The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

April 27, 2017
by Dan
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The Prophet of Dystopia

I am terribly late to this, but Rachel Mead, author of My Life in Middlemarch, profiled Margaret Atwood for The New Yorker earlier this month. Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale has just been released as a TV series starring Elizabeth Moss: … Continue reading

March 16, 2017
by Dan
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Design Canada Documentary

Greg Durrell of Canadian design firm Hulse&Durrell, and Jessica Edwards and Gary Hustwit of Film First are putting together a documentary about Canadian graphic design: The project is currently on Kickstarter. There are a couple of weeks to go and they are … Continue reading

May 25, 2016
by Dan
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Darwyn Cooke 1962 — 2016

I was sadden to hear that Canadian cartoonist Darwyn Cooke had died earlier this month from lung cancer, age 53. I never had the opportunity to meet Cooke in person, but I liked his adaptations of Donald Westlake’s Parker novels very much, and thought that … Continue reading

April 11, 2016
by Dan
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Jacket Everyday

Last month, Canadian designer Steve St. Pierre started asking people what the title of their life story would be and creating book jackets for the replies. The results, which are both brilliant and weird, can be found at  Jacket Everyday™. … Continue reading

January 25, 2016
by Dan
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Where Pilgrims Arrive in Bewilderment

In a long profile for the Globe and Mail, book review editor Mark Medley visits Nicky Drumbolis owner of the singular Letters Bookshop in Thunder Bay: Walking through the store is an overwhelming experience. Everywhere I look I spot something I’ve never seen before … Continue reading

November 17, 2015
by Dan
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Super Science Friends

It has been an undeniably grim few days, but if you’re looking for a moment of light-relief, take 15 minutes and watch the brilliant (and joyously silly) ‘Super Science Friends’pilot episode. Successfully kickstarted November 2014, ‘Super Science Friends’ was created by Brett … Continue reading

May 11, 2015
by Dan
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25 Years of Drawn and Quarterly

This past weekend at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Montreal publisher Drawn and Quarterly celebrated their 25th anniversary. D+Q cartoonist Pascal Girard (Petty Theft, Reunion, Bigfoot) drew a history of the publisher for the National Post: While in a lengthy profile of the publisher by … Continue reading

February 6, 2015
by Dan
1 Comment

Lettres Libres

Canadian designer Catherine D’Amours kindly let me know about her work at Nouvelle Administration to redesign the ‘Lettres Libres’ series published by Montreal-based publisher Lux Éditeur, with the help of Jolin Masson, a freelancer for the team. Printed on craft paper, each cover has its own pattern based on the … Continue reading

December 5, 2014
by Dan
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Catalogue Covers: A Request for Submissions

For the past few years, Quill & Quire (magazine to the stars) has asked Canadian books designers choose their favourite covers of the year. This year, however, instead of choosing a book cover like everybody else, David Gee picked out the McGill-Queen’s University Press Spring 2015 catalogue designed … Continue reading

August 29, 2014
by Dan
1 Comment

Vol 459 Series Design by David Drummond

These stylish covers were designed by Canadian designer David Drummond for a series of new novels from Montreal-based publisher VLB éditeur. In the series, four different authors imagine the same plane journey on flight 459 from Paris. Planes on covers has spot UV:

May 7, 2014
by Dan
2 Comments

Le Quartanier Série NOVA by Catherine D’Amours

Catherine D’Amours of Pointbarre Collective recently got in touch to tell me about NOVA, a series of ten novellas she designed to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Montreal-based publisher Le Quartanier. Opting for a minimalistic grid and a sober sans-serif font, Catherine designed ten illustrations and … Continue reading

January 22, 2014
by Dan
4 Comments

Q & A with Jessica Sullivan

If you saw my post on Canadian book covers last year, then you’ve already seen the work of Vancouver-based designer and art director Jessica Sullivan. I first came across Jessica’s name in 2009. I was trying to convince Peter Cocking, then art director at … Continue reading

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