In the interests of what some call "full disclosure," I must say up front that I was the copy editor of this book; that I have known its author, Jan Conradi, since 2006; and that I watched her ride an up-and-down Ferris wheel throughout the 15-month final construction of this book. I edited two drafts and read them three times. I did so out of friendship, with respect and regard for Jan's writing ability, and at her request.
Design historians, few as they are, have not explored mid to late twentieth century design with the discipline of in-depth scholarship. This book does. Liberally illustrated, superbly produced, relaxed but thorough in its storytelling, Conradi's tale engages the reader and is worthy of audiences comprised of more than just designers or other design historians. Attention CEOs!
Professor Conradi, in the years before her completion of this book, was consumed by Unimark: Unimark and its organization; Unimark as an international phenomenon; Unimark and its dynamic personalities; Unimark and its self-proclaimed mission; Unimark and its legacy. In her research, analyses and careful assembly, Conradi has put together a first-rate account of an epochal powerhouse in the field of western design. Alternately derided by some and hailed by others for championing modernism, this book rises above such narrowness. By presenting the beliefs, work ethic, design practices, business climate and societal norms that contributed to Unimark's founding and then to its international practice, Conradi allows the reader to appreciate the firm's raison d'être, to see its work in broad, social and economic contexts, to learn what lay behind its many successes, and to understand how it failed as a viable operation but not as an idea.
There is wisdom to be gained from this book: specifically, how to proceed from a vision and, just as much, how not to formulate and run a business. Those lessons are as relevant to today's entrepreneur as they are when examining the successes of Unimark and seeing the ills that foreshadowed its demise. This book and its solid history can double as a working plan for anyone embarking today to form design-related or other businesses. And the vision thing? This book unquestionably shows the value of having one as well as the folly of being inflexibly tied to it.