The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

September 2, 2016
by Dan
1 Comment

Ed Ruscha: Buildings and Words

Ed Ruscha: Buildings and Words is a short documentary, commissioned by MOCA in Los Angeles, exploring two of the recurring themes in the artist’s work. It was written and directed by Felipe Lima, and is narrated by Owen Wilson:

Apparently Ruscha calls his font ‘Boy Scout Utility Modern’, which immediately makes me wonder if Wes Anderson is a fan.

August 31, 2016
by Dan
1 Comment

Girlboss Isabel Urbina Peña

The smart and talented Isabel Urbina Peña talks to Girlboss about YES, EQUAL and her work as a book cover designer:

you go to the editorial meeting and you hear the editors talk about the book. After that, you tell your art director which books you want to work on, and sometimes she would suggest stuff to us. You didn’t always get the book that you wanted, but you kind of had an idea. But sometimes it doesn’t go that way. Like for Dave Eggers. No one wanted to take his book! He has very specific taste. But I was like, “Fuck it! I’ll do it.” Because when am I going to be able to design for Dave Eggers again?! And it went really well, actually. One round and it was done, which never happens [laughs]… normally, it’s a battle. You want to try and see what will get through. So you’re like, “Well I’m only going to show three things, because if I show more…” Like for example, for All Our Names, we only showed one. I’d made a bunch of other options, but Peter Mendelsund, who was art directing was like, “Nope. Let’s just show this one”… Sometimes it works like that. But I mean, for another project, I came up with 20 different ideas, and nothing came of it. It was a paperback and they just ended up adapting the hard cover.

You can read my 2014 Q & A with Isabel here.

August 26, 2016
by Dan
0 comments

Will Evans: One-Man Publishing Show

Seeing Red design by Anna Zylicz

The Rumpus interviews Will Evans the founder and publisher of Deep Vellum, an independent small press focused on works in translation based in Dallas, TX:

I’m very new to this, and I’m most definitely an outsider. I don’t really know how other people do their editing process. I’ve never worked in a publishing house with an editing team that they have to run stuff by. I’m curious, editorially it has somehow happened that Deep Vellum books are quite different from Open Letter books and quite different from Archipelago books and I don’t really know how or why that happens. We all just love stories and want to bring them to different audiences, but at the end of the day, the books that we need to publish that fit our brand are all kind of different, and that’s amazing to me. I love independent publishers because you get that more personal aesthetic choice.

Deep Vellum’s distinctive book covers, designed by Anna Zylicz, have featured on the blog before. And here’s Evans talking about founding Deep Vellum back in 2014:

August 25, 2016
by Dan
0 comments

The Last Punchcutter

last punchcutter

One for the letterpress obsessives and tool aficionados, The Last Punchcutter is a beautiful, wordless film capturing Giuseppe Brachino — who was the head of the engraving department of the Nebiolo Company from Turin — hand-cut a punch for metal type:

(via Coudal)

August 24, 2016
by Dan
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Art Installation

Tate Gallery

Tom Gauld for the New Scientist.

August 23, 2016
by Dan
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The Great Discontent: Jean Jullien

Photo by Daniel Arnold

Photo by Daniel Arnold

Tammi Heneveld interviews London-based graphic artist Jean Jullien for The Great Discontent:

My parents definitely introduced me to a lot of culture. My dad was keen on French bandes dessinées (comic strips) and music, which probably had something to do with my brother becoming a musician later on. My mom was very interested in architecture, product design, and classic and modern art, which she introduced us to…

…I was always more focused on graphic design, but I ended up doing illustration in a convoluted way. I started using a brush pen to break free from working on a computer all of the time and to experiment creatively. I felt quite comfortable with it and could draw letters as well as characters. That’s when I realized that the practice of illustration and graphic design aren’t necessarily exclusive. I also discovered designers like Alan Fletcher, Saul Bass, and Paul Rand, whose work all had a great sense of playfulness and a tactile aspect that I was really fond of.

Modern Life, a compendium of Jullien’s best known work, will be published by teNeues next month.

modern life Jullien

August 22, 2016
by Dan
0 comments

Bookworm: Tom McCarthy on Satin Island

satin island design john gall

Author Tom McCarthy talks to Bookworm about his latest novel Satin Island:

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The rather splendid cover for the US paperback edition published earlier this year by Vintage (pictured above) was designed by John Gall.

August 22, 2016
by Dan
0 comments

“Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?”

volkswagen-lemon

Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads? is a short documentary about the classic, highly influential ad campaigns created by Manhattan advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) for Volkwagen in the 1950s and 60s:

(via Kottke)

August 18, 2016
by Dan
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Thank You for Sending Us Your Manuscript

New Yorker Manuscript

Edward Steed for The New Yorker.

August 18, 2016
by Dan
0 comments

Welcome to The Last Bookstore

Welcome to The Last Bookstore is a short, inspiring documentary about Josh Spencer, owner and operator of The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles:

August 17, 2016
by Dan
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The End of the Novel

End of the novel Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld for The Guardian.

Tom’s new graphic novel, Mooncop, will be published by D+Q next month.

August 16, 2016
by Dan
1 Comment

Paul Buckley Cover to Cover

Penguin Classics Cover to Cover

At Observer, Penguin creative director Paul Buckley, talks about his new book Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover. I particularly enjoyed this epic rant on designing covers for new books:

New books, this piece of writing, everything is riding on that new cover. Is the mood right? Does the imagery hint at what is going on in the text? Did you tell too much? Did you tell too little? Yes, it takes place in the winter, but we want it as a summer read, so try to avoid seasons; she would never dress like that, or maybe she would, but it makes an off-putting cover; I know everyone in the book dies – but that image is so depressing no one will buy it; is the author’s name prominent enough? The type has to be much, much larger. We understand the word has sixteen letters, make it larger. No, it can’t go sideways, people can’t read sideways. I know spines read sideways, that’s not the same. No, no it’s not, and no, this word cannot be broken. We realize the title is part of the problem, we know it’s confusing, we can’t change it. Ok, the type is too condensed; it’s ok if it goes smaller if we can get a nicer font. Have you tried it sideways? The author hates it sideways and is suggesting you try championing condensed 87, do you have that font? I don’t know who designed this, I think it was one of his students, he asked that we show it to “the art dept;” I know, I know, now I can at least say I did. It’s approved! Sales didn’t like the cover, we have to change it. Was it just one person? Bob, how many in sales disliked the cover? Oh, it was just Jim, he’s always out in left field, never mind, glad I asked. Or, yes it was just Sally, BUT she looooves this book. I know you did too, we all do, we still need a new cover by next Tuesday’s deadline. Huge chain “X” wont commit to this book with this cover, I know we all loved it maybe you can save it for something else, here are some suggestions from the buyer, at least they are trying to be helpful.

You can read my 2009 Q & A with Paul here, and my 2010 interview with Paul and Christopher Brand about their book Penguin 75 here.

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