When a business celebrates an important anniversary, a bland recap of “greatest hits” usually follows. Not so with Pentagram, the multi-continent design firm that turns forty in June. Instead, the office created The Forty Story, a punchy little short about a boy born on the same day Pentagram opened. The story follows this fictional dilettante through a contrived series of plot twists, represented on-screen with pieces from Pentagram’s huge library of work. It’s a clever idea that’s celebratory without seeming bombastic.
“The idea of the faux-biography came about very simply,” explained London partner Naresh Ramchandani over email. “I was looking at all the great design that Pentagram had done over the last forty years and thinking how vivid and familiar it was and how it it was so much part of our culture and our memories and lives. And then I thought that, if I had been born in the same year that Pentagram started, on the same day even, I would have grown up with those pieces of design as an intrinsic part of my life. And then the idea fell out from there.”
The stop-motion short was filmed in the London office, where the pieces were all pinned up on a noticeboard. Ramchandani calls it “a funny conceit, a hugely contrived piece of product placement.” Some of the work will seem familiar (The Guardian’s logo appears when the boy is working as a copyeditor), but other pieces are lesser-known (Popeye’s identity!), which is more fun for us. “But I think it’s main power is in showcasing forty years of great design,” says Ramchandani. “It all looks so wonderful to me.”
If you’re unfamiliar with them, you should go check out Pentagram’s client holiday greeting cards, which achieve the same balance of funny (without being hackneyed) and clever (without being flippant).