Archive

Tag Archives: book cover

redesign-feminine_mystique-01The next book in Words Matter series is a feminist classic, a sociological study by Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique from 1963. The book describes a situation of housewives trapped in their role, with their opportunities limited by what Friedan famously described as “feminine mystique”.

We like working with feminist texts because there is so much iconography to use. Here, we decided to play with what one might imagine as symbols of femininity, particularly of those women constrained to their kitchen and living room. We chose a slightly more complicated but most traditionally feminine technique of embroidery, with the book’s title embroidered on a simple kitchen cloth. This was particularly appropriate in Polish where the equivalent of “cloth” can serve as a disrespectful name for a woman (not a swear word exactly, but definitely offensive). But we feel even without this additional linguistic sense, the very object of a kitchen cloth is sufficiently disregarded to put our point across.

an-il-07As embroidery is not one of our strong suits (or something we would even know how to start) we asked for the help of my mom, who’s been developing her own embroidery technique all her life and agreed to help with the project, transporting our design to an actual cloth. The pink gingham pattern we chose for the background makes the design both casual and girlish. We chose script typography, which can be associated with womanly writing but also with various kitchen- or restaurant-related designs. Finally, we added a simple ornament, which we intended to be between a typical plant ornament and something more, well, anatomical.

Once the embroidery was ready, it turned out it took many attempts to arrange the cloth properly. We wanted the impression of a cloth casually dropped somewhere, without any second thought, so that is looks like the valueless object that it is. Here are three of many more attempts we rejected (on our all-purpose Ikea table):

redesign-feminine_mystique-04Whether we actually dropped the cloth, hoping for a random natural arrangement or tried to arrange the folds ourselves, we weren’t happy with the result because the top part took too much attention. These arrangements were not terrible but still not what we had in mind, so eventually we settled on something much simpler.

redesign-feminine_mystique-03What we like about this cover is that we think we managed to reflect the subversive nature of Friedan’s title, its irony. It is also always exciting to employ a traditional technique in a meaningful way, which was actually one of a few points that we tried to make in Words Matter project.

redesign-feminine_mystique-02

Jane Jacobs by re:designAs you may have noticed, we love working with Lego whenever we get a chance and so we gleefully worked them into the Words Matter series. Jane Jacobs’s book The Death and Life of Great American Cities is a classic work on urban planning, including the criticism of modernist urban thought for its lack of focus on human needs. We found Lego blocks to be a great material for this one because of their modular, grid-based character, which illustrates well modernist ideas but adds a playful element to the composition.

Obviously, building letters of Lego was fun but it didn’t go as easy as you might think. In fact, the final construction is our the second attempt. The first one looked like this:

First attemptIf you compare it to the final version, you will see that the letters were broader and lower and we didn’t feel they reflected the height of the cities well enough. While the erosion of some of the letters was visually interesting, we thought they started to resemble ruins, which was too strong an association. Finally, the round bits were too dominant, making the material too obvious. And so we disassembled the whole construction and started again to finally reach this:

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by re:designWe covered most of the letters with flat white blocks (and we did have to raid all the sets for these) so that they looked more abstract and added some extra pieces for the greater sprawl of the composition. In fact, there was one more aspect to the design, as this image will clearly show you:

redesign-cities-03We thought grayness was a very important part of the design but our Lego collection is not nearly extensive enough to include that many blocks in one color. And so it took some post-processing to reach the result we wanted. However, we did want to share the colorful version because we feel it looks fun (and gives you some idea about our process).

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by re:design

redesign-goldenbough-01

The Golden Bough by sir James George Frazer is a classic of anthropological and mythographic writing: a book in which Frazer examines early religious beliefs and how they influenced contemporary customs still to be found in folk culture (well, contemporary to him anyway). Also, unlike many such works, it has a very pretty, evocative title, which partly influenced its inclusion into the Words Matter series and resulted in one of our favorite of all these covers.

In fact, we approached the design twice: at first we wanted to use mistletoe as appearing on one of the classic editions of the book but not only is mistletoe hard to get by outside of the Christmas season but also the one we did find didn’t look all that impressive in the end. So instead we settled on oak branches with their extremely characteristic (and pretty) leaves. We picked a lot of them and then we spent some time spraying them golden.

We were quite happy with the decision to go with oak because not only is it way more striking visually (sorry, mistletoe) but its symbolic meaning is also very powerful.

redesign-goldenbough-07redesign-goldenbough-09

We did a die-cut lettering in a piece of golden paper, in art deco-like typography whose simplicity doesn’t distract from the whole idea and which is very elegant.

redesign-goldenbough-05And then we arranged the leaves and the letters in such a way that the leaves come out from under the writing, illustrating the staying power of myths and how they permeate our culture. It looks fairly simple, but arranging the composition took quite some time and required quite a few decisions.

As happened so often with this series we turned out very happy with the result exactly because of its simplicity.

redesign-goldenbough-04 redesign-goldenbough-03redesign-goldenbough-08 redesign-goldenbough-06

redesign-levistrauss-01The first volume of Lévi-Strauss’s Mythologies, Le cru et le cuit (The Raw and the Cooked) was too lovely a title for us to pass up for Words Matter project. It describes natural oppositions that affect human way of thinking and the creation of abstract notions. It is also a wonderfully inspiring title from a designer’s point of view.

We chose a fairly direct approach of illustrating the titular opposition but initially we intended to use potatoes, as we already had a good experience, working with them (as you can see here). In fact, we prepared the whole set of letters:

redesign-levistrauss-12 redesign-levistrauss-08 redesign-levistrauss-09But then we realized potatoes might not create the most exciting opposition between the raw and the cooked version. Instead we thought about beets, with their lovely color and we made a test run, frying a slice of beetroot with a letter X cut out in the middle. The result was very promising visually (if less so taste-wise) and so we sat down again to re-doing all the letters in the new material.

redesign-levistrauss-11It actually took a few trips to the local grocery store. While beets are not extremely difficult to work with (just very dirty), we couldn’t get the right sizes and amounts at first.

redesign-levistrauss-07 redesign-levistrauss-10 redesign-levistrauss-05 redesign-levistrauss-06As you can see, we didn’t go for literally “cooked” because fried beets looked so much better.

We opposed the two words not only by processing the second group of beets but also by making the first word a series of stamps and the second stencil cuts. Arranging the “cuit” part on an old-fashioned plate with garnish added the cultural aspect, so important in Lévi-Strauss’s studies.

redesign-levistrauss-04

For the back with the WM logo we could emphasize the opposition in a different way, using two halves of the same beetroot with the shapes being negatives of each other.

redesign-levistrauss-03 redesign-levistrauss-02(Also, just a minor side note: we are now updating Mondays rather than Sundays. Sometimes we simply need to spend one day away from the screen and Sunday is usually our only chance.)

redesign-behaviorism-04The use of body in tangible typography was an important part of our PhD thesis and so we included such a design in the Words Matter series. The opportunity came with John B. Watson’s Behaviorism, a book about how human beings’ behavior is essentially programmable. We decided that the image resembling a punch card (as used to program old computers) combined with the image of human body was a perfect illustration of the concept. Placing the writing on the inside of an arm holds an additionally menacing aspect because the concept of behaviorism is also somewhat menacing when you think about it.

After studying old punch cards (which, obviously, did not use typography as such, just seemingly random patterns) we used the grid to design the title:

redesign-behaviorism-02

And then the thing to do was to transfer the writing to an arm. The arm itself posed a slight problem because we preferred a male arm as less coded but R refused to pose (and he needed to take photos anyway). Then our friend A (hi, A) generously offered to help. We started searching for a tool that would be making the right kind of imprint and even considered going to a hardware store and asking the clerk for suggestions but we balked at the idea of explaining what exactly we needed and why (too Fifty Shades, I guess). We finally settled on a wooden chopstick, which turned out to be making just the right kind of imprint. But after a test ride it turned out the process was extremely time-consuming and rather irritating. So we decided we didn’t want to risk our friendship with A and had to settle on a female arm (which we still find less than ideal).

redesign-behaviorism-01

The main problem was the fact that only a few letters at a time were clearly visible so it took many partial shoots to get the whole word. (And yes, the marks remained a little visible for a while, but not beyond one day, in case you wondered.)

We feel the idea is strong and very appropriate for the subject matter, with just right symbolic meaning. But the legibility is not perfect and this is probably one of the least practical covers we designed, at least in purely commercial terms.

redesign-behaviorism-03redesign-behaviorism-05

re-surrealisme-05When creating the Words Matter covers sometimes we looked for novel ways of building tangible letter forms but sometimes we reached for things remembered from childhood. Now, plasticine was the toy of our early years and I still remember how it would always get stuck in a carpet or Lego blocks. I had a love-hate relationship with it at best. But we really wanted to use plasticine for letter building because it’s in a way a natural tool to explore and because we hadn’t done this kind of letters before. So we decided to pair it with Breton.

When we first chose Breton’s 1924 Manifest of Surrealism to design, we had very different ideas: we wanted to gather weird objects maybe suggesting sexual meaning, or to recreate elements of famous surrealist works of art. But we realized it was all too complicated and too literal and so we decided upon this more abstract approach.

We used many rolls of white plasticine to which we added some red in order to create a splotchy, fleshy color and of this we formed the letters. We wanted them to suggest something a little flesh-like, a little dream-like, with elements loosely resembling works like Tanguy’s or Arp’s, but which would most of all be a unified collection of letters. (It took a whole of Fame to form these, in case you wondered.)

re-surrealisme-01re-surrealisme-07re-surrealisme-06We didn’t want the letters to be too perfect so they retain finger and nail marks, which adds to their slightly disturbing quality.

re-surrealisme-08 re-surrealisme-03Once we had the whole collection (and we fixed all the structural problems because some letters simply refused to stand as we wanted them too) we arranged a theatrical-like scene, with letters fixed on threads. It looks simple but it took many photographic attempts to get it right as the letters tended to swirl and some were a bit too heavy to hang up easily.

re-surrealisme-02re-surrealisme-04re-surrealisme-09

re-pensees-01The next book cover in our Words Matter series is a classic of religious thought by a 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal: his Pensées or Thoughts (as you will see, we used original titles for all the covers).

I will be honest with you: we’d wanted to use nails as a typographic material for a very long time. So we were extremely pleased to find the perfect cover for that. After his conversion to Catholicism Pascal not only wrote in defense of the Roman Church but also led the life of an ascetic, which supposedly included some painful self-mutilating practices. Even more importantly, nail is a very potent Christian symbol, being tied to Christ’s death on the cross. And finally, despite its simple function and status, it may be very decorative and the way we used it, it begins to look like much more precious material.

This cover was much, much more time-consuming than the one we showed you last week but this wasn’t unpleasant work. The material was fairly easy to manage.

re-pensees-07re-pensees-08 re-pensees-09In the end we used some rusty nails in addition to the shiny silver ones to create more of an impression of precious stones, as used on some covers of very old Church books or religious objects. We believe this really added to the texture and color scheme.

re-pensees-05Once this was done, we filled the background with shorter nails. This was mostly mechanical work but it was fairly easy to mess up the rows so it took some concentration, a lot of time, and a few episodes of a silly show about witches that was on in the background.

re-pensees-04re-pensees-06 re-pensees-12 re-pensees-10As you may see if you compare the making-of photos with the finished project, this cover took a lot of photo editing. It wasn’t the most difficult editing of all the covers, but it might hold the second place. But we’re sure it was worth the time because it might be the most complex design, meaning-wise.

For the back we didn’t want to repeat the same process, just the same material, so we chose a much simpler arrangement of the logo from nails:

re-pensees-02 re-pensees-03

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,183 other followers