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Marti Friedlander

24 Jul

This is one of the books designed by Spencer Levine, whose studio we visited and who talked to us about book design. He worked for Neil Pardington before going out on his own, and I think that the influence of Neil’s design is evident in the books designed by Spencer: clean, classic and uncluttered.

This book is a good example of a cover that uses an image and lets that image speak for itself. It’s also a good example of the bright colour plus black and white formula I’ve talked about, and it’s worth noting that the colour used on the cover is repeated on the endpapers and throughout the internal design of the book which creates really nice continuity. I noticed that a lot of the books designed by Spencer used colours like the blue here or bright yellow to really nice effect.


Collect Raindrops

23 Jul

Visit Nikki McClure’s website for more information about her art and projects.
Read an interview with Nikki McClure on Fecal Face Dot Com.

This is a beautiful book. It’s very simply designed and, like Contemporary New Zealand Photographers, makes fantastic use of the white space on each page to make each of the elements stand out.

It’s basically a collection of images cut from one piece of paper with a craft knife, and all the images express themes of sustainabilty, community and the environment. Colour is used sparingly with each image so that the black is really distinctive. Words are used sparingly as complements to the images and they’re set in a font that reflects the paper-cut nature of the images. So, like the kids’ picture books I’ve looked at, this book is really about achieving harmony between image and text and I think it’s done this well.

In terms of format, this is quite a large book, hardcover and not very thick. I think the large format works really well because it is after all an ‘art’ book: you need to have enough page space to show the images well. Plus, it’s the kind of book you’d want to have lying around to look at when and as you felt like it, rather than reading it so having it big works.

One touch I really like about this book is that the spine is clothbound, but not the rest of the cover.

Contemporary New Zealand Photographers

23 Jul

This is one of the books Neil Pardington brought in to show us as an example of his book design when he spoke to our class. It’s a great example of his style: very clean and clear and uncluttered. It also incorporates some of the aspects of book design that some of the other designers spoke about.

For example, the dust-jacket is a perfect example of what Hamish Thompson said about covers needing attention from all sides and the fold-outs of dust jackets being an ideal place to put text that you don’t want cluttering up a cover. The front cover of Contemporary New Zealand Photographers is simply an image from inside the book with the title along the top and the back cover is another image. So, whichever way you happened to put this book down, it would look good. All the information (blurb, etc) is then included on the inside flaps. I think this is just perfect for a coffee table book like this because it is after all the images that are the most important thing.

In terms of internal layout, the same clean and classic feel is apparent. The outside margin is smaller than the inside margin, which kind of goes against classic design but everything’s so well and carefully set out that it works. I think what is really nice about the layout of this book is that it gives each item room to breathe – there’s enough space around every page element that you can notice and appreciate everything in its own right.

Cover Up

22 Jul

This book is designed and written by Hamish Thompson and I think it’s a great example of all the aspects of book design he discussed with us when he came to speak to our class.

The first thing that he talked to us about was the cover and spine. He gave us this quote from Charles Dickens: ‘There are books of which the backs and covers are the best part’. Which is funny, but is also quite often true! Hamish talked about the fact that the front cover is not the only cover of a book: there’s the spine (which I’ve already touched on) and the back cover to consider too. We don’t always put books down the ‘right’ way so you’re just as likely to see the back cover face-up as you are the front cover. Cover Up is a lovely example of the cover as a whole package: the image is really effective, and is continued on the flaps which you can pull out (this is a really nice touch). Hamish talked about flaps as a really good tool for placing text that you don’t want to clutter up the front or back cover (another nifty variation like that used in Stopover with the blurb on a sticker).

Inside, the book is really simply but nicely laid-out. I love the use of the coloured pages next to the title and chapter opening pages. I also think it’s really nice to have the title echo the cover by using the same font and design as is done here.

In the introduction spread, I think it’s really interesting to note that the outside margin of the text is much smaller than the inside margin. This is different to the rest of the text in the book, where the outside margin is the largest and often used for captions. It’s also in only one column. I don’t really find this a good or a bad thing: I guess that this has been done to differentiate the foreword from the actual text. It doesn’t impinge upon reading as the lines are still a reasonable length, but it could be a bit of a pain if your hand was in the way when you got to the bottom right-hand corner (as Margaret Cochrane pointed out, there’s no point in including text in a place where your hand might cover it!).

I think the main pages are really beautifully laid-out. I like the look of the text in two columns and I think this makes it approachable to read. I also like the use of the outside margins for captions. I think it’s nice to have the page numbers justified to the same place as the main body of text as this makes them very unobtrusive.

I also think it’s good to include the name of the artist entry (for example, ‘Evelyn Clouston’) as a header on the recto pages as a reference to where in the book you are and whose image you’re looking at. Like the page numbers, I think these are well-placed on the page so that you hardly notice they are there until you need them, in which case they’re where you’d expect them to be.


15 Jul

Read an interview with Emily Gravett about Wolves on the Pan MacMillan website. Read another interview with Emily on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
Visit Emily Gravett’s website to look inside Wolves and her other books.

Vida Kelly brought this book in to show us when she spoke to our class about children’s book design. She used it as an example of a book where she, as designer, hadn’t actually had to do too much work because the author and illustrator, Emily Gravett, already had such a good awareness of designing a picture book.

It’s a really awesome book. Firstly, it has this whole book-within-a-book thing going on that is illustrated by the pictures: as the little rabbit reads, you read over his shoulder. Sometimes the text of the story is that of the Rabbit’s library book (shown by including it on the book in the illustrations) and sometimes it’s the text of the story in your hands, in which case it’s off to the side. There’s never too much text on the page and I think that this is an excellent example of illustration and text fitting in and working together really effectively (which is obviously so important in a picture book).

I couldn’t get an image of the endpapers of this book but they were great too: very scrapbooky with the library card and other things.


15 Jul

Hamish Thompson brought this book in to show us when he spoke to our class about book design. It was one of those books that, like Where Your Left Hand Rests, feels totally comfortable sitting in your hands and is a total joy just to flick through.

The cover is clothbound and embossed all the way around with the word ‘stopover’, the o’s of which are highlighted or coloured in in silver. It’s really hard to discern this from the photo, but it’s really gorgeous in real life.

The high quality of the paper and the colour of the images inside the book reinforce the feeling of it as a special object.

The thing that I thought was cutest about this book was the fact that the blurb and the barcode – which would have been totally out of keeping with such a beautiful cover but are also absolutely necessary – were printed onto a circular sticker which was stuck on the back of the book. You could then remove this, fold it in half and use it as a bookmark. I thought this was a really nifty solution to what was a bit of a design conundrum: as I’ve already mentioned, with covers as well as throughout the inside of books, it always seems to be a balancing act between sleek and lovely design and including the information that is necessary in a way that it can be understood and used.

The Art of Looking Sideways

5 Jul

Watch Alan Fletcher talking about The Art of Looking Sideways in the Phaidon book trailer.

This book is actually, in a way, a design scrapbook itself. Not specifically about books, but about all the interesting, esoteric, pretty, witty and mind-boggling things to do with the interplay between verbal and visual collected by its author, alan fletcher, during his long career in design.

When it comes to design, it’s all about play. You can tell that right from the cover (which, might I add, is a lovely example of typography – look at that ragged edge!). It’s really hard to show the design of this book without actually seeing it in real life, but suffice to say there’s no real uniformity to it. There are pages of quotes, pages of writing in varied layout, full-page images … And I think it all works. It’s the kind of book you can flick open at random and know you’ll find something awesome and intriguing. The ‘chapters’ (if you can call them that) are all introduced by a plain black page with a small quote stretching across the middle of it.

All the pages play with the relationship between typography and image and the way that we read both things. The spread with the cardboard box is a good example of this: the type goes in varying directions depending on what it’s indicating that you (or your eye) should do. Normally I’d steer away from fiddling around with type too much (I think I’m definitely of the leaning that typography is something you should appreciate without even being aware of it, the crystal goblet and all that) but I think that the nature of this book as a scrapbook of sorts allows more play than other books might.