In 1995 the “American Pencil Collectors Society” was founded in the USA, bringing together an interesting group of writing instrument collectors primarily focused on the collection of graphite lead pencils. For a number of years now, I’ve been pleased to form part of this Association, which publishes the newsletter “The Pencil Collector” as the “Official organisation of the APCS”.

The pencil is, together with the printed book, one of those manufactured objects that demonstrates a degree of engineering and technical perfection that is hard to beat. It connects with the best of us as humans, making us feel comfortable in its daily use – with a pencil we sketch, take notes, draw and give ideas graphic expression. As Anni Albers claimed, “the designer is an intermediary trying to help what doesn’t exist become real”. If, as is sometimes said, the hand is the best “interface” then the pencil would be the most universal “programme”, or the “application” where anything is possible; the human being is born with this drawing “programme” Manual inside its head, a programme that needs no translation into another language or regular updates.

In recent years there has been a turnaround in direct hand-produced design, with this approach returning to an appreciation of what a humble instrument like the pencil gives designers – not trivial by any means.

The images of pioneers in Spanish graphic design that materialise over the course of this blog are designed and produced without the support of any computer tool. Their huge visual power goes above and beyond trends and fashion, despite being made with elements that today are considered highly rudimentary. In those pre-digital years, synthetic ideas took precedence, translating powerful concepts through such elemental instruments as the basic and “sophisticated” wooden pencil with lead graphite.