The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany, July 15th, 2009


Vintage Camus — Seen at Bente Miltenburg‘s Flickr photostream (via A Journey Around My Skull).

An Intricate Dance — Author Sonya Chung describes her experience of the cover design process (and the weird — slightly tortured — anxieties that accompany it) for her debut novel Long For This World at The Millions blog (via Duke University Press on Twitter):

I am still a little nervous – having no control over the final printing process, color-correcting, etc. – about what this cover will look like. But I also realized that as each response piled on one after the other in my inbox, I was beginning to delight in the wackiness of the whole thing.

And on a related note, writer Neelanjana Banerjee looks at stereotypical images of Asian Americans on book covers in Hyphen Magazine (issuu document). Henry Sene Yee, creative director of Picador, makes an interesting general point — which I think is often forgotten — about ‘recognizable codes’:

“Russian constructivist font for Russian books; torn paper and beige for Westerns; italics, diamond rings and legs for women’s fiction… The writer is tapping into this culture; so is the designer, and so is the reader.”

GroupThink — After a bit of a hiatus, designer Christopher Tobias is back blogging with a series of discussions on book design:

Beginning today, I plan to post an ongoing series of questions aimed at book designers as a way of opening discussion about various topics related to our industry… Others outside of book design are certainly free to field the questions or give input. I hope that together we can compile a nice collection of discussions for the benefit of those in the profession now and in the future.

Swiss — A bilingual, expandable book designed for the UK art and design gallery Blanka by Dylan Mulvaney: “It honors Josef Müller-Brockmann as well as conveys the principles of Swiss Graphic Design as exemplified by the leader of the revolutionary Swiss Style.” (via SwissMiss and Swiss Legacy).

Good — Christopher Simmons has a quick chat about The Good Design Book project with Grain Edit:

I frequently come back to the definition of design proffered by Charles Eames: “Design is a plan for arranging elements to achieve a particular purpose.” If you break that down, it contains 5 equal parts: the plan (strategy), the arrangement (layout or formalism), the elements (content), the achievement (result) and the purpose (the goal). Good design can therefore be thought of as design based on a good strategy and which features a good arrangement of good content for a good purpose. And of course it needs to yield good results.

And lastly… Following the survey of Mick Wiggins work (mentioned previously here),  Caustic Cover Critic discusses those rather lovely Steinbeck covers with the illustrator:

The Steinbeck gig was about as dreamy a gig as an illustrator can hope to land: 24 covers to date, I think. It was not difficult in the sense of inspiration—he’s so good at evoking mood, and his settings are described so beautifully—but the flop-sweat for me was intense. Steinbeck’s such a classic figure in the literary landscape and bookshelves, delivering art that disappointed was not an option.

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  1. Firstly, I have never heard of Dylan Mulvaney, I am curious therefore how he reached the conclusion that Blanka was in anyway involved in this project. I love the principles of swiss graphic design and the works of Josef Müller-Brockmann, however I think this book looks really tame and I resent the fact that Dylan has tried to give this book more credibility by falsely associating Blanka with it. Blanka is not releasing this book nor will it be and I am baffled why Mr Mulvaney thought it ok to say this as we have never spoken to him, baffled bemused and annoyed. Blam at Blanka

  2. Thank you for taking time to comment Blam. I am sorry to learn that the book is not associated with Blanka. Apologies.

  3. Dear Blogosphere,

    I’m a recent graduate — and like almost all recent graduates I’ve got a few pesky student projects still hanging around my portfolio. This expandable book is one of them.

    Our brief for the project asked us to create a publication of our choice on a designer or artist of our choice. We had to research the individual, write the entire publication, and choose a client to design it for so that we knew our audience, how it would be distributed, etc… Nothing out of the ordinary here.

    I read all of Müller-Brockmann’s books and decided to write a synthesis of his beliefs and the style’s beliefs on each of the major elements of graphic design. I also chose to make the publication bilingual, his were trilingual, to stay somewhat true to that publishing tradition.

    Most of my classmates chose major art museums and institutions to design their publication for. It became apparent to me during my research that Blanka would be a more appropriate organization for me to design my publication for. So I did.

    My personal portfolio site has only been used by me as an alternative or preview to my print portfolio — in the clearly understood context of a recent graduate’s portfolio with an obvious mix of client and student work.

    I have not submitted any of my projects, including my Müller-Brockmann book, to any blogs. It was never meant to be viewed in the context that it has been.

    I don’t regularly check my site’s statistics so as soon as Blam contacted me and pointed out what was happening, I removed all references to Blanka in order to avoid misunderstandings within this new context.

    My apologies for the mixup! Now we can all keep calm and carry on.

    Love, Dylan

  4. Hi Dylan. Thanks for your note. I feel like I should apologise to both you and Blanka for aiding and abetting the confusion, and I’m genuinely sorry the trouble it has caused you both.

    I’m fascinated by Muller-Brockmann’s work and by small press print projects in general so of course I was intrigued by the book and wanted to highlight it.

    Anyway, hopefully this is all now cleared up and we all can all move on. But Dylan — please let me know if you would like me to remove the images of your work and the link to your portfolio and I will do so immediately.

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