The luxurious but cursed Great Omar version of the “Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.”
There once was a time when bookbinding was a craft and an art form, not a mechanized process at the end of a press run. This tale of such bookbinding is fraught with the unrelenting pursuit of perfection, passion, tragedy, perseverance, and plain old rotten luck.
Our story begins in 1901 with the renowned British bookbinders Sangorski and Sutcliffe, who resurrected the Medieval art of binding books with intricately inlaid multicolored leather set with real gold, jewels, and gems. As fortune would have it, their services were sought out by Sotheran’s Bookshop in London, who asked them to create opulent binding for the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” which soon became known as “The Great Omar.” The only instructions from Sotheran’s manager were that “it has to be the greatest example of bookbinding in the world…. put what you like into the binding, charge what you like for it, the greater the price, the more I shall be pleased; provided only that it is understood that what you do and what you charge will be justified by the result.” Read More »
The newest edition of Kit Hinrichs’ and my “Obsessions” book series is on the arts and crafts made by Japanese Americans held in U.S. concentration camps during World War II. All That Remains is a sequel to my 2005 book titled The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942–1946. While working on that book, I spent many hours reflecting on why people banished by their own country to barrack encampments fenced in by barbed wire and guarded by soldiers with rifles pointed at them would take up art with such a fervor that it became an obsession to them. They scrounged for scraps of paper, bits of lumber, empty bottles and cans, and cardboard packaging to use for their art projects and scoured the desert terrain for stones, driftwood and shrubs to carve into new forms. Art served a need far beyond the aesthetic. Although two-thirds of the 120,000 ethnic Japanese forced into camps were American citizens, the older immigrant generation especially, who were in their 50s and 60s, embraced the creation of art as a lifeline. Given less than 10 days notice to turn themselves in and told they could only bring what they could carry. the adults knew their businesses, homes and all their possessions would probably be gone when they were freed to return to the West Coast. In fact, that turned out to be true.
Over the past four decades, New York-based designer Louise Fili has returned often to Paris, camera in hand, to document the signage of the Parisian streetscape. Graphique de La Rue is what Fili calls her “typographic love letter to Paris.” From the classic neon that illuminates bistros and cafes to the dramatic facades of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergere to Hector Guimard’s legendary art nouveau metro entrances, Fili shows us the sensuous elegance and dazzling beauty of Paris street signs. This book is a sequel to her Graficadella Strada: The Signs of Italy, which is equally sumptuous. Read More »
How do you describe in words what autism feels like from the perspective of the person afflicted with the disorder? Sometimes verbal explanations seem inadequate, incomplete, superficial. It’s better to show it and hear it from their eyes and ears. Rattling Stick Production Company made this public service video for the National Autism Society in the UK to help viewers feel the sensory way that some autistic people experience the world. Sounds that most people don’t even notice affect them with the jarring impact of a pile driver. The video was directed by Steve Cope, with creative direction by Kit Darayam. Turn up your sound to get the full effect.
When it comes to looking for the latest crime novel by your favorite best-selling author, fans don’t want the mystery to begin in the bookstore, so publishers sprinkle graphic clues on the jacket cover to lead shoppers to the writers they want. The covers, shown here, are by designer Peter Mendelsund, associate art director at Knopf, for the Jo Nesbo series; design firm Richard, Brock, Miller and Mitchell (RBMM) for the Dick Francis horse-racing murder mysteries, and designer Michael Stirrings for the Sue Grafton alphabet murders. In such cases, the cover design “brands” the book as part of a series, and signals the likely appearance of recurring main characters — e.g., Nesbo’s detective Harry Hole and Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone. Familiarity sells.
A great book cover should be striking, memorable, profound, and, most of all, eye-catching. It should pull a reader across a bookstore with a flash of color or a slick effect. But today, designers must think beyond the physical bookstore and consider the digital one as well. The parameters of each differ in nearly every respect. So, how have designers adjusted? With the huge growth in online sales, has the digital bookstore begun to drive the design process?
Here are some tips offered by Penguin Random House experts on cover design and selling online.
The Sizing Challenge.
The most noticeable difference between a cover’s presentation online and in person is its size. On the shelf, a cover might be 10″x6″, but online it shrinks to about an inch on a computer screen—and even smaller on a mobile device. Given this discrepancy, you might think that the solution to this conundrum would be creating two different covers—one that works on a larger scale and one that pops at a fraction of that size. But designers warn against this. The cover is the most obvious consumer-facing branding of a book, and designers want to ensure that a reader can recognize that brand across all formats and platforms. Whether a reader sees the cover in a promotional email recommending the book, in the window as she passes her local bookstore, or online when she goes to buy it, she should see the same image every time. The consistency bolsters her relationship with the book and increases the likelihood of purchase.
Those of you who clicked on the Print Archive only to find a photo of covers (seen here) and nothing else, we are happy to report that you can now access the back issues online. Previously only key stories had been posted because Kit needed the intern who was scanning old articles for other tasks. Finally, everything has been scanned and you can view them in their entirety here. We are also pleased to report that for those who want the real printed publication, past editions are available while they last from Corporate Design Foundation; email [email protected]. (For the record, yes, we miss the print editions too, and would be thrilled to return to ink on paper.)
A look at the art movements of the 20th century lists everything from Art Deco, Cubism and Dada to Surrealism, Op Art and Pop Art, but it often skips over the one movement that embodied the youth culture of the mid-century – the psychedelic images of the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps no one influenced that period more than John Van Hamersveld, the southern California surfer-cum-designer whose “Endless Summer” movie poster became emblematic of the sun-drenched surfer culture. Van Hamersveld, who recalls being paid $150 for the poster, took a photograph of the film’s opening scene and converted it into sunset silhouettes by reducing each color to a single tone and giving each shape a single, hard edge. Van Hamersveld went on to design more than 300 record album covers for virtually every major rock star in the ‘60s. For aging baby boomers, Van Hamersveld illustrations are as much a symbol of the times as Beatles tunes, protest marches, acid-trips and love beads. Van Hamersveld’s iconic images are presented in his latest book, “John Van Hamersveld: 50 Years of Graphic Design,” released in June.
Celebrated Dutch book designer Irma Boom continues to push the boundaries of book design by defying the conventional use of publishing materials and printing. Boom’s special edition for Chanel No. 5 is loaded with images and text and uses absolutely no ink. The sheets are completely white and blind embossed throughout. The result is sensual, intriguing, ethereal and haunting, like the best fragrances. Boom’s approach to book design is that of a fine artist. In fact, of the more than 250 books she has designed, more than 50 are in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Boom created this limited edition book for the No. 5 Culture Chanel exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Designing a book cover is an exercise in balance. The image or graphic has to distill the story without giving away the plot. It has to create “shelf presence” to entice shoppers to pick up the book for a closer look. It has to avoid false advertising, but can’t be boring, even if the content is. It should give shoppers a sense of the genre – suspense, sci-fi, romance, self-help, current events – but imply that the author has a unique and fascinating take on the subject. While it is true that “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” it is also true that you can design a cover that makes shoppers want to buy the book. This video from Random House features interviews with book designers from its publishing groups (Random House, Knopf Doubleday and Crown) providing insights into the complex process of creating compelling, eye-catching and meaningful book cover jackets.
At age 68 when Kit left his partnership at Pentagram after 23 years to set up his own independent studio, we discussed how it would give him the luxury of doing what he wanted to do simply because he wanted to do it. Since I’m not that far behind him in years, I understood the importance of the question, “if not now, when?” Speaking for myself, when I fantasized about becoming a writer in high school, I didn’t have corporate brochures and power point presentations in mind (not that I’m complaining). Our quasi-serious venture, Hirasuna + Hinrichs Special Projects – or as Kit calls it “Hinrichs + Hirasuna Special Projects” – was intended to set aside a small portion of our time and energy to focus on the topics we found of compelling personal interest, whether it was profitable or not. We promised to take turns choosing the topic, since the things that interest me don’t necessarily interest him, and vice versa. Our first project is “Obsessions,” a series of small perfect-bound books on things that fascinate us, even though others may find that inexplicably odd. Kit’s collection of alphabet postcards, an offshoot of his passion for typography, launches the series. We also agreed that the production value must live up to our high standards – i.e., nothing cheesy. This is why it was printed beautifully by Blanchette Press on Sappi McCoy Silk.
Print or digital? That’s a debate that is roiling the publishing business. Here’s an example of a book that can live comfortably in both realms. Back in 2000, New York-based Brazilian designer Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich created a charming ABC picture book as a present for his then two-year-old daughter. Known for integrating typography into his illustrations, deVicq called his book “Bembo’s Zoo,” after an elegant serifed font named for the 16th century poet, Pietro Bembo. DeVicq used the Bembo typeface to create a zoo full of alphabet animals, from Antelope to Zebra. He spelled out the creature’s name in Bembo and then rearranged all the letters in the name into the shape of the animal. It was all Bembo all the way through, and irresistibly clever!
A few years later, deVicq took this exercise a step further by building an interactive website that featured animation (by Mucca design) and sound (by Federico Chiell). The zoo roared to life. It was a natural design evolution, from the word for the animal, to the animal figure built out of those letters, to jungle and ocean sounds, including the yodeling cries of Tarzan. Imaginative, fun and educational. (Click on the illustration above to start the animation.)
New technologies go through a number of phases as they progress from “drawing board” idea to prototype to public awareness, assessment of possibilities, learning and experimentation, to practical applications. Augmented reality (AR) seems to be in the late experimentation phase, although some very practical commercial uses are being introduced. Here two Swiss AR experts Martin Kovacovsky and Marius Hugli demonstrate the possibilities of AR by bringing the pages of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” to life. The images printed on the paper leap into action on the screen when a camera (in the lamp) is focused on a page. Suddenly, traditional print becomes a multimedia vehicle, and the boundaries between analog and digital content all but disappear.
The covers of most university catalogs typically show photos of the campus or students lounging around the quad, or just present a plain typographic title. The covers for the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Extension catalog are an exception to the norm. Since 1990, they have featured the works of several of the world’s best-known graphic designers, beginning with Paul Rand.
Herself Magazine is a bi-annual, all-illustrated fashion publication produced in the UK. Virtually every image shows celebrity “models” (living, dead and animated) wearing high fashion apparel and jewelry by the likes of Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Boucheron and Faberge. The models’ poses and background settings all look like they were copied from high-end fashion photographs – and maybe they were. Every illustration is drawn by a person named Lula, who identifies herself as editor in chief and creative director, with art direction by Annual. No other staff credits are given.
A very text-light publication, Herself includes fictitious Q-A interviews between Herself and stars including Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, and Susan Sontag. Another article in Issue 2 features Disney fairy tale princesses, including Pocahontas, Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White, modeling contemporary fashions. As concepts go, Herself is intriguing, unique, and surreal.
IKEA is redefining retail catalogs by making theirs come alive. On July 31, the Swedish ready-to-assemble home furnishings giant will begin sending their 2013 edition, so keep your smartphone handy. Interspersed throughout the catalog are augmented reality codes that you can access by downloading a free IKEA catalog app onto your Android or iPhone. Look for the smartphone icons on the page and hold your phone about eight inches above the image to activate the digital layer.
Created by McCann agency with Metaio technology, the app-friendly catalog takes you beyond the printed page and launches interactive content – three-dimensional products, video stories about the product designers, an x-ray look behind a cabinet door, etc. It’s a digital magazine and shopping advisor that piggybacks on paper. For IKEA, the largest portion of their marketing budget goes toward the catalog, of which they print 211 million copies translated into some 20 languages. Enabling access to digital content is like expanding the number of pages without adding pages. Unlike websites where you have to find a way to make consumers visit your site first, the printed catalog puts the marketing piece in the consumers’ hands and then encourages them to linger longer, read deeper and return to the catalog repeatedly to discover what else is there.