It’s always a pleasure when two passions of mine come together in one. This time: cycling and design. Carter Wong of London, a reputable design studio, have recently released A Cycling Lexicon, which features a curated collection of bicycle head badges (the little emblems that adorn the front of your ride). It’s a pocket-sized book far too large to fit in your pocket; the hundreds of shields contained within will aid in garnering admiration for not only cycling, but this unique area of design too.
I have always been fascinated by bicycle emblems. Evoking some sort of royal aesthetic, they’re often well executed and thought out, making me furthermore proud to cruise around on my ride of choice. So, imagine my excitement upon discovering Carter Wong’s recent self-initiated experiment. Using the collection of cycling-obsessed Biology Professor, Jeff Connor, the agency set about photographing and organizing the emblems alphabetically, from A-to-Z. The result is a well-designed product and a wealth of information (creative and historically).
400 pages worth of little metallic shields adorn the Lexicon’s pages. Most frequent are those bearing symbols of freedom and speed (relevant, no doubt), often in the form of wings and their avian owners. Heraldic animals (serpents, lions, and eagles) make appearances too, portraying strength and precision for certain brands. I’m amazed to see what designers overtime have been able to communicate in these tiny designs. Rather than admit defeat in the obvious limitation of space, the designers dealt with it head-on, opting to discover the most effective combination of symbols to quickly (and most effectively) represent their intended message. As a result, there’s a lot more to take from A Cycling Lexicon than just fancy-looking emblems. Beyond the symbols, the book offers insights into economy of space, typography, and even color combinations. It’ll look great on your coffee table, but also has the potential to be the unsung hero of your library and a resource you’ll find yourself coming back to again and again.
Speaking of the unacknowledged, a quip that struck me was that every emblem featured within the Lexicon bears no credited designer. There’s a charm here that I can’t quite put my finger on… Emblems traditionally carry a sacred or royal connotation—the designers’ humble presence is perhaps a nod of consecration to the art form they were playing within. Although, as Carter Wong (and collectors like Connor) exemplify, their hard-work was never in vain—there’s a whole audience out there who appreciates it. And if it’s any consolation, my bike rides are that much better thanks to the emblem on the front of my cycle, which never fails to fill me with a passionate spirit to ride hard.
A Cycling Lexicon can be ordered from the Carter Wong Design Shop for £20.