The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

September 9, 2014
by Dan

Dan Rhatigan on type…Type on Dan Rhatigan


This is kind of amazing… Type designer Dan Rhatigan talking about his love of type, and his typographic tattoos:

And if you didn’t catch all that, Dan helpfully posted a list of his tattoos (as August 2014) on his website:

  1. R from unknown wood type
  2. & from Poetica by Robert Slimbach
  3. ü from Meta Bold by Erik Spiekermann
  4. s from Fette Fraktur
  5. K from the old Krispy Kreme logo
  6. g from Baskerville, based on types of John Baskerville
  7. § from Champion Gothic Middleweight by Jonathan Hoefler
  8. 7 from Century Oldstyle Bold by Morris Fuller Benton
  9. y from Cooper Black Italic by Oswald Cooper
  10. W from Whitney Bold by Tobias Frere-Jones
  11. z from Stilla by François Boltana
  12. r from Maple Medium by Eric Olson
  13. 2 from Ingeborg Block by Michael Hochleitner
  14. w from Actium Black Italic by Gerben Dollen
  15. a from Dolly Italic by Underware
  16. e from Sodachrome (Left and Right) by Ian Moore and Dan Rhatigan
  17. Y from Banco by Roger Excoffon
  18. Å from Leyton by Ian Moore
  19. C from De Little 30-Line 196
  20. H from Calypso by Roger Excoffon
  21. é from Gill Sans Ultrabold (Gill Kayo) by Eric Gill
  22. B from Festival Titling by Phillip Boydell
  23. ø from Bell Centennial Bold Listing by Matthew Carter

In another recent video, Dan talks about the design of Monotype’s Ryman Eco, “the world’s most beautiful sustainable font”, which apparently uses 33% less ink than standard fonts:

This promotional video for Ryman Eco is also nicely done:


September 3, 2014
by Dan
1 Comment

Book Covers of Note September 2014

It’s hard to believe it is already September, but here we are… time for another round of book covers!

If you’re new to this feature, each month I collect together new and recent covers that have caught my eye in the previous few weeks. Although the focus is on books released in the current month, the posts also include covers I’ve missed earlier in the year. You can find the previous month’s posts here.

Thanks (as always) to my local bookstores — Type Books on Queen West, Book City on the Danforth, and Indigo Bay & Bloor — for fighting the good fight (and their wonderful displays!).

Abbott Miller: Design and Content; design by Pentagram (Princeton Architectural Press / September 2014)

Polygraphe_Samuel Archibald
Arvida by Samuel Archibald; design by Catherine D’Amours / Pointbarre (Le Quartanier / August 2014)
Polygraphe_Samuel Archibald_mech
(this is an obvious miss from last month’s post about maps. Sorry Catherine!)

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel; design by Rodrigo Corral Design; photograph Demurez/Glasshouse (Henry Holt / September 2014)

The City Under the Skin by Geoff Nicholson; design by Oliver Munday; photograph by George Baier IV (FSG / June 2014)

(Another one that should have been in the maps post. And yes, that really is someone’s back apparently)

The Establishment by Owen Jones; design by Richard Green (Allen Lane / September 2014)

Forensic Songs by Mike McCormack; design by Jason Booher (SOHO / July 2014)

God Telling a Joke by David Margoshes; design by David Drummond (Oolichan Books / May 2014)

Hack Attack by Nick Davies; design by David Drummond (Faber & Faber / August 2014)

The Histories by Herodotus; design by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Penguin Classics / September 2014)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison; design by JP King (Penguin / August 2014)

Lippy by Bush Moukarzel; design by Jason Booher (Oberon Books / August 2014)

The Most Dangerous Animal of All by Gary L. Stewart with Susan Mustafa; design by Jarrod Taylor (HarperCollins / June 2014)

(I’m not endorsing the content of this book at all, but the red acetate cover does need to be seen in person to be fully appreciated)

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty; design by David High / High Design (W. W. Norton / September 2014)

The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland; design by Keith Hayes (Algonquin Books / May 2014)

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle; design by Timothy Goodman (FSG / September 2014)

Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyers; design by Christopher Brian King (Melville House / September 2014)

You by Zoran Drvenkar; design by Kelly Blair (Knopf / August 2014)

September 2, 2014
by Dan
1 Comment

The Art of Comics: Chris Ware


Cartoonist Chris Ware is interviewed by Canadian journalist Jeet Heer in the latest issue of The Paris Review as part of the magazine’s ongoing ‘The Art of Comics’ series. You can read a short excerpt online:

It was the Peanuts collections in my grandfather’s basement office that really stayed with me through childhood and into college. Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy, and Lucy all felt like real people to me… I’ve said it many times before, but Charles Schulz is the only writer I’ve continually been reading since I was a kid. And I know I’m not alone. He touched millions of people and introduced empathy to comics, an important step in their transition from a mass medium to an artistic and literary one.

September 2, 2014
by Dan

BUONA LA PRIMA! An Exhibition of the Best Italian Book Design


Italian design journalist Stefano Salis has kindly let me know about BUONA LA PRIMA!, an exhibition he has curated for the Artelibro Festival in Bologna later this month. For the exhibition, a committee of 15 professionals in the field of editorial graphics has selected the best Italian books covers published published in the past year. All 45 finalists (three for each judge) can be viewed on the Artelibro website, and visitors can vote for their favourite.


In addition to the prize assigned by popular vote, the jury of experts will also award a ‘Critics Prize’ to the best cover, in conjunction with the votes expressed by Ricardo Franco Levi, President of Artelibro, Romano Montroni, President of the Italian Center for the Book, and Giovanni Gregoletto, bibliophile and owner of Cantine Gregoletto that sponsor the exhibition.

The two winners will be announced on Sunday, September 21 at 12:30, with a toast at Palazzo Re Enzo.
BUONA LA PRIMA! opens Friday, September 12th at 6pm, in the Biblioteca d’Arte e di Storia di San Giorgio in Poggiale.

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:

9782896494866 9782896494880 9782896494903

August 28, 2014
by Dan

Only Lovers Left Alive


I finally saw Only Lovers Left Alive this weekend (it can’t come as any surprise that I don’t get out much!), and I just came across this recent interview with director Jim Jarmusch about the film on IndieWire:

I’ve probably stolen from all kinds of places, but not really consciously. There’s nothing in this film that I can consciously say that I was making a direct reference to a film, but just the things they mention and talk about in the film as inspirations for the characters are then inspirations for the film itself… The beauty of ideas is that they are like waves in the ocean and they connect with things that came before them, and I think it is very important to embrace things that interest you and influence you, and incorporate them into what you do, as all artists have always done. The ones that say they don’t, are lying. Or are afraid that their work won’t be seen as being original, somehow.

The film, which is very much about art and authorship, does feel pasted together with bits of Jarmusch’s influences and interests. I’m sure many people will find Only Lovers Left Alive frustrating (its snub of Chechov’s gun in particular), but it is beautiful to just watch it slowly unfold.

(And, if you are curious, the font used in the posters picture above is apparently FF Brokenscript designed by Just van Rossum)

August 20, 2014
by Dan

It Kills Everything It Touches


At the LA Review of Books, Daniel Mark Janes discusses last month’s curious conference at Birkbeck College (University of London) about the author Geoff Dyer:

Anyone who has written about Geoff Dyer will have been tempted to emulate his style, particularly his tendency to digress: “I planned to write about Geoff Dyer but instead I got distracted/stoned/fell asleep.” (Of those who resist this urge, most feel obliged to describe this temptation.) However, the point of works like ‘Out of Sheer Rage’ and ‘Zona’ is not just that Dyer chronicles his experiences; it is that, for all of the tangents, we still at the end find ourselves closer to Lawrence, closer to Tarkovsky. Personal reminiscence alone did not necessarily make us closer to Dyer — but it was still welcome in shaping the tone. Amid the ’ism’s and ’otic’s of traditional academic papers, humanity can often be lacking — yet Dyer’s work is all flesh and bone, united by a persona that is profoundly, playfully human.

And on a related note, Philip Maughan also spoke to Dyer about the conference for the New Statesman:

“I’m one of the people who seem to have licensed the ‘I’m meant to write about this book but I’m just going to write how I got stoned instead’ essay – but it only works for certain subjects. It has to lead you into a deeper appreciation of the subject than could have been attained in a more direct way. It’s like those legal highs,” he said. “Some of them can get you pretty messed up. Really they ought to be proscribed.”

August 20, 2014
by Dan

Peter Mendelsund on WNYC

Author and book cover designer Peter Mendelsund talks about his new books, What We See When We Read and Cover, on today’s Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC:

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August 18, 2014
by Dan

Lost in the Plot: Maps on Book Covers


Who doesn’t like a good map? From sophisticated charts to intricate, idiosyncratic drawings to directions drawn on the back of napkin, maps explain the world two-dimensionally. They are flights of imagination anchored in our knowledge of the world — much like books themselves.

This post is a collection of book covers which use maps as parts of their design. I started this working on it months ago (my earlier post collecting arrows on books covers was originally an offshoot of this one), but it turned out to be surprisingly difficult to find enough interesting covers. I think I’ve finally got there — even if I had to cheat a little to include a couple of floor plans! I hope you agree…

Abolitionist Geographies by Martha Schoolman; design by David Drummond (University of Minnesota Press / October 2014)

All Over the Map by Michael Sorkin; design by Dan Mogford (Verso / July 2011)

American Smoke Iain Sinclair; design by Nathan Burton (Hamish Hamilton / November 2013)

Astray by Emma Donoghue; design by Keith Hayes (Little Brown & Co. / October 2012)

Bleeding London by Geoff Nicholson; design by Jamie Keenan (Harbour Books / September 2014)

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton; design by Dave Shelton (David Fickling Books / January 2012)

Cartographies of Travel and Navigation edited by James R. Akerman design by Isaac Tobin (University of Chicago Press / October 2006)

The Coat Route by Meg Lukens Noonan; design by Allison Colpoys (Scribe / January 2014)

A Darker Shade final for Irene
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab; design by Will Staehle (Tor / February 2015)

(This unused comp is even mappier!)

Delmore Schwartz: A Critical Reassessment by Alex Runchman; design by Palgrave Design Team (Palgrave Macmillan / May 2014)

Dogfish Memory by Joseph A. Dane; design by Jason Ramirez (Countryman Press / June 2011)

Eat the City by Robin Shulman; cover art by Christopher Silas Neal (Crown / July 2012)

The Fatal Strain by Alan Sipress; design by Isaac Tobin (Penguin / September 2011)

From Here to There by Kris Harzinski; design by Deb Wood (Princeton Architectural Press / September 2010)

1493 by Charles C. Mann; design by Darren Wall (Granta / September 2011)

The Ghost Map by Steve Johnson; design by Ben Gibson (Riverhead / November 2007)

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis; design by Oliver Munday (Little Brown & Co / January 2013)

Hackney-front Hackney-full
Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire by Iain Sinclair; design by Nathan Burton; map by David Atkinson (Hamish Hamilton / February 2009)

Harlem is Nowhere by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitt; design Friederike Huber (Granta / August 2011)

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien; design Adam Busby / Buzz Studios (unused / February 2013) 1

The Imperial Map edited by James R. Akerman; design by Isaac Tobin (University of Chicago Press / March 2009)

Infidelities by Kirsty Gunn; design by Darren Wall (Faber & Faber / November 2014)

La Isla del Tesoro (Treasure Island) by Robert Louis Stevenson; design by Raúl Arias (Bolchiro February 2013)

KCP_B paperback
Kimberly’s Capital Punishment by Richard Milward; design by Luke Bird (Faber & Faber / August 2013)

London Underground by Design by Mark Ovenden; design by Matthew Young (Particular Books / June 2013)

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Project1:Layout 5
Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw; design by Anna Morrison (Fourth Estate / April 2009)

Map Thief by Michael Blanding; design by Stephen Brayda (Gotham Books / July 2014)

Maps by Paula Scher; design by Pentagram; cover art Paula Scher (Princeton Architectural Press / October 2011)

(these Paula Scher Maps mini-journals are also rather nice)

No Dig, No Fly, No Go by Mark Monmonier; design by Isaac Tobin (University of Chicago Press / May 2010)

The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Samson; design by Jo Walker (Fourth Estate / June 2014)

N-W by Zadie Smith; design by Gray318 (Hamish Hamilton / September 2012)

On the Map by Simon Garfield; design by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich (Gotham Books / December 2012)

On the Map by Simon Garfield; design by Nathan Burton (Profile Books / October 2012)

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius; design by Charlotte Strick (FSG / January 2012)

Rats by Robert Sullivan; design by Whitney Cookman; cover art by Peter Sis (Bloomsbury / April 2004)

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch; design by Patrick Knowles; cover illustration Stephen Walter (Gollancz / January 2011)

Ring of Steel by Alexander Watson; design by Antonio Colaco (Allen Lane / August 2014)

The Second World War by Antony Beevor; design by Steve Marking (Little Brown & Co / June 2012)

Seen Reading by Julie Wilson; design by Natalie Olsen / Kisscut Design (Freehand Books / April 2012)

The Snow Tourist by Charlie English; cover art by Mike Topping / Despotica (Portobello Books / November 2008)

Thick as Thieves by Peter Spiegelman; design by Nathan Burton (Quercus/September 2011)

Transnationalism edited by Michael D. Behiels and Reginald C. Stuart; design by Michel Vrana (McGill-Queens University Press / October 2010)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; design by Coralie Bickford-Smith, cover illustration by Mick Brownfield (Penguin / May 2008)

Villages of Britain by Clive Aslet; design by Sarah Greeno (Bloomsbury / October 2010)

A Wilderness of Error by Errol Morris; design by Pentagram (Penguin / September 2012)

Zone of the Marvellous by Martin Edmond; design by Keely O’Shannessy (Auckland University Press / September 2009)

And I don’t think we can end this post without mentioning the amazing Book Map print by Manchester-based studio Dorothy:

The map — loosely based on a turn of the century map of London — is made up from the titles of over 600 books from the history of English Literature. Buy it here.

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