The Ignored Art of Spines 2

Book spines are such an interesting and often-overlooked part of the book experience. They present a unique challenge to the designer, in terms of their long and narrow shape and requirement to include title, author, and usually the publisher’s logo as well. The result tends to be either a space that is forgotten and boring, or ingenious and engaging in its creativity.

In a previous post, I delved into the debate about whether book spines are of particular importance because a spine is all the reader sees on a bookshelf, or of particular unimportance because in today’s digital age of e-readers and online stores, the spine no longer even exists.

Since then, I’ve come across a number of new inspiring spine designs that I wanted to share with you all. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Graphic Design Halloween Costumes – Bauhaus Edition

It’s October, which means once again it’s time for Graphic Design Halloween costumes. This year I want to highlight the really out-there masterpieces from the Bauhaus in the 1920s. The famous artists at the Bauhaus (including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, László Moholy-Nagy, and Marcel Breuer) apparently had quite the costume competition at their social events, creating fantastical, original outfits that played with silhouette, line, shape, and all sorts of visual design principles.

The costumes were described by Farkas Molnár, a Hungarian architect and Bauhaus student, in his 1925 essay, Life at the Bauhaus: “Inhuman, or humanoid, but always new. You may see monstrously tall shapes stumbling about, colorful mechanical figures that yield not the slightest clue as to where the head is. Sweet girls inside a red cube. Here comes a witch and they are hoisted high up into the air; lights flash and scents are sprayed. … Kandinsky prefers to appear decked out as an antenna, Itten as an amorphous monster, Feininger as two right triangles, Moholy-Nagy as a segment transpierced by a cross, Gropius as Le Corbusier, Muche as an apostle of Mazdaznan, Klee as the song of the blue tree. A rather grotesque menagerie…”

Along these same lines are the delightful masks from a collaboration between the artist Saul Steinberg and photographer Inge Morath (more here).

Want more? I found a lot of my source material from this great article on Curbed, and you can also check out these fun posts from Improvised Life (here and here) and The Charnel House (here).

If you’re looking for inspiration for more modern costume ideas, check out my previous costume posts here and here. Happy Halloween!

Pixel & Pilcrow || Happy Halloween || Graphic Design Halloween || Helvetica pumpkin carving

Designed for Children II – Pushing the Envelope

What is a Children’s Book? I’ve shared some beautiful examples of children’s books by famous graphic designers, and recently I stumbled across a couple more that really push the envelope of what a reading experience designed for children can be.

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The Book with No Pictures

From the Vanity Fair article:

B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures comes by its title honestly; the book is one filled with only words, in different fonts and colors and sizes. Funny, creative, and smart, the book, which forces the reader to say a slew of ridiculous words, is guaranteed to get a laugh out of any kid you know

I love so much about this. I love the idea of showing children the power of words, and the sense of exploration in where words can take them. And I love the idea of highlighting that power, and making the words themselves the hero, rather than any accompanying images. It hits home at an early age the power of communication, and that old adage that the pen is more powerful than the sword.

And making the words, as the star of the show, hilarious and delightful and fun and playful and imaginative and silly, just hits home how much fun reading can be—the best lesson there is!

Novak, known for his career as a comedian, started this project because he says he loves reading to children, and getting a laugh out of them. Starting perhaps with the idea that a comedian has to play to his audience, Novak wanted to explore how a children’s book could feel like it was on the child’s side. As he said in an interview with The Atlantic:

“If the adult had to say silly things, I knew the kid would feel very powerful and would feel that books are very powerful. Working backwards, I realized that if there were no pictures, it would be an even more delightful trick: The kid is taking a grown-up style book and using it against the grown-up.”

This idea that books are powerful reminds me of that Carl Sagan quote, which I wrote about before, and love so much:

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” —Carl Sagan

Anyone that can teach children that books are works of magic is doing something right in my book!

 

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Little Nemo in Slumberland

The other book I wanted to share with you is an old classic: Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay. Recently some friends purchased the large format (10×13) Vol 1 of the Complete Collection of this classic comic strip originally published from 1905 to 1911. It is, admittedly, a little early for their newborn to enjoy it, but they are eagerly awaiting the age they can crack it open and enjoy these stories with their son.

From the Amazon product description:

Winsor McCay’s beautiful dreamscapes appeared in the New York Herald between 1905 and 1911, and the comic strip “Little Nemo” is considered by some to be the best, most brilliant comic strip ever published. Six-year-old Nemo (Latin for no one) falls asleep in his bed and is transported to the fantastical Slumberland—at the request of King Morpheus—where he encounters all kinds of strange creatures. At the end of each trip he wakes up, unsure of what was real and what was a dream. The exquisitely detailed, art-nouveau-style colored panels in this edition are reproduced from rare, vintage file-copy pages. Alongside George Herriman’s bizarre Krazy Kat, McCay’s work helped to create the grammar of comic art. This Little Nemo collection—an entertaining romp into Slumberland—also provides a lovely glimpse into the origins of an art form.

Often listed in the same category as Calvin and Hobbes (my personal all-time-favorite), Little Nemo is no vapid child’s tale with the same old tired stories. The images are fantastic, truly works of art, and the creative plotlines are an almost magical-realism style exploration of the realm of imagination and dreams. Its more mature approach to fantastical stories helps it appeal to both adults and children, and its role in defining and establishing the comic genre gives it a historic and cultural significance.

And it’s kind of just fun to read from a 10×13 book! It’s a good example of the format of the physical object itself giving a playfulness and importance to the content.

Both of these books are superlative examples of what a children’s book can be, and would be a fun addition to any child’s library!

 

Designing the Holidays

Holiday weekends can be jam-packed with parties, gift wrapping, cookie baking, envelope stamping, and general fun times and to do lists. If you need a break, here’s a quick post full of some lovely holiday cards featuring beautiful typography and clean, simple graphics. Enjoy!

From left to right,
Top Row:
1) “Wish you a merry Christmas!” by Áron Jancsó
2) unknown
3) Holiday card from Trollback+Company
4) Christmas illustrations for Fossil by Dustin Wallace

Middle Row:
1) Eames card
2) Designed by Erin Jang of The Indigo Bunting

Bottom Row:
1) HWT Star Ornaments from Hamilton Wood Type
2) “Merry Paper cut” by Silvia Raga
3) unknown
4) Art directed by Seth Nickerson

Graphic Design Halloween Costumes 3

It’s that time of year again when leaves change, the sky gets a crisper blue, the evenings cool down, you pull out your big cozy sweaters and cuddle up with your favorite someone over hot apple cider. Well actually, here in San Francisco, not that many leaves change, and your sweaters are already in heavy rotation after our freezing cold summers… but it still somehow feels undeniably like Fall now.

And that means Halloween is almost here, and the challenge of coming up with a fun graphic-design-related Halloween costume is once again upon us. As I unfortunately will be missing Halloween this year, here are some costume suggestions for all the other designers out there, and I hope you guys do something incredible!

Villains and Horror Shows

X-acto, Chip Kidd’s Batman Nemesis in “Batman: Death by Design”

The famous book cover designer Chip Kidd, who I’ve written about before, has written several books including an issue of Batman titled “Death by Design.” The premise is pretty amazing, with architecture- and construction-related villains wreaking havoc on Gotham City, including the punny “X-acto” named after a designer’s best trimming & cutting friend (read more about the plot). Talk about the perfect design villain costume! This woman’s silver-gloved get-up and fabulous headpiece are great inspiration for a pretty epic DIY costume. (source)

Pixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - X-Acto

 

The Death of Print

Whether you think claims of an inevitable “death of print” are baseless fear-mongering or an informed view of a technological revolution, this costume allows for fun, dramatic, nerdy, puny creativity—all my favorite costume characteristics! (source)

Pixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - Death of Print

Bad Kerning

I wasn’t able to find an example of this costume already done, but I feel like there is a lot of potential here. Whether you’re using bad kerning to make silly click/dick jokes, or just trying to horrify your designer friends, there’s plenty of room for fun. One idea is going with a group where each person is a different letter, and spend the evening playing with ways to be improperly spaced—lots of photo ops!

Internet Related

In previous costume post, I featured Internet-themed costumes such as the Firefox Logo and an 8-Bit Avatar. Recently I found a few great additions to this collection—meme, app and emoji inspired costumes. Check out these hilarious black-and-white greeting-card ladies (source), classy app icons, emoji group (source), and beer-drinking smiling pile of poo!

Pixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - eCardsPixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - App IconsPixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - EmojisPixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - Emojis

Follow Ups from Previous Posts (I and II)

Some great new ideas for a Pixelated costume:

Pixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - Pixelated 1 Pixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - Pixelated 2 Pixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - Pixelated 3

… and new ideas for Famous Artwork, especially the Roy Lichtenstein girl:

Pixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes

Last Minute Costume

My favorite Easy Out costume this year is to get together with some buddies for a CMYK costume. With other group sizes, you could do a 3-person as RGB or a couple as BW. And if you’re the only costume-procrastinator, there’s always my favorite from the last post, Error 404: Costume Not Found.

Pixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - CMYK

And finally, if you want to bring your design-related Halloween theming to an all time high, try your hand at carving a Pantone Pumpkin!

Pixel and Pilcrow - Graphic Design Halloween Costumes - Pantone PumpkinEnjoy your Halloween!

Off the Page: The Undulating Words of Gabriel García Marquez

The interplay between literature and the various visual arts—paintings that tell stories, or books that describe paintings, or any other cross-artform conversation—has always been fascinating to me. And being the book lover that I am, artwork based on the written word itself has always captured my imagination, from the Winnie-the-Pooh movies I watched as a kid, to the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

Winnie-the-Pooh words in the rain

Sochi Opening Ceremonies -  great Russian poets and writers

So when I discovered this “ocean of words” honoring Gabriel García Marquez, from Spain-based creative group Think Big Factory and creative agency Barrabes Meaning, I was absolutely mesmerized.

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From an article on PSFK.com:

Choosing a particular motif to trace through his work—in this case, the ocean—they set up an intricate multimedia installation involving 10,000 words 3D printed in real time.

Travesía por los estados de la palabra,” which premiered at the international art fair of Madrid, ARCOmadrid in February, was inspired by a speech given by García Marquez at the First International Congress of the Spanish Language in Zacatecas (Mexico) in 1997 called “Bottle the sea for the God of words.”

The speech is about “the power of words in the image era”—a still-relevant concept, especially in the Internet’s zeitgeist of diminished word use and 140-word tweets.

It is conceptually, visually, experientially stunning. I love this homage to “the power of words in the image era,” and the role words play in the greater social landscape, which is so evocatively visualized in this ocean. The sense of movement, based off of real-time data of word-use on Twitter, gives me the same sense of wonder as the starling murmurations I was inspired by for one of my favorite school projects.

The technology they harnessed to build this piece is also super interesting. More from the PSFK article:

The choice and arrangement of the waves behind the words is affected by the contemporary use of Márquez’s words about water by the general populace. The motion of the 3D-printed words is determined by data extracted from Twitter through a program designed in openFrameworks.

The room, on a larger scale, is a representation of what the creators’ software does, taking the elusive qualities of language and transforming them into a physical manifestation. This is made especially evident through the tirelessly working 3D printers that remain on display, and the words that flow ceaselessly through the room.

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It is so fitting that this creative exploration, pushing the envelope for the experience of the written word, was done to honor the memory of a man whose writing pushed the boundaries of the believable. I was fascinated by Gabriel García Marquez’ works, and wrote my own, rather humble, memorial to the man in this blogpost; it is lovely to see that not only will his stories live on, but his ideas will inspire art and conversations like this, still very relevant to our society today.

Exploring Stories

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I finished my thesis project, Same Moon, and graduated from my MFA program! Time flies, especially when you’re no longer pulling all-nighters.

My thesis project was a two-year process, and it was incredibly challenging, but it was also so much fun. Possibly my favorite part of this multifaceted project was designing an interactive ebook, which I called Exploring Stories, that used stories to allow a traveler to explore a famous historical place.

Exploring Stories - LaunchThe concept for Exploring Stories was, whether visiting a site or simply exploring from the armchair at home, users could read stories that were geotagged to specific spots within a map of the tourist destination (Angkor Wat, in the case of my demo), and explore the rich heritage of the place, told from many different perspectives and times throughout history.

The stories represented the physical space, and were navigated via a map rather than a traditional, linear Table of Contents. Users could bookmark their favorites, or explore other stories from the same time period or perspective. Users could also add their own stories to the map, to share with others or keep private in a sort of journal.

For users who were actually at Angkor Wat, their position showed up on the map so the app could be used almost as a guide, and users could access the stories near to them, and stand in the places the story was referencing.

Check out the demo video I put together below:

It was so much fun for me to explore what reading could be, and really push the limits of what defines a book or a reading experience. I love that the interactivity of ebooks or apps allows for new kinds of interaction—in mine, the user gets to go exploring, choose their own adventure and even add their own stories to the “book.” And the interactive abilities allowed me to build a tool that enabled users see the world from different perspectives, and provided an engaging portal to access history and make it come alive, rather than be lost in the past.

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I was inspired in a lot of ways by The Silent History app, which I wrote about in a previous blogpost, and by an amazing service called Maptia, where users tag blogposts to a map of the globe. If you aren’t familiar with them, I highly recommend checking both of them out!