Pentagram’s Austin office has designed and produced Good Dog, the follow-up to Austin-based photographer Randal Ford’s bestselling photography book The Animal Kingdom. The new title, also published by Rizzoli Books New York, features Ford’s expertly crafted, remarkably human-like portraits of man’s best friend.
In 2008 Pentagram commissioned Ford to shoot a series of cow photographs for the redesign of Dairy Today magazine. The photographer came to mind because of a portrait he had taken of a Pentagram designer holding one of the office dogs (the Austin office routinely hosts a half-dozen dogs). Ford had included the portrait in his portfolio, and it was a fine photograph, but the little dog is what made the image special.
The design team located a breeder who raised a variety of dairy cow types and arranged to do a one-day photo shoot at his farm near Waco, Texas. Those charming cow portraits provided Dairy Today with unique cover imagery for two years but more significantly that dairy cow shoot started Ford down the path to becoming one of the premier animal portraitists working today. That was over a decade ago, and since that fateful day Ford has perfected his lighting and composition skills and favors neutral backgrounds, light gray and black, over the colorful backdrops used for the original Dairy Today portraits, which adorn the walls of the Pentagram Austin office to this day.
Good Dog features 150 images representing a broad range of breeds. To photograph the dogs in studio situations, usually with the assistance of the dog’s owners, Ford traveled to locations all over the country. Photographing dogs, pampered pets and companions, has been quite a task and surprisingly more challenging than photographing the wide variety of species, like bears, cougars, elephants and lions, featured in The Animal Kingdom. Most of those photography sessions benefitted from the assistance of professional wildlife trainers and handlers. Not so much with the dogs.
Ford’s personal observations about each dog are included in a notes section in the back of the book and scattered throughout as pull-quotes. Because of the formal, human-like aspect of the portraits the Pentagram team designed the notes section to resemble a college yearbook, each dog’s headshot is framed in an oval, with their names and Ford’s recollections underneath. The emphasis on the dog’s names throughout the book in a handsome Roman typeface, Eames Century Modern by House Industries, gives the book a friendly, approachable feeling and underscores the personal relationship Ford experienced with each dog he photographed. Many of the image pairings in the book juxtapose different breeds, some are playful and some are purely graphic, and several pairings showoff different aspects of the same dog.
The design team kept the book’s layouts clean and spare to compliment the simple aesthetic and subtle lighting of Ford’s portraits. The styling, which includes ample whitespace and classic typography printed in gray, was inspired by Audubon prints and other vintage scientific documents.
In addition to more common breeds like Beagles, Poodles, Dachshunds and Labrador Retrievers, Ford also photographed more exotic breeds like Salukis, Tibetan Mastiffs, Australian Cobberdogs, Dogue de Bordeauxs and Shiuba Inus. The book also features a few famous dogs including Anubis, Starlight Express, Brexit, Janis Joplin and social media influencers like Pawpawrazzi and Enzo. College football fans in Texas will love his inclusion of Texas A&M’s collie mascot, Reveille (A&M is the photographer’s alma mater). Other not-so-famous dogs, and plain old mutts, made it into the book, too, including lead designer Stu Taylor’s beloved dog Juno. Juno, an energetic Pentagram Austin office mate, made the cut–even if it’s only a shot of the back of her head.