‘Coyote v. Acme’

Book Design

Pentagram holiday book illustrating an imaginary lawsuit between Wile E. Coyote and Acme.

In his never-ending quest to capture the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote has been a faithful customer of the Acme Company, whose products—Spherical Bombs, Rocket Skates, Spring-Powered Shoes—invariably fail him at the worst possible time. Pentagram has reimagined designs for five of these gadgets, rendered as a series of highly detailed technical diagrams. The drawings were inspired by Ian Frazier’s classic humor essay “Coyote v. Acme” and accompany a republishing of the article for Pentagram's annual holiday card.

Originally published in The New Yorker, “Coyote v. Acme” presents the opening statements of an imaginary lawsuit by Coyote against Acme for his personal injuries caused by the faulty devices, citing 85 occasions in which they “did cause him bodily injury due to defects in manufacture or improper cautionary labeling.” Our holiday greeting reprints Frazier’s essay as a mini legal brief with drawings presented as supporting evidence. The team carefully considered the design of each cartoon product, making sure the contraptions would functionally work.

So who is at fault, Coyote or Acme? Even when pressing his case, Coyote can’t seem to cut a break. The designs for the gadgets undermine Coyote’s legal claims with special safety features like “screw-in detonator” for the Spherical Bomb and a “weighted armor jacket” to be worn with the Rocket Skates. The look of the diagrams is inspired by the photo-realistic illustrations of the McMaster-Carr hardware catalog. But Wile E. skims over the fine print. 

Pentagram's design for the Coyote v. Acme holiday book has a proper legal blue back linen-mounted cover with brass loop stitching, and the text is set in the typewriter-like font Pitch. The designers also created an “official” Acme Company emblem that was applied to lab coats for a special reading at a private reception in New York in December 2013.

Michael Bierut
Daniel Weil
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