Book List of the Week

References and New Discoveries: Alexander Haldemann’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter July 9, 2013

Alexander Haldemann


Branding design firm executive Alexander Haldemann: MetaDesign (San Francisco)

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As head of MetaDesign, an award-winning brand-design agency that has developed brand systems for clients like Apple, Adobe, Current.TV, Nike, and Sony, Alexander Haldemann spends a lot of time thinking, writing, and speaking about the creativity needed to communicate the identities of some of the world’s most recognizable products. In a recent article he wrote for Computer Arts magazine, he observes, “A powerful brand core gives employees and consumers something to believe in. It can essentially form the soul of the brand that provides the entire experience.”*

Much of his thinking can be seen in the titles Haldemann selected for his book list—a list that reflects his Swiss upbringing, interest in typography, and international worldview (after leading MetaDesign’s Zurich office for ten years, he is now based in San Francisco). About all these books Haldemann says, “What they have in common is that they were all lying around piled on top of the books on the shelves, which suggests they are either important to me and I reference them often, or new discoveries, or both.”

From Füssli, the Wild Swiss, a survey of the work of Swiss painter and writer on art Johann Heinrich Füssli, edited by Christoph Becker, Haldemann takes away this insight: “What inspires me about Füssli is that he had an international consciousness—expressed in his art—in the 18th century, decades before direct flights and the Internet would make that an easy thing to do. He did it when it was hard.”

From MetaDesign Blog article (June 13, 2013) on Alexander Haldemann’s  “Branding: the Challenges of a Modern Market” in Computer Arts Magazine

While he wasn't trained in graphic and information design, Haldemann has educated himself on the subject that permeates his work, and includes on his list two books on type. One is David McCandless’s Information Is Beautiful: “The book shows convincingly that to master the sheer complexity of data you first need a solid understanding of the issue at hand. . . It is one of the many duties of design to reduce information to an understandable level, and Information Is Beautiful gives a wonderful overview about how to do this.” The other book is Designers & Books contributor Erik Spiekermann’s Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works, which Haldemann says, “makes typography accessible to someone who has not studied design but who works in the design industry.” From the book, he “learned that typography really matters and has an unbelievable impact on the expression of a brand. The book shows you that with typography, small things matter. Likewise, the true power of a brand is in the details.”

Perhaps one of the most interesting titles on the book list in relation to brand design comes from Italian graphic designer Bruno Munari. Active in modernism, Futurism, and Concrete Art, in addition to his books on design and visual communication topics, Munari wrote Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture. Haldemann comments: “Italian is my second language, but I learned very quickly that, when it comes to understanding Italian, gestures are extremely important in communicating and telling stories. This insight has carried over into my work: brands, much like languages, are multi-sensory. To truly understand both people and brands, you have to go deeper than the surface and look at them from a different perspective.”

* Alexander Haldemann, “Branding: The Challenges of a Modern Market,” Computer Arts, vol. 2, part 4, Branding. Also and via MetaDesign Blog, June 13, 2013.


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