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“It is a book meant for holding and reading, curled up in your favourite chair”

11 Jan

I finally received my copy of Marian Bantjes’ new book, I Wonder, in the mail yesterday. The author writes “it is a book meant for holding and reading, curled up in your favourite chair.” I like that it is smaller and more manageable than most self-indulgent modern design tomes. Not that this one isn’t self-indulgent anyway: how many books these days have gilt-edged pages? Or a purple satin bookmark? Not many.

Bantjes, who lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia, has been one of my favorite designers to watch over the last few years. I think she’s at her best when she’s creating fanciful, ornate typography. Check out her ornament font, Restraint.

My students know that I’m usually a fan of keeping it simple and clean. In critique, I often suggest the removal of clutter: a.k.a. decorations that seem to serve no purpose. Furniture. But if you must have your ornament, take note!

I haven’t finished the book in its entirety. But here are a few of my favorite spreads so far, starting with the endpapers, half-title, and title pages:

I studied the title page above for some time. Well, it is map-like . . . .

Dedications, below:

Made of shredded wheat and granola:

And my favorite section: a diagram describing the actions surrounding the assembly of two Ikea bookcases.


Always a student: a calendar for December.

6 Dec

Though I didn’t plan on doing so, I just realized that I’ve done two of my own assignments this fall. First the map, and now a calendar. Here is December, though I wish I’d had the foresight to include daily piece of chocolate. You know, like an advent calendar.

Leo Lionni

2 Dec

We’ve been reading the heck out of Little Blue and Little Yellow at our house lately. The illustrations and the story are so simple. My daughter and I can’t get enough of it, which isn’t always the case (at least on my end) regarding bedtime stories.

A few days ago, one of my advanced students gave an especially good biographical presentation on the author and illustrator of Little Blue and Little Yellow: Lio Lionni. I learned that Lionni actually conceived the book in 1959 while riding on a train with his two young grandchildren, who were starting to act up. Recalling the experience, Lionni wrote: ‘I put my briefcase on my knees to make a table and in a deep voice said, ‘This is Little Blue, and this is Little Yellow,’ as I placed the round pieces of colored paper onto the leather stage.” Once home, he organized the shapes into a simple book structure, and showed it to a publisher friend who agreed to print it on the spot. Lionni went on to write and illustrate an additional 40 children’s books in the next 35 years.

Lionni was a fascinating character: he spoke five languages, was fascinated by nature, displaced by war, designed the iconic catalog cover for MOMA’s Family of Man exhibit, and made influential work as Art Director of Fortune Magazine in the 1950s. But, in the end, he just wanted to explore the potential of doing art and graphic design for good.¬†Steven Heller, in an article for AIGA, wrote that¬†“in word and deed, (Lionni) has been an unfaltering rationalist, a devout humanist and a passionate artist.”

Here are a few of my favorite LB & LY spreads. Goodnight.

This last one is my favorite.

Stick a fork in it. It’s done.

3 Nov

I cannot make a pie without adding text. This one gave me a stomachache.

I hope he doesn’t make us out of cheese.

27 Oct

I have proven myself to be a complete sucker for any project using states as a theme. One of my favorite albums is titled State Songs. And I’ve been really bummed that musician Sufjan Stevens has apparently dropped his project to devote a complete album to each and every state.

Of course, it is also no secret that I love the use of map imagery in just about anything. And this project, by graphic designer and illustrator Frank Chimero, brings it all together. Let’s hope he doesn’t stop at 17.

Use your tools, your voice.

11 Oct

Last week, a former student of mine sent me a link to a lovely video titled Thoughts On My Bike. There are many things to like about this piece: I am especially interested in the intersection of hand-drawn art (drawing, painting) and new technology (video, internet). I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Too often, we think of these things as being separate from one another… black or white… Luddite or techie. But to me, the potential of contemporary design and art lies in the ability to use the tools you have available to you to best express your vision.

Further inquiry revealed that Thoughts On My Bike was made by Andrea Dorfman, the same person who made How To Be Alone, one of my favorite viral videos of the past year. In How To Be Alone, Dorfman celebrates the ins and outs of solitude over a really lovely soundtrack. More, please.

A reason to procrastinate…

24 Sep

…even if this short animated film worsens your procrastination. It is Friday, after all. And you’ll be all the better for it after being reminded what techniques like stop-motion animation and drawing by hand can do to drive a point home. The film’s creator, Johnny Kelly, has many, many activities here to share… nearly everything except the job requiring completion.

My favorite is the organizing of bookshelves by color. In fact, I’m going to do that now. Never mind all of the other (more important) stuff waiting for my attention.