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redesign-psychoanalyse-01As Words Matter includes various classics of thought, we knew from the beginning Freud will probably be there. We wondered for a while how to approach this particular writer because while some of the books we dealt with are relatively lesser known, Freud’s writings have become a part of everyday culture. And so in the end we decided to go with that and rely on the simplest, probably even primitive for some, association of Freud and a cigar. Cigar typography didn’t sound too exciting so instead we decided to create ash typography. In this decision we proudly followed in the footsteps of some brilliant designers who had already experimented with powdery substances, such as Marian Bantjes and Danielle Evans.

We started by creating a stencil form to use (predicting, rightly, that ash will not be heavy enough to form letters just by pouring it, which you can do with e.g. sugar) and this was just about the only easy part of the enterprise (the photo shows, of course, a negative of the form).

redesign-psychoanalyse-04But the first big problem came with cigars. We wanted this to be authentic (and we needed the cigar for the photo, too) so we bought actual cigars (the cheapest we could get, mind you) and faced the task of turning them into ashes. Now, we’re very much not smokers so just getting down with a bunch of cigars and smoking them casually was out of the question. Instead we ended up crouching in the porch with matches, a couple of igniters, lighters and candles, hoping very much not to cause a fire (we didn’t) and getting increasingly frustrated. It took us forever to figure out the best way of burning around the cigar (and not burning our fingers) and it still took another forever to get this pitiful (though pretty) amount of cigar ash.

redesign-psychoanalyse-07We had about five such cigars and in the end we persevered through burning them all but I don’t think any other project ever has made me so nauseous – literally speaking, of course, because if we’re talking about figurative nausea, there were many worse designs.

It was obvious from the start that we would never get enough cigar ash for the whole design so we decided to fill the main part of it with actual furnace ash (much less smelly, but much more dirty and unpleasant to touch).

redesign-psychoanalyse-06 redesign-psychoanalyse-05This process only created the bare bones of the design: the letters were barely legible and it took much fine-tuning of the edges to arrive at the result we wanted. Obviously, we could hardly breathe around the composition for fear of huffing and puffing it off the table, so holding our breath was additional fun (and us still dizzy from all the smoke). And then we needed to position ourselves with the camera tripod on the table, over the whole thing. You should have seen us (but not heard because by that point it was indecent with all the swearing).

redesign-psychoanalyse-08As you can see, the cigar was definitely not long and impressive enough to form the final image: that took some photoshopping later.

redesign-psychoanalyse-03This is actually another design we’re really happy with. It starts with an idea so simple it borders on a joke but the somber color scheme and heavy wood (plus heavy typography, evoking 19th-century letters) offset that and bring in the whole masculine, often oppressive world of Freud’s ideas. We find it quite appropriate, considering how psychoanalytic ideas have functioned in society: somewhere between a serious, somewhat depressing theory and a pop-cultural gag. And, of course, a cigar might sometimes be just a cigar but more often, when coupled with Freud’s name, it will also be a most common phallic symbol and that’s how we used it (and also, as a context for the letters to make their material clearer, and a fun place to put the logo, if we’re being very precise).

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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:

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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).

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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.

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re-motivation-02Last week we introduced our project Words Matter, a series of book covers employing tangible type so it’s high time to start sharing the covers. The first one is one of the simplest (and definitely, definitely the easiest and fastest to make) but it’s still one of our favorites because of the simple fact: the letters of the title form a pyramid so well and it illustrates the book so perfectly. When we discovered this we were really excited and the cover almost designed itself.

Abraham Maslow, one of the great in the history of psychology, studied child development and came up with the idea of the hierarchy of needs, which he expressed in 1954 book Motivation and Personality. He illustrated the idea with a neat diagram in the shape of a pyramid. Unlike for other covers we didn’t create the letters: we used ready-made children blocks. We actually bought a whole set of the classic-looking wooden kind, similar to ones we had as children. We really liked the vivid colors and emphasized them with the bright warm yellow background to add to the sense of fun and play.

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As was our plan with all the covers, the selected material and form illustrated the important themes of the book: not only the pyramid itself, but also children and their way of combining fun with education.

As you will see, for all the covers we offset the extravagant tangible type with simple typography used for the name and spine and the logo we described last week. Back covers were not actually a big part of the academic project, just a chance to play some more with the solutions chosen for each cover. For each back we created the WM logo in the same way as we did the title on the front. As you may see, the design of the back cover also includes the space for a blurb but have not written the blurbs, not yet anyway, so for now the backs are fairly minimalistic.

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re-shop-friendsAnd a completely different thing that you might find interesting: it’s another week of free shipping on Society6 so if you wanted to buy a poster, that’s as good a chance as they get. Simply use this link.