Pentagram was founded on the premise of collaborative interdisciplinary designers working together in an independently owned firm of equals. Theo Crosby claimed the structure was suggested to him by his experience of working on the seminal late-1950s exhibition This is Tomorrow: "it was my first experience at a loose, horizontal organisation of equals. We have brought it to a kind of practical and efficient reality at Pentagram". The firm currently comprises 19 partner-designers in 5 cities, each managing a team of designers and sharing in common overhead and staff resources. The partners in each office share incomes equally and all the partners own an equal portion of the total firm. This equality, along with the tradition of periodically inviting new members to join, renews the firm while giving even the newest members an equal footing with the partners of long standing. This 'flat' organization (there are no executive officers, CEO, CFO or board, other than the entire group) along with the self-capitalized finances of the business, allows equal participation and control of the group's destiny by the members.
In 1978 Colin Forbes formed the New York office, eventually adding both graphic designers Peter Harrison and Woody Pirtle as partners. In 1990-91 Michael Bierut, Paula Scher, graphic designers and James Biber an architect, joined the New York office and eventually moved to a building at 204 Fifth Avenue, a building designed by C.P.H. Gilbert, where the office still resides. Now in the New York office there are eight partners including Bierut, Scher, Michael Gericke, Abbott Miller, Luke Hayman, Emily Oberman, Natasha Jen and Eddie Opara.
In London, all the founding partners, along with David Hillman and John McConnell have departed, leaving a second and third generation of partners working in the Needham Road office. John Rushworth, Daniel Weil (an industrial designer), Angus Hyland, Justus Oehler (running the Berlin branch), Harry Pearce, Domenic Lippa, Naresh Ramchandani and Marina Willer along with architect William Russell now comprise the London office.
In Austin, DJ Stout runs a single partner office. Architect Lorenzo Apicella runs a single partner office in San Francisco that focuses on the design of architecture, interiors and exhibitions.
Scope and clientele
Pentagram does work in graphic design, identity, architecture, interiors and products. They have designed packaging and products for many well known companies, such as Tesco, Boots, 3Com, Swatch, Tiffany & Co, Dell, Netgear, Nike and Timex. They have also developed identities for Citibank, United Airlines, and The Co-operative brand in the UK, winning a silver award from the Design Business Association. In 2007, they updated the visual identity of Saks Fifth Avenue.
In addition to graphic design work, the firm has partners working on architectural projects such as the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Alexander McQueen shops, Citibank interiors, the Adshel and Clear Channel buildings in London, a host of private residences including the Phaidon Atlas of Architecture listed Bacon Street Residence, the new London club Matter, along with a host of interior, retail, restaurant and exhibition projects.
Pentagram was hired to redesign the American cable television program, The Daily Show's set and on-screen graphics in 2005.
Outside of commercial work, Pentagram also does pro bono work for non-profit organizations. On February 12, 2008 the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation awarded Pentagram the "DNA" award for incorporating pro bono services into business culture. Recently, Pentagram has done work for the One Laptop Per Child.
Pentagram also supports up-and-coming artists. Angus Hyland was a notable early supporter of illustrator Christine Berrie, and organized a display of her work at the Pentagram main office.
On December 13, 2010, the Big Ten conference unveiled their new logo designed by Pentagram.