Just look at this book. Don’t you want to reach out and pick it up? To explore the beautiful illustration, to wonder at the story behind the title? Don’t you want to open its cover, take in the beauty of the typeface, feel the texture of the stock within and take in that intoxicating smell of the printed page?
I can sense some nodding heads out there. Even from those who have seemingly abandoned their book shelf in favour of a Kindle, an iPad, a Sony reader or such like. Personally the tablet has little attraction for me but am I in a minority?
For last year saw a turning point in the publishing world, where for the first time, sales of ebooks was easily outpacing that of hardbacks. This was epitomised by a recent experience I had at the local swimming pool – where I was surrounded by the usual crowd of parents reading away instead of watching their children doing length after length. As I was nearing the end of my book I was beginning to wonder what to tackle next. So I thought let’s have a look around and see what the others are reading but low and behold, all except one was hiding behind a Kindle (or other such device). A dull grey tablet that gave not a clue to what they were feasting upon. What dull times we live in I thought.
Thankfully this was more of an isolated incident. In fact, I know a growing number of e-book users renouncing their ‘tablets’ and returning to the printed page. In this age of digital publishing it does appear to me that the love of the book as a physical object remains very much alive. Kathryn Hughes, in her article ‘A year of beautiful books’ (Guardian Dec 2011), believed that ‘the rise of ebook has, paradoxically, made us more rather than less appreciative of its four cornered cousin.’ Rather than seeing the end of print, it is evolving. And I believe that design is playing a huge part in this.
In his Booker prize acceptance speech last year, Julian Barnes, somewhat unexpectedly paid tribute to his book designer, Suzanne Dean, describing her as ‘the best book designer in town’. Dean herself has said ‘When I go into a book shop these days I’m struck by the fact that we are living in something of a golden age for book design.’ I quite agree.
Designer Teresa Monachino (speaking at last weeks WEDF event ‘Cover to cover’) believes the printed book ‘provides us with much more than just something to read’ that it can adapt and co-exist with electronic publishing, just as radio has done with television.
Dean and Monachino are not on their own. As well as the publishing big boys paying greater attention to the look and feel of their products there has been a rise in the number of small boutique outfits specifically focused on the production of beautiful books and even people publishing their own small, creative titles.
So get offline and get down to your local bookshop (whilst there still is one!). Even the small store I visited today had a feast to enjoy – the Virago Modern Classics, the Penguin Great Ideas series and their Modern Classics range, the Vintage 007 series, the New Cambridge Shakespeare – I could go on.
Long live the book (the printed kind).
It’s not a trick question – honest.
Having worked on the launch material for the new £50 note for the Bank of England we were drawn to an article in the Times at the weekend. It explained that just as there are those who collect stamps, coins or badges, there are also a number of enthusiasts out there waiting to get their hands on some of the pristine £50 notes that were issued at the end of last year. Not that anyone will get the very first issue or even the second – these are given to the Queen and then the Duke of Edinburgh respectively (hope an obscure question like this comes up at the pub quiz tonight). However, at an auction today a number of them will go up for sale with proceeds raised being donated by the Bank to the charities British Association for Adoption and Fostering and Kids Company. Being adorned with two portraits for the first time, a signature of a new Chief Cashier as well as an AA prefix and low serial number, note AA01 000013 is expected to raise about £400. It is likely that once bought it will join others in a specially manufactured collector’s album unlikely to ever see a cash register for the remainder of its life. Sitting there gaining in value one thinks.
And all this happening on the day that Bristol issues its own set of notes – the largest alternative to Sterling ever.
We are looking forward to going to a talk organised by the University: Phil Baines, the author of ‘Penguin by Design’ the story of Penguin book covers, is coming to speak at the Wills Memorial Building on November 13th.
Check out the winners from Smashing Magazines poster contest ‘Redesign the web, redesign the world’!
Two weeks ago I went to see this exhibition at the London Transport Museum. I have always been interested in the design of the London tube map and so this was a great opportunity to learn more about the history of the map and other artwork found in the underground.
The first piece to be seen upon entering the exhibition is a specially commissioned world map created by Susan Stockwell. She has used coloured rail tickets to produce a collaged rainbow vision of the globe which is both beautiful from afar and close up.
This is followed by an incredibly detailed hand-drawn map of London by Stephen Walker, which shows the tube lines in their vivid colours weaving between a typographically rendered London - revealing snippets of information about what can be found above and below the tracks…
As expected there is a great deal of information documenting the design and development of the London Underground map, from Harry Beck’s original iconic design in 1931, through to modern artistic interpretations - I found it particularly interesting to see how the station design changed over the years. An early concept (below) shows the lines interlocking as chains at stations.
As the number of tube lines increased so did the complexity of the map. The design had to change to show difficult station connections - as shown here for Bank.
The current tube map has been given a twist by Simon Patterson, famous for his earlier astrological interpretation of the map ‘The Great Bear’, this new print similarly renames all the stations, this time to famous characters, to create a print that is visually familiar but new in content - drawing the viewer in to follow the lines and the interesting mix of names.
I really enjoyed this exhibit and there is a lot to see in the rest of the museum as well - it is well worth the entry cost. For anyone interested in the London Underground map; it’s creation, design and development, artistic interpretations of it, and its significant influence on underground maps across the world, this is a must-see exhibition.
Here’s a quirky take on the fantastic tv series The Wire - every character reduced to their most minimal elements, using a limited colour palette and clean graphic shapes.
This set was produced by Spanish design agency Atipo, one of many lovely projects on their website. They also design fonts, some of which you can download for the cost of a complimentary tweet! Well worth a visit :)
It is evident from his work that designer Rizon Parein has always had a passion for 3D letters – from his humble beginnings as a graffiti writer to the major works he now produces for international studios.
The images here are personal executions of visuals he created for the Eristoff Vodka 3D Neon Headlines campaign (as featured on the the Creators Project website) for agency Famous BXL. In my opinion, whilst the originals are striking with the neon tubes lit, these renditions with the tubes unlit are far more visually interesting. To see the wiring and fixings, the clear form of the glass letters and the colour backgrounds all add to the overall effect. Do check out more of his work.