Posts Tagged ‘Book Design’

Franklin Mint

Friday, June 13th, 2014
51st Annual of Advertising, Editorial and Television Art & Design

51st Annual of Advertising, Editorial and Television Art & Design

I’ve been asked if I have a favorite typeface. I’d like to consider myself type-tolerant, but I’m actually rather a type snob. Most projects begin with me trying something outlandish such as Behemoth. But, as time passes, I slowly migrate back to Franklin Gothic. When I found the 51st Annual of Advertising and Editorial Design for The Art Director’s Club of New York, I found a gold mine. Giant Franklin Gothic and my favorite shades of orange and yellow. The book was designed by Dennis Mazzella. In the credits, its states: with the help of Kurt Weihs, my friend. I don’t know what that means, so I’ll include it to give credit to all parties. I also love that this book is stamped by my friend Doug Boyd. It’s a double treasure.

I am in love with the unashamed enormous Franklin Gothic slipcase and cover. So much in love that I considered not sharing this so I could file it in my memory bank of possible solutions. And the spine, showing the inductees into the Hall of Fame is wonderful. Everybody gets so hung up on spines having all the information, but really, in this case on a designer’s bookshelf, is anyone going to say, “Well, I dunno. What the hell is that thing?” And how many times have I spent designing countless covers for an annual report because every tiny detail means something to someone in the room. This cover solves that problem. “All we want are the facts. Just the facts, ma’am.”

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Liberty and Freedom in Grids

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

The World of Franklin & Jefferson, cover, 1976

I like odd grids. How’s that for a catchy opening at a cocktail party? Probably not too good. Nevertheless, complicated and unexpected grids are wonderful. One of my favorite examples is the structure for the book, The World of Franklin and Jefferson, created for the exhibition of the same name. United States Information Agency and the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration proposed the exhibition with funding from IBM. The exhibit toured New York, Paris, Warsaw, London, Mexico City, Chicago, and Los Angeles and was one of the last major works completed by the Eames Office. The accompanying book’s structure is, let’s be honest, bizarre. There are almost no margins. The italic captions have their own column in the center of the page. The images seem to invade the text like wild animals. Clearly, there is a structure under here I do not understand. But I love it. It’s a world of wackadoodle grids. Now, that’s a good title for a new design book.

The World of Franklin & Jefferson, spread, 1976

 

The World of Franklin & Jefferson, spread, 1976

 

The World of Franklin & Jefferson, spread, 1976

 

The World of Franklin & Jefferson, spread, 1976

Seven Thousand Pelts in the Bins

Monday, October 15th, 2012

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

At lunch today, we discussed which fiction books changed each of our lives. People talked about Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion, anything by Walt Whitman, and The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When the group asked me to list my top three, I admit I was ashamed to admit the truth. “Hmm, well, hmm,” I said in a scholarly tone, “I’m quite fond of anything by Raymond Carver. And, of course, Grace Paley.” I did not tell the whole truth. Yes, I do like Raymond Carver, but one of my favorite books is one I had at my grandparents’ house. It’s The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens. It doesn’t have interesting symbols, metaphors, or complex narrative structure. It’s a standard issue boy’s adventure book about “The adventures of a party of young men on a trip from Boston to the land of the midnight sun.”

I know every page and spent hours as a kid staring at the maps of Nova Scotia and etchings of sailing adventures. The Knockabout Club was published in 1883. No, I did not read it when it was first released. When you’re eight, and there are icebergs, polar bears, Vikings, and the northern lights the publication date doesn’t matter.

            The deck—when we were able to catch sight of it for “skulps” (seal cub scalps)—was almost slippery with gore.

Lines like these are thrilling to any young boy. No worries, I do recognize now that clubbing seal cubs for scalps is not okay. I look at the book now, and am impressed with the actual design. The bright cover screams sailing adventure. I love the detailed initial caps, or in some instances, initial words. For years, I’ve wanted to go to Antarctica. Now I know the genesis of this desire. I am, however, a little confused as to why my grandparents gave me a book from 1883 to read while my friends were reading Deathwatch.

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

 

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens, 1883

The Brutalism of Books

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Life Nature Library, The Desert, 1961

Years ago, there was a wonderful school supply store in Los Angeles. It didn’t have an inventory of fine new textbooks, cute brand new classroom decorations, or specialty learning tools. This was the warehouse of the misfit supplies. This is bad if you want to teach children up to date information, but wonderful if you prefer to live in the past. Noreen bought a huge roll up wall map of the world with all the nations in 1958. We found old textbooks, cursive lettering wall charts, and diagrams of evolution from the late 1960s. There were no prices on anything, which proved to be a bonus. When we were checking out, the cashier looked at our cart of old stuff and said, “Hmm, what about $20.00 for everything?” Pretty nifty.

I especially coveted a collection of Life Nature Library books. These are the books that explain all types of scientific information in simple terms. For me, this is good. But, it’s the design that is the high point. The books are clear and simple. They are almost industrial in their functionality. This is brutalism in publication design. They are elegant in their minimalism. Nobody was trying to show every design skill they had all on one page. Even the charts are miraculously un-designed. This isn’t about laziness. It’s about restraint.

The Desert, 1961

The Desert, 1961

The Desert, 1961

The Earth, 1962

The Earth, 1962

The Earth, 1962

The Earth, 1962

The Earth, 1962

Life Nature books

The Earth, 1962

Jealousy and Desire in Book Form

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Volume, Inc., Heath Ceramics: The Complexity of Simplicity, 2006

If you are a designer, you’ve had the experience of discovering that the same person or firm designed several of your favorite items. It’s like playing favorites without realizing it. This happens to me repeatedly with work from Volume. I pick up a book at the bookstore, admire it, turn to the colophon and yep, it’s a Volume design. Now I could be angry, jealous, and spiteful, which I usually am. But, in this instance, the best recourse is to recognize the great work. I’ve known Eric Heiman and Adam Brodsley for two decades (yes, we’re all that old). If they were a-holes, then I could simply ignore them. They’re not, unfortunately. They teach at CCA, devote time and energy to AIGA, and are magnanimous genuine people. Damn them.

Several of my favorite books are Volume designed. They have an innate sense of when to stop. The books are true to the subject, never rely on typographic circus tricks, and are remarkably crafted. They present the content in a way that is clear and objective, but never dull or sterile. The commonality is a sense of warmth, value, and cinema. Pacing is the trick with publications. A good publication should be paced like a film: quite moments, crescendo, intimate sequences, and a defined plot. The Volume work does that and injects long shots, details, and close ups. This isn’t easy.

There are two emotions that I do my best to avoid, pride and jealousy. Any decision I have ever made based on pride has been a bad one. So what if someone thinks I’m a dingbat? It doesn’t cost me anything and investing resources to combat this is often pointless (I’m not talking about Noreen here. I accept her judgment of my dingbat attributes). Jealousy is a hard one to avoid. I’m human; I ask myself, “How come Volume has such great projects? How is it fair that they get to design a magnificent book on Cliff May, but I don’t? I bet they get free Heath ceramics.” But this takes so much effort, and it is so much easier to enjoy their amazing design and relax.

images courtesy Volume, Inc.

Volume, Inc., Handcrafted Modern, 2010

 

Volume, Inc., Handcrafted Modern, 2010

Volume, Inc., Handcrafted Modern, 2010

Volume, Inc., Handcrafted Modern, 2010

Volume, Inc., Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House, 2008

Volume, Inc., Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House, 2008

Volume, Inc., Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House, 2008

Volume, Inc., Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House, 2008

Volume, Inc., Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House, 2008

Volume, Inc., Julius Shulman Los Angeles, 2011

Volume, Inc., Julius Shulman Los Angeles, 2011

Volume, Inc., Julius Shulman Los Angeles, 2011

Volume, Inc., Julius Shulman Los Angeles, 2011

Volume, Inc., Heath Ceramics: The Complexity of Simplicity, 2006

Volume, Inc.,Heath Ceramics: The Complexity of Simplicity