In a Nutshell Handbook

A Nutshell  logo and handbook for O’Reilly Media was originally designed by Cyn Macgregor (Mallard) circa 1980. From their modest beginnings in Chestnut Hills, Massachusetts, as a technical writing company, O’Reilly Media has grown to be one of the largest publisher of technology books and websites.

From the O’Reilly Media website:

O’Reilly spreads the knowledge of innovators through its technology books, online services, magazines, research, and tech conferences. Since 1978, O’Reilly has been a chronicler and catalyst of leading-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and galvanizing their adoption by amplifying “faint signals” from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, O’Reilly has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.

Back story. As a young designer I was just a little nervous when I walked into the cozy, urban dwelling turned office space of O’Reilly Media (O’Reilly & Associates back then) to meet the founder Tim O’Reilly. On this day, I was presenting ideas for the company brochure. I remember when Tim and I finally met he asked me question after question about “why” I designed the cover of the brochure the way I did. I think the design included abstract shapes each representing important company cultures. This was the first time I had encountered a client wearing jeans and flip-flops with a serious mission statement and very little patience. I got flustered and finally blurted out “It doesn’t have to have a deep meaning, man! It can just be.”  Now, I was very nervous. And I should have been, since I pretty much got fired on the spot.

I actually worked with another guy developing the logo and the very first book design for UNIX: A Nutshell Handbook. The past and present covers do look rather alike. I do appreciate consistency in branding!

Unix: In a Nutshell Left, the original cover Cyn designed. Right, current cover.

But they had the rights to the Nutshell Handbook logo and they used it, a lot. Still do, so the fabulous news is this brand is going on 25 years! And looking over the many cover designs which include random birds, fish, bears, etc, all seemingly to have no connection to the titles they hold, perhaps my outburst had some effect after all on Mr. O’Reilly and the overall creative direction of the O’Reilly products. Then again, maybe he just likes animals. 

Tim O’Reilly is an innovative guy who built his businesses on methods and ethics that were way ahead of their time. This article is a good read and discusses some of his business failures and lessons learned.

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