Flexible Visual Systems

All the references from the book are now clickable and sometimes even downloadable! Get a coffee/tea, grab your copy, and enjoy the sources.


The FVS approach did not appear out of thin air. It is based on hundreds of Flexible Identity Systems created by brilliant practitioners of our time and many past and present thinkers. Some of the references I learned from are listed here: Sources


Since the book was published, I developed the book’s ideas further and converted them into online courses. You can see the list of courses I have published so far here: FVS Courses


We are constantly adding new FVS practitioners and teachers from all over the world and are sharing them here: FVS Atlas


You don’t have a copy of the book? There are still some copies left from the fifth edition in English and the first edition en Español. Have a look inside the book and read what other designers said about the book: FVS Book


Flexible Visual Systems sums up 10 years of research by Dr Martin Lorenz at the University of Barcelona, 20 years of developing systems at TwoPoints.Net, and 18 years of teaching systems at over ten European design universities on 320 pages.

Learning how to design flexible systems is not just learning another craft; it will change the way you think and work entirely. It is an approach how to design.

If you place system design into a curriculum, it would be the foundation course, putting you in the right mindset. You can apply the systemic approach to any discipline you will later specialize in, from corporate design, communication design, and user experience design to textile design.

Links to Sources

Grab your book and visit the links:

Page 10:

Page 22:

Page 23:

Page 24

Page 25

Page 26

Page 27

Page 28

Page 29

Page 31

Page 43

Page 46

Page 53

Page 67

Page 69

Page 73


Albers, J. 1995, Kombinationsschrift, 1930, Prospektblatt der Metallglas Aktiengesellschaft Offenburg-Baden, 298 x 212 mm. Published in Fleischmann, Gerd. 1995. Bauhaus – Drucksachen, Typografie, Reklame, Oktagon, Stuttgart.

Bayer, H. 1967, Herbert Bayer – Das Werk des Künstlers in Europa und USA, Otto Maier Verlag, Ravensburg.

Bertin, J. 2011, Semiology of Graphics; Diagrams, Networks, Maps, Esri Press, Redlands.

Bill, J. 2008, max bill –  funktion und funktionalismus. Schriften: 1945–1988, Benteli, Zurich.

Bohnacker, H., Groß, B., Laub, J., Lazzeroni, C 2009, Generative Gestaltung, Entwerfen, Programmieren, Visualisieren, Verlag Hermann Schmidt, Mainz. 

Bosshard, H. R. 2000, Der typografische Raster, Verlag Niggli AG, Zurich.

Bringhurst, R 1992, The Elements of Typographic Style, H&M Publishers, Vancouver.

Broos, K. 2003, Wim Crouwel Alphabets, Bis Publishers, Amsterdam.

Brüning, U., Büchner, J., Haldenwanger, M. 1991, Die neue plastische Systemschrift, Typographie kann unter Umständen Kunst sein: Kurt Schwitters – Typographie und Werbegestaltung, Landesmuseum, Sprengel Museum and Museum für Gestaltung, Hanover. 

Burke, C. 1998, Paul Renner – The art of typography, Princeton Architectural Press, New York.

Burnhill, P. 2003, Type spaces, in house norms in the typography of Aldus Manutius, Hyphen Press, London.

Cabezas Gelabert, L., Ortega de Uhler, L. F. 2001, Anàlisi gráfica i representació geomètrica, Universitat de Barcelona, Departament de Disseny i Imatge, Barcelona.

Cranfield, B. 2003, Examining the visual culture of corporate identity, Systems Design Ltd. Idn Pro, Hong Kong.

Critchlow, K. 1969, Order in Space – A Design Source Book, Thames & Hudson, London.

Doczi, G. 1981 (2005), The Power of Limits – Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art & Architecture, Shambhala, Boston.

Dondis, D. A. 1973, A Primer of Visual Literacy, mit press, Boston.

Erlhoff, M and Marshall, T 2008, Design Dictionary, Perspectives on Design Terminology, Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel.

Felsing, U., Design 2 context, ZHdK. 2010. Dynamic Identities in Cultural and Public Contexts. Lars Müller Publishers, Baden. 

Fineder, M., Kraus, E., Pawlik, A .2004, Postcript – Zur Form von Schrift heute, A/CH/D, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern.

Fleischmann, G. 1995, Bauhaus – Drucksachen, Typografie, Reklame, Oktagon, Stuttgart.

Friedl, F., Ott, N., Stein, B. 1998, Typography – when who how, Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Cologne.

Froshaug, A. 1999, ‘Typography is a Grid’, Heller, S, Bierut, M (ed.), Looking Closer 3. Classic writings on graphic design, Allworth Press, New York.

Frutiger, A. 2001, Der Mensch und seine Zeichen. Schriften, Symbole, Signete, Signale, Fourier Verlag GmbH, Wiesbaden.

Gerstner, K. 1986, Die Formen der Farben – Über die Wechselwirkung der visuellen Elemente, athenäum, Bodenheim.

Gerstner, K. 2000, Kompendium für Alphabeten – Systematik der Schrift, Verlag Niggli AG, Zurich.

Gerstner, K. 2007, Karl Gerstner: Programme entwerfen. Statt Lösungen für Aufgaben Programme für Lösungen, Lars Müller Publishers, Zurich. 

Gobé, M. 2010, Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People, Allworth Press, New York.

Hofmann, A. 2004, Methodik der Form- und Bildgestaltung; Aufbau, Synthese, Anwendung, Verlag Niggli AG, Sulgen, Zurich.

del Hoyo Arjona, J. 2001, El módulo tipográfico. Aproximaciones a su conocimiento contemplado desde la comprensión, el estudio, el análisis y la catalogación sistemática de la obra de Juan Trochut Blanchard, Universitat de Barcelona, Departament de Disseny i Imatge, Barcelona.

Kandinsky, W. 1979, Point and Line to Plane, Dover Publications Inc., New York.

Kapitzki, H. W. 1997, Gestaltung: Methode und Konsequenz. Edition Axel Menges, Stuttgart / London

Kapitzki, HW 1997, Methode und Konsequenz – Ein biografischer Bericht, Edition Axel Menges, Stuttgart, London. 

Khazaeli, C. D. 2005, Systemisches Design, Intelligente Oberflächen für Information und Interaktion, Rowohlt, Hamburg.

Kindle, E. 2007, The ‘Plaque Découpée Universelle’: a geometric sanserif in 1870s Paris, Typography papers 7, Hyphen Press, London.

Klanten, R.,  Mischler, M.,  Brumnjak, B. 2006, Serialize. Family Faces and Variety in Graphic Design, Gestalten, Berlin.

Kress, G., van Leeuwen, T. 2010, Reading Images – The Grammar of Visual Design, Routledge, London. 

Leborg, C. 2006, Visual Grammar, Princeton Architectural Press,
New York. 

Leda, 1984, La Rotulacion al pincel, Leda, Barcelona.

Lindinger, H. 1991, Ulm… Die Moral der Gegenstände, Ernst und Söhn Verlag, Berlin.

Lohse, R. P. 1966, ‘Standard, series, module: new problems and tasks of painting’, Kepes, G (ed.) Module, Proportion, Symmetry, Rhythm, George Braziller, New York.

Middendorp, J. 2004, Dutch Type, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam.

Müller-Brockmann, J. 1996, Grid Systems / Raster Systeme, Verlag Niggli Ag, Fürstentum Liechtenstein. 

Müller, L. 1994 / 2001, Josef Müller – Brockmann, Ein Pionier der Schweizer Grafik, Lars Müller Publishers, Zurich.

Munari, B. 2006, Diseño y comunicación visual. Contribución a una metodología didáctica, Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona.

Nikkels, W. 1998, Der Raum des Buches, Tropen Verlag, Cologne

Noordzij, G. 1985, The stroke. Theory of writing, Hyphen Press, London.

Norm, 2002, The Things, Die Gestalten Verlag, Berlin.

Opel, A. 2010, Adolf Loos – Gesammelte Schriften, Lesethek Verlag, Vienna.

Richard, H. 2006, Swiss Graphic Design: The Origins and Growth of an International Style, Laurince King, London.

Roberts, L., Thrift, J. 2005, The designer and the grid, Rotovision, Hove.

Rothenstein, J., Gooding, M. 2003, ABZ. More Alphabets And Other Signs, Redstone Press, London.

Schmidt, C. 1997, Klassische Alphabete, Art Stock / Fourier Verlag GmbH, Wiesbaden.

Smeijers, F. 1996, Counterpunch, Hyphen Press, London.

Simón, B. 2001, Sistemes d’ordenació de la imatge gràfica l’arquitectura gràfica en la metodologia del projecte gràfic, Universitat de Barcelona, Departament de Disseny i Imatge, Barcelona.

Tschichold, J. 1987, Die neue Typografie–Ein Handbuch für zeitgemäss schaffende, Berlag Brickmann & Bose, Berlin.

Unger, G. 1975, Tekst over tekst – een documentaire over typografie, Drukkerij en uitgeversbedrijf, Lecturis bv, Eindhoven.

Van Leeuwen T., Jewitt, C. 2001 Handbook of Visual Analysis, Sage Publications, New York. 

Van Nes, I. 2012, Dynamic Identities, How to create a living brand, BIS Publishers, Amsterdam.

Wong, W. 1972, Principles of Two-Dimensional Design, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken. 


Get in contact with Martin through Patreon 
www.instagram.com/martinlorenz or

To get inspired by recent FVS visit our Instagram account: www.instagram.com/flexiblevisualsystems/

Want to make us happy? Take a picture of you and your copy of Flexible Visual Systems and post it with the hashtag: #flexiblevisualsystems

FVS Courses

Read the book? Studied the references? The FVS Courses take the book’s content further and develop it into online courses.

The Foundation Course

The Foundation Course covers the essential lessons needed before delving into advanced visual design courses. It begins by defining identity and distinguishing it from image, laying a crucial groundwork for understanding the broader concept of visual identity. The course then introduces visual systems, explaining their structured approach and how Flexible Visual Systems (FVS) can revolutionize design methods. It explores the functionality of FVS, emphasizing their adaptability and practical benefits. Finally, it presents the FVS model and manifesto, detailing the guiding principles and philosophy behind these innovative systems.

History Course

The History Course examines the evolution of graphic design systems, focusing on the development and impact of Visual Identities, Typography, and Type Design. It starts with an introduction to the course’s objectives, followed by an exploration of visual languages and their significance in design. The course differentiates between logos and broader visual identities, investigates the rise of flexible identities, and considers whether Flexible Visual Identities (FVI) are a modern phenomenon. It also reviews traditional design manuals and templates, introducing concepts like construction kits and design programs. The course concludes by examining contemporary FVIs, summarizing key insights, and involving students in a final project to apply their knowledge.

Systemic Creativity

Systemic Creativity aims to enhance creative processes by integrating systematic approaches, ensuring efficiency without compromising creative freedom. It begins by addressing the apparent paradox of systematic creativity, then introduces system theory as a foundational concept. The course discusses how constraints can foster creativity and emphasizes the importance of iterative design processes. It examines the contributions of pioneers like Fritz Zwicky and Karl Gerstner to systemic design. The course concludes with practical applications of these principles in Flexible Visual Systems (FVS), culminating in a final project to solidify understanding.

The CAA Method

The CAA Method course teaches a structured approach to designing flexible visual identities through the “Components, Assets, Application” method. It starts with an introduction to the method, clarifying key terms and concepts. The course then delves into the creation of various asset types, including symbols, lines, frames, shapes, letters, and patterns, providing practical guidance on designing each. It explains how to efficiently apply these assets in different contexts, enhancing the design process and facilitating collaboration. The course wraps up with a comprehensive review and a final project, allowing students to apply the CAA method in real-world scenarios.

Modular Type Design

Modular Type Design introduces students to the principles of type design and the development of Modular Type Systems for Flexible Visual Identities. It begins with a brief introduction to type design, followed by an exploration of how function and tools influence form in typography. The course emphasizes the importance of grid-based design, exploring this concept through multiple lessons and case studies. Students learn to prioritize components in type design, understanding how to create versatile, modular type systems. The course concludes with a final project, enabling students to apply their knowledge and create innovative, flexible type designs.

Grids as Transformational Tools

The Grids as Transformational Tools course offers a fresh perspective on system design by utilizing grids to create Flexible Visual Identities. It begins with an overview of the course and its objectives, followed by lessons on creating grids using circles, triangles, and squares. The course then explores three-dimensional grids and their transformative potential in design. Students learn to use grids as tools for creating masks and integrating typography, resulting in multi-layered, complex designs. The course concludes with a summary and a final assignment, allowing students to apply the concepts of grid-based design in practical projects.

FVS Atlas

We are working on a FVS Atlas, listing the best FVS Practitioners and Teachers worldwide. You can add your favorites here: FVS Atlas

The Book

You don’t have the book? There are still a couple of copies left: In English
En Español

What Designers say About the Book

“Contemporary visual identities need to adapt and function consistently in a wide range of interactive, in motion, and static formats. The current landscape of design education, for the most part, still relies on concepts from the Bauhaus and Swiss “International” style; while significant historically, they can be pretty deficient when applied to design that is evolving with new technologies. Thanks to Martin, we now have a book to help us think and design ‘flexibly!’ This book will undoubtedly help educators like myself bring these new processes and ways of thinking into the classroom.”
Mitch Paone, Dia Studio

“I love it!”
Just van Rossum

“Very interesting and useful.”
Petr van Blokland

“As we were starting our redesign of our visual identity, we invited Martin to share his expertise on visual systems with us. His knowledge and this exchange was really inspiring for our design team.”
Nicolas Zimmel, Principal Designer, XING

“I have been following Martin Lorenz’ talks about “Flexible Visual Systems” quite sometime and I am hugely excited about to get his vision and expertise in printed matter. It might be the next graphic design reference book!” 
Linus Lohoff

“I don’t like systems. I don’t like grids. With this book I will start loving both.”
Lars Harmsen

“This book is not just about design but an in depth visual language which Martin is so generously putting out in the open. Years of research and practice have gone into the genesis of this book.”
Sarah Boris

“F*ck investing in bitcoins, invest in Martin Lorenz.”
Julien Arts

“Amazing research and book about flexible systems.”
Rejane dal Bello

“I am definitely not religious, but this is going to be my new bible.” 
Kimberley Klinkforth

“This is the book that bridges the gap between classic graphic design and coded design.”
Tim Rodenbröker

“Martin Lorenz’s understanding of design has always been very interesting to me and I am glad that I can finally have all that vision in one fantastic book.” 
Tilman Solé, Mucho

“Flexible Visual Systems really aligns with how I like to think about design, but it puts it in much more clear terms and examples. So reading it was kind of like coming home.” 
Vera van de Seyp

“Es ist ein Basiswerk zu systematischen und flexiblen visuellen Arbeiten. Und gleichzeitig spricht daraus sehr viel praktische Erfahrung.”
TGM-ONLINE.DE, Rudolf Paulus Gorbach

“This book hasn’t left my desk since I got it. It’s all initially so simple but the amount of space and variability that Martin covers is really profound. The insights and experiments are nested inside each other, one after another. I’ll be stealing from this for a long time.”
Kiel Mutschenknaus

“Martin Lorenz’s typographic systems are gorgeous and inspiring. The seemingly infinite possibilities for typographic construction and customization are astounding. I’m sure they will turn up in my work. Many thanks, Martin!” 
Paula Scher, Pentagram, New York

“Dear Martin, I’ve long believed that sameness tends to be overvalued in design and branding so I am very happy about your contribution to the world of flexible visual systems, a wonderful primer for people interested in elastic identities.”
Stefan Sagmeister

“Este libro es fundamental para entender y explicar las identidades visuales flexibles.”
Verònica Fuerte, Hey Studio

“Después de años de investigación y práctica con sistemas flexibles, Martin Lorenz nos deja este libro. Ya tiene un lugar destacado en mi biblioteca.”
Mario Eskenazi

“A wonderful visual textbook that shows how to use a system to develop beautiful visual identities.”
Claudia Gerdes, Page Magazine

“Flexible Visual Systems, the definitive guide on flexible visual systems.”
Cristóbal Páez, Experimenta Magazine

“I have been researching flexible systems & custom typography since the period living in The Netherlands. I am confident that Lorenz’s book and research will be a game changer for tooya to push the envelope in our design projects & products.”
Yomar Augusto

“Martin’s book is, as usually his work is, fresh, contemporary and opening new paths in the graphic culture. We need more characters like him, being always theoretical, speculative and daring. Not following trends but his own intuition. Far from the marketing and the strict commandments that our time tries to impose to designers. A clear personality and the joy of experimentation have been key in his solid career that is somehow summarized in this book. And as usual, the design of the book itself is a visual pleasure.” 
Daniel Ayuso, Clase

“Martin Lorenz entwickelt mit seinem Team flexible Systeme und Identitäten. Und es ist für mich beeindruckend, wie sie jeweils kontextbezogen die visuelle Sprache variieren – in der Modulation der Tonart und in der Änderung der Intensität. Dies ermöglicht, dass ihre Arbeiten die intendierte Wirkung erreichen. In ihrem Designprozess brechen sie Altes auf, um Neues zu suchen und zu finden. Ihr Vorgehen und ihre Arbeitsweise ist entsprechend vielfältig – mit Papier und Schere ebenso agil wie mit digitalen Tools. Und diese Vielfalt der Werkzeuge spiegelt sich in der Vielfalt ihrer Resultate wider.”
Jimmy Schmid, hkb.bfh.ch

“Grid systems may be produced by the left side of the brain and art creation by the right side of the brain: Martin’s book proves that there’s a field for playing around with both sides: real creativity is all about embracing both sides and that’s what is marvelous about his work.”
Genevieve Gauckler

“This is a wonderful book for both design students and practitioners who want to explore a more rule-based and dynamic approach to graphic design. I think the most interesting work today are done by designers who, rather than make one-off visual identities, manage to create flexible design systems, and this book is a great reference for those kinds of projects.”
Rune Madsen, Co-founder of Design Systems International

What the Press Says About the Book