Sunday, 1 February 2009

The Form of the Book

A brief review of the excellent one-day conference The Form of the Book organized at St Bride by Fraser Muggeridge and Sara de Bondt.

Catherine de Smet
Le Corbusier disseminated his architectural ideas through his books as much as through his buildings, but had a cynical attitude to publishers, changing them at random after one, to whom he had entrusted a series, went bankrupt. He had decided anti-Bauhaus views, and the his personal involvement results in designs that veer from the dull and conventional to a personal version of French moderne, never reaching the rationalism of Tschichold or the boldness of Herbert Bayer. Irregular daubs of pastel colours used to fill spaces or underlay type and stencil or condensed antique (sanserif) types became trademarks of his books, although they appear widely in French design of the period.

James Goggin
James Goggin discussed the thin line between homage and pastiche. Is it right or too obvious to appropriate artists’ techniques and apply them in the design of books about artists?

My favourite quote: ‘The concept is perfect: the only thing a graphic designer can do is mess it up.’

Richard Hollis
Richard Hollis’s first job was as a photoengraver’s messenger, and his background in printing technology informed his presentation as much as his scholarship and his experience as a graphic designer. He reminded the audience of the need in the pre-digital age of understanding imposition schemes and the best pages in a section to position half-tones. He discussed books such as Ways of seeing, talking about his desire to balance the weight of text and illustrations, and, surprisingly, using the verb ‘to typograph’ to mean applying typographic formatting to text.

My favourite quotes: ‘It’s only when you get a book in your hands that you know it’s satisfactory.’ ‘I was passionately anti-Schmoller.’ ‘I use only one typeface – it’s a very boring decision to make.’

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