Robert L. Peters

1 December 2009

Best Taxi sign ever?



Buenos Aires, Argentina

In 1971, my dear Argentinian friend Ronald Shakespear was commissioned by BA’s City Hall to undertake a design project that would eventually grow to be called the “Visual Plan for Buenos Aires.” The project was unique in its context (certainly the first in South America) not only because of its massive scale, but also due to the dynamic interaction it entailed with both “the client” and ultimately “the client’s clients” (the city’s citizens). This turned out to be the first time that the Helvetica font was used in Argentina’s urban landscape… and among the hundreds of sign iterations generated, resulted in (I will argue here) the best design of a Taxi sign ever…

You can read more about the full project scope and its sustained impact in Eye #63 (UK), Domus #159 (Italy), and Graphis #168 (Switzerland).


1 August 2009

Richard Avedon… to his father.


A few days ago, friend Ronald Shakespear from Buenos Aires sent me the text of a poignant letter written by the late Richard Avedon

+  +  +  +  +

“In 1970, I showed my father for the first time one of the portraits that I had made of him in the years just before. He was wounded. My sense of what is beautiful was very different from his. I wrote to him to try and explain.

Dear Dad,

I’m putting this in a letter because phone calls have a way of disappearing in the whatever it is. I’m trying to put into words what I feel most deeply, not just about you, but about my work and the years of undefinable father and son between us. I’ve never understood why I’ve saved the best that’s in me for strangers like Stravinsky and not for my own father.

There was a picture of you on the piano that I saw every day when I was growing up. It was by the Bachrach studio and heavily retouched and we all used to call it “Smilin’ Jack Avedon”—it was a family joke, because it was a photograph of a man we never saw, and of a man I never knew. Years later, Bachrach did an advertisement with me—Richard Avedon, Photographer—as a subject. Their photograph of me was the same as the photograph of you. We were up on the same piano, where neither of us had ever lived.

I am trying to do something else. When you pose for a photograph, it’s behind a smile that isn’t yours. You are angry and hungry and alive. What I value in you is that intensity. I want to make portraits as intense as people. I want your intensity to pass into me, go through the camera and become a recognition to a stranger. I love your ambition and your capacity for disappointment, and that’s still as alive in you as it has ever been.

Do you remember you tried to show me how to ride a bicycle, when I was nine years old? You had come up to New Hampshire for the weekend, I think, in the summer when we were there on vacation, and you were wearing your business suit. You were showing me how to ride a bike, and you fell and I saw your face then. I remember the expression on your face when you fell. I had my box Brownie with me, and I took the picture.

I’m not making myself clear. Do you understand?

Love, Dick

14 May 2009

Señal de Diseño


Buenos Aires, Argentina

If you’re into information design or environmental graphic design (and can understand Spanish), this is the book for you—an autobiographical record of “a life in design” by Ronald Shakespear—who categorizes himself as one of the “sirvientes de la gente” (people’s servants), obsessed with legibility, clarity, and the elegant utility of eficacious messaging in the urban landscape. Visit to see the work of Ronald and sons Lorenzo and Juan… congratulations, Gentlemen!

« Previous Page

© 2002-