Even standing up close, Beijing-artist Li Hongbo’s sculpture of Michelangelo’s David looks like it is made out of marble or porcelain, but when it is gently pulled up, the bust stretches out beyond recognition, and when released, springs back to its original shape like a Slinky toy. The raw material that Li Hongbo uses for his sculptures is paper, thousands and thousands of sheets of paper. His average classical busts require gluing more than 5,000 sheets of paper together in a honeycomb pattern, using pressure to hold the sheets together. From there, he saws, cuts and shapes the huge block of glued paper to arrive at a rough sculpted form. Li Hongbo then shaves in the finer details and uses sandpaper to smooth the surface.
Anyone who has read an action comic book knows what a cataclysmic impact looks like. Splat! Pow! Blam! Swoosh! Clouds of dust, explosive rays, stars. Adam&Eve DDB London worked with illustrator John Rogers to demonstrate how Volkswagen’s City Emergency Brake system can avert disaster by using a comic book illustrative style and visual sound effects. It certainly beats the more realistic approach of showing blood and gore, police cars and the message “don’t let this happen to you.”
Over the past 30 years, we have seen many professions in the graphic arts replaced by technology. Sign painting is one. Sign painting was a trade that existed in every community to adorn storefronts, banners, billboards, street signs, and buildings. The really good signs were one-of-a-kind works of art, produced by a steady hand, discerning eye, and aesthetic sensibility. Hand-painted signs revealed the pride and skill of the craftsmen. Their execution took human judgment and an active collaboration of eye, mind and hand. On a subliminal level, viewers could feel the effort of the maker. Now signs are mostly computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering. Undoubtedly, this is faster, cheaper and more uniform in quality, but like so much of our urban landscape, it lacks the warmth, soul and touch of human hands. “Sign Painters” is a documentary film (and also a book) by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon that celebrates the vanishing art of sign painting. The film is currently being shown in select locations in the U.S. and other parts of the globe. If it comes to your area, do see it.
Celebrated Dutch book designer Irma Boom continues to push the boundaries of book design by defying the conventional use of publishing materials and printing. Boom’s special edition for Chanel No. 5 is loaded with images and text and uses absolutely no ink. The sheets are completely white and blind embossed throughout. The result is sensual, intriguing, ethereal and haunting, like the best fragrances. Boom’s approach to book design is that of a fine artist. In fact, of the more than 250 books she has designed, more than 50 are in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Boom created this limited edition book for the No. 5 Culture Chanel exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Designing a book cover is an exercise in balance. The image or graphic has to distill the story without giving away the plot. It has to create “shelf presence” to entice shoppers to pick up the book for a closer look. It has to avoid false advertising, but can’t be boring, even if the content is. It should give shoppers a sense of the genre – suspense, sci-fi, romance, self-help, current events – but imply that the author has a unique and fascinating take on the subject. While it is true that “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” it is also true that you can design a cover that makes shoppers want to buy the book. This video from Random House features interviews with book designers from its publishing groups (Random House, Knopf Doubleday and Crown) providing insights into the complex process of creating compelling, eye-catching and meaningful book cover jackets.
Brand consultant Alina Wheeler has developed a phased process for researching, clarifying and implementing a brand strategy. A reminder that building a strong brand demands more than a logo, Wheeler outlines a disciplined approach that has been used with success by several major companies. Her book Designing Brand Identity: Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team (John Wiley & Sons, third edition) distills this process into five easy-to-follow steps. It’s worthwhile advice. Following this process will not guarantee branding success, but ignoring it will inevitably lead to a muddled identity program that confuses consumers and employees alike.
When you are given an assignment to demonstrate the awesome special effects possible on paper, you need subject matter worthy of such dazzling printing feats. Superheroes. Pirates. Bigfoot. Weird larger-than-life creatures. Spies. It didn’t take long to figure out where to find all of them in one place – at 826 National, a nonprofit network of tutoring, writing and publishing centers for kids, ages 6 to 18. The 826 centers are “disguised” as retail stores, selling gear for “real” working pirates, superheroes, time travelers, bigfoot researchers, robots and so on.
From the bestselling author Jonah Lehrer comes “Imagine: How Creativity Works” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Lehrer explains that his latest book “is about our most important mental talent: the ability to imagine what has never existed. We take this talent for granted, but our lives are defined by it. There is the pop song on the radio and the gadget in your pocket, the art on the wall and the air conditioner in the window. There is the medicine in the bathroom and the chair you are sitting in…” He gives real world examples from Pixar and Second City to Bob Dylan and Yo-Yo Ma. He goes on to say that “creativity is not a gift possessed by a lucky few; it’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively.” Here he offers five tips from his book on how to increase your creative potential.
Looking for a Christmas present that a designer will appreciate? Try “PANTONE®: The 20th Century in Full Color” (Chronicle Books) by color experts Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker. The book takes readers on a color-palette tour of the last century presenting a decade-by-decade account of fads, fashions, films, social and art movements, objects, and events and the colors associated with them. Each subject is presented with color chips of the palette, complete with exact Pantone numbers — e.g., Buttercup Yellow (PANTONE 12-0752), Nile Green (PANTONE14-0121), Lipstick Red (PANTONE 19-1764). Perusing this book, it becomes apparent that color is very much a part of our collective memory, evoking a sense of time and place and the emotional climate of the era. It’s a unique way of seeing the 20th century.
Here authors Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, and Keith Recker, Pantone color and trend consultant, join us for a brief interview.
Chicago-based commercial photographer Francois Robert has a unique way of seeing things that most of us don’t see. About 20 years ago, Francois and his Swiss designer brother, Jean, made us aware of anthropomorphic features in inanimate objects such as padlocks, mops, door knockers and light switches, and photographed these expressive faces and presented them in the book, “Face to Face.”
Lacoste has borrowed a page from real printed books, and gone one better, with this engaging online pop-up book dedicated to its founder Rene Lacoste. The six-chapter story is set to a lively ragtime tune and sound effects. Clicking on a chapter prompts visuals to pop up, and following the finger-pointing tab reveals a “gatefold” sidebar with explanatory text, old photos and vintage flim clips. A hybrid of different communications media, the online pop-up book tells the corporate story in a fresh way.
Editor’s Note: This snippet is from “The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money: How to think about it. How to talk about it. How to manage it.” By Illise Benun, founder of Marketing-Mentor.com. Published by HOW Books, 2011. It’s a book we highly recommend because it is filled with practical, knowledgeable advice, and encourages designers to respect what they have to offer and to find clients who feel the same. From time to time, Ilise has said we can reprint sections.
Aside from the fact that these are charming images embroidered by New York-based illustrator Jillian Tamaki, the covers of Penguin Threads Classics signal yet another move to define non-electronic publishing as more than a vehicle for communications. Traditional publishers can no longer assume that readers will stay loyal to print because e-books are harder to read due to screen glare, not offered in full-color, crippled by short battery life, limited in availability of subjects and titles, etc. Over the past year, the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other e-readers have proved otherwise, and are getting better with each iteration.