His work is characterized by a contrast between traditional typography and the revolutionary asymmetric designs championed by Tschichold. Often working freelance, he designed children's books for Penguin in 1945–6. In 1951, McLean joined forces with George Rainbird to found Rainbird McLean for the production of exceptionally beautiful books; operating until 1956, the firm changed the face of illustrated book production. McLean designed the graphic arts journal Motif (13 issues, 1958–67) and was honorary typographic adviser to HM Stationery Office 1966–80, where he redesigned the British passport. McLean wrote, compiled, or translated 32 books between 1948 and 2000, including works on Victorian and modern book design, Victorian bookbindings, and Tschichold.
From The Oxford Companion to the Book in Oxford Reference.