Critics of Meggs have cited his Eurocentric focus in the first three editions. But Purvis maintains that "many important areas that were omitted from previous editions are now in this edition." He says that sections on contemporary Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American, and Iranian graphic design have been greatly expanded or included for the first time. Important figures such as industrial and product designer Raymond Loewy, and subjects such as the Spanish Civil War, are now addressed as well. "Many images have been, whenever possible, updated and improved," he says. "New digital type designs by designers such as Matthew Carter, Gerard Unger, Petr van Blokland, Erik Spiekermann, and Nadine Chahine are now part of Chapter 24." That final chapter includes sections about design for portable devices, typography and the built environment, and the letterpress revival.
Arguably, graphic-design history is entering a new phase, more than ever integrated with media other than just print. How this is addressed in the new edition is important for the future of historical design study. "It is indeed becoming more intricate and integrated with other fields," Purvis says. "Advancements in software, processor speeds, and the continued proliferation of digital devices will only make it easier for more complex visual solutions to reach a wider audience faster than ever before. The printing industry is undergoing drastic changes. Projects that in the past would require weeks can now be completed in days with little difference in quality. Noteworthy work is being done on a daily basis throughout the world. This is just one of the reasons why a book such as this, that collects/records these experiences, remains relevant."
The new edition address the digital age, but ends on a section called "Revival," a perplexing choice given he future direction of graphic design. "I realized it would be controversial," Purvis explains. "Initially I had planned to conclude the book with 'the digital as a gateway to the future' which, of course, in many ways it is. But there has been of late a revival, not only of letterpress, but a rediscovery, so to speak, of working with one's hands. In my opinion, we are not so far away from Gutenberg as one might think. Perhaps this conclusion was a kind of reminder. The title of this chapter is 'The Digital Revolution—and Beyond.' Beyond can imply many things, including a return to traditional and time-honored processes. It seemed a logical conclusion to the book, as everything in design—as in life—comes full circle."
Another paradox noted by Purvis in his new introduction is that some designers who "deserve" to be included are not because their image rights were denied. Does accurate history depend on getting releases signed? "No," Purvis insists, "but copyright infringement is increasingly a major issue, especially when seeking image rights for both printed and digital distribution. As the book is now published in several digital formats that can be read on a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or other similar devices, we needed more comprehensive forms of permission. Not all designers, or those who hold the copyright for images, were willing to give permission for all modes of distribution. But this has involved only a very small percentage, far less than one percent."
So is a sixth edition in the cards? "Work on this book is never done, and inspiration for future editions comes from new findingsbe the work new or old," Purvis says. If there is a next edition, I wonder if the "beyond" section will be about revivals or revolutions. That's the mystery of history.