.” The book’s folding plates present the most famous of Marinetti’s parole in libertà (words in freedom). Issued as a fragile paperback, it is easy to see why very few copies have survived in acceptable condition with their paper wrappers intact.


Interior spread from Les Mots en Liberté Futuristes.

These titles are available from Ursus Books & Gallery: (212) 772-8787 or ursus@ursusbooks.com:

Ladislav Sutnar. Package Design: The Force of Visual Selling. Unpaginated. Illustrated with hundreds of photographs. Oblong 4to., 228 x 305 mm, bound in publisher’s boards and illustrated dust jacket. New York: Arts Inc., 1953. $850.00.

F. T. Marinetti. Les Mots en Liberté Futuristes. 107, [5] pp., including four folding plates of typographic compositions by the author. The final two illustrations are comprised of advertisements. 8vo., 195 x 130 mm, bound in original red and black typographic wrappers in a new gray cloth folding box. Milan: Edizioni Futuriste di “Poesia,” 1919. First edition of this influential work of Futurist typographic expression. An immaculate copy, inscribed by Marinetti to the French diplomat Henry de Jouvenel. $3850.00.

Peter Kraus is the founder and current owner of Ursus Books & Gallery in Manhattan, which offers a comprehensive selection of art reference books, superb copies of rare books in all fields, and decorative prints.


We are pleased to announce a new collaboration between Designers & Books and Peter Kraus’s Ursus Books & Gallery in New York. From time to time, Peter will highlight new and notable offerings available at Ursus that we think will be of particular interest to our readers.

Please note that Designers & Books will receive an accommodation from sales resulting from this collaboration.

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