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CR January issue: Feat. FKA twigs

Posted: December 17th, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Art, Books, Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

"I don't want to be a pop star, I just love making things." An interview with the multitalented FKA twigs is the lead feature in our January Music special issue

Our new issue marks the beginning of an extension of our editorial coverage which we will be rolling out over the coming year. During the summer we carried out some major audience research which, thankfully, tied in with some of our own thinking about how to make CR more relevant, more valuable and, we hope, more interesting.

There are creative directors and creative (or design) departments in all sorts of organisations today, from broadcasters to banks, healthcare providers to sports teams. We want to link that creative community up, becoming a platform for celebrating creativity in all its forms and examining the value it brings.

For each issue of the magazine, we will be looking at a distinct sector and asking the question: "how is creativity changing this world?". Each issue will investigate key trends, highlight key innovations and individuals and discuss the impact of new thinking, new technology and new approaches. So alongside pieces on designers or creatives, you will find interviews with chefs or architects, dancers, scriptwriters and composers. We will continue to speak to people running design studios and ad agencies, but we will add to that people running theatre groups, or broadcasters, hospitals or universities – wherever creativity is making a difference.

That doesn't mean that we will be abandoning our heartland of visual communications, more that we are reflecting the fact that inspiration now comes from multiple sources, silos are breaking down and that the studio/agency world does not have a monopoly on creativity. We will still be writing about visual communication, but we will add other forms of creativity to the mix.

We start with music. Future issues will look at food and drink, health, entertainment, education and a host of other sectors where creativity is making its mark.

 

We caught up with twigs as she embarks on a directing career through Academy and talked to her about what it means to be a young artist in the music industry today

 

Our regular columnists also pick up on the music theme: Daniel Benneworth-Gray wonders whether it is ever acceptable to treat album sleeves as art while Michael Evamy delves into the design history of one of the UK's most important labels: 2 Tone. Plus, Nick Asbury looks at the revival of the jingle and meets one of the masters of the genre.

 

In the age of the digital download, what is the role of the physical object in music packaging? asks Tim Milne.

 

 

Could brand guidelines be extended to include music too?

 

 

Why and how band Wild Beasts created a graphic novel using gifs

 

 

Rachael Steven talks to Jack Featherstone and Hans Lo about how the graphics and live visuals for Simian Mobile Disco's Whorl are derived from the music itself

 

And Rachael also talks to Warp about how design and great A&R have been at the heart of the label's success

 

Antonia Wilson meets Bestival creative director Josie da Bank

 

Film composer Jim Williams talks to Mark Sinclair about the role of music in telling the dark tales of director Ben Wheatley

 

 

Alasdair Scott compares the UI/UX of leading streaming devices and services

 

Rachael Steven reports on the explosion of innovation around live gigs

And, finally, in our Crit section, Rick Poynor reviews a welcome new history of Californian graphic design

 

The best way to get this and every issue of CR is to subscribe, which you can do here. We are currently running a special Christmas Challenge: share your unique 20% discount code (which you can get here) and you could win £1000. The code gives 20% off all Creative Review subscriptions (UK and overseas) until the end of the year. It can be used by as many people as you like, so everyone you share it with can also benefit. You don't have to be an existing subscriber - it's open to everyone.

We will be totting up all the times that a particular code was used to buy a subscription. At the end of December, the code that was used for the most new subscriptions will win its owner £1000. More details here


Review: Shaughnessy x Brook

Posted: December 16th, 2014 | Author: Luke Tonge | Filed under: Adrian Shaughnessy, Books, Editorial, Features, Misc, Publishing, Spin, Tony Brook, Unit Editions | Comments Off

In this second of our year end reviews we’re looking again at publishing, this time focussing on books. Who better to speak to on the subject than the duo responsible for FFF-favourite Unit Editions – Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook. With Manuals 2 [Unit 18] still flying off the virtual shelves we hear their individual reflections, highlights & predictions…

Tell us what it is you do, and why you do it..

AS/ I’m a graphic designer, writer and senior tutor in Visual Communication at RCA, and as one of the co-founders of Unit Editions, I’m also a publisher –but even after five years of Unit, it still sounds odd to write that. Me a publisher? Well, yes, actually. As for why I do what I do? Paranoia, fear and self-doubt.

TB/ I’m a designer at Spin and a (relatively recent) publisher with Unit Editions, I also collect graphic design and have curated a couple of exhibitions. I didn’t have any real choice about the design aspect, it is a vocation; I’m lucky enough to love what I do. The other three facets have happily fallen out of the first.

Can you both give us a couple of personal highlights from the year?

AS/ I’m not very good at looking back. I can barely remember what I did last week, far less think about what was happening in January. In my view, you only look back when you don’t have much to look forward to. There’s never been a time in my life when I haven’t had an immediate future stacked with deadlines, objectives and targets. When I’m in the old folks home with my hearing aid and pacemaker, I might start to look back. Having said that, I’d say that the success of our two Manuals books has been a highlight. Two weeks in Japan was also pretty good. Curating a show of 50 years of graphic design at the RCA was fun. But other than that it has been relentless work, work, and more work.

TB/ It’s been quite a year. I got to visit New Zealand through an invitation to talk at Semi-Permanent. It was a fabulous experience: I got to hang out with the legend that is Dean Poole from Alt group. Work-wise, seeing Manuals 2 in print has been incredibly satisfying, and launching the Spin website was a real highlight. Meeting up with Lance Wyman and Paula Scher was the cherry on top.

You collaborate on Unit Editions, how did that all come about?

AS/ I’d reached a point where I was fed up working with mainstream publishers and was beginning to think about starting my own imprint. I went to the pub with Tony and he said he was also contemplating starting a publishing venture. He had already done some self-publishing so he was ahead of me. But it made lots of sense that we combine our skills and use the knowledge and experience we’d both accumulated as studio owners over many years to start Unit.

TB/ As Adrian mentioned we had a fortuitous meeting where, after the shortest time, we realised that our ambitions were very similar and that our mutual interest and skill sets meant that we could make something work. There was a giant Unit Editions-shaped whole for books that balanced out (hopefully) beautiful design with rich visual and written content.

What changes, if any, have you observed over 2014 with regards to publishing and editorial design?

AS/ The most important thing for me is that the much predicted death of print (and the subsequent demise of books) has not happened. In fact, the opposite is true. Publishing is booming. The record business was blitzed by digital, but print publishing has coped with it much better. Yes, there are huge changes taking place. Newspapers and magazines are suffering, and like lots of people I know, I do a lot of reading online and I get most of my news and information from the web. But this has not lessened my interest in books. I’d also say that in the case of art and design books, nothing in the electronic realm –online, e-books, apps, etc. –comes close to surpassing the perfection of a good book. I’m happy to read books of continuous text –novels, etc –on an iPad, but art and design is better suited to that old fashioned combo of paper, glue and ink. It’s perfect technology. But there is one important proviso to all this –books have to have a reason to exist, and they have to be have real merit in terms of content, design and production.

TB/ The internet has enabled designers to share their passions and interestsin all aspects of creative endeavour. This definitely influences my approach in representing work that can be seen online in print. Our books take a respectful but determinedly contemporary standpoint. I see our job as bringing the subjects we choose to life and expressing their relevance to today.

Any curveballs hit you this year you just werent expecting?

AS/ Everything’s a curveball these days. I’m amazed at how much change there is in every aspect of life. I see it most plainly in education. I’ve been at the RCA for five years and even in that short time I’ve seen huge changes. The government wants to privatise all university education, and art schools are first in the firing line. This has resulted in a culture of fear in education. As regards working as a designer professionally, I’m glad I no longer have a studio. I take my hat off to anyone who runs one. It has never been tougher and I don’t see it getting any easier. There’s plenty of work, but budgets are tight as hell and opportunities to do good work are getting fewer and fewer.

Any must have recommendations for the print lover this Christmas?

AS/ I really loved Lars Muller’s Neue Grafik facsimile set. Very sensitively done and (almost) as good as the real thing. JG Ballard’s collected interviews Extreme Metaphors blew my mind. I keep going back to it –so superior to his novels. In the same bracket I’d mention An Encyclopaedia of Myself by Jonathan Meades. I also loved John William’s novel Stoner–and no, it’s not what you think it’s about. And anyone interested in writing (and design) should read Steven Pinker’s Sense of Style. It’s a guide to clear writing, but a lot of what he says is applicable to design.

TB/ I bought a stash of great stuff from the wonderful Steve Heller’s book sale. My favourite was a book on work by Armin Hofmann’s students. My book of the year would be Grafisk design: Henrik Nygren it is a really beautiful tome and well worth a forking out for.

With one eye on 2015, what have you got in the pipeline we can start getting excited about?

AS/ For the first time in our short history we have a “pipeline.” Just like a real publisher. What this means is that we are working on our next five or six titles. Up until now we’ve only ever known what the next book would be, but now we have titles lined up for next year and even into 2016. We’re going to announce the next three –maybe four –books in the New Year.

TB/ So little time so many books. There are some complete crackers lined up for next year, watch this space.

If Santa could bring you one thing this year what would it be?

AS/ A weekend off to do nothing but watch movies.

TB/ I’d put the old bugger in room 101 given the choice, but given that that’s unlikely, I’d settle for car tyres that don’t burst.

Keep up to date with Adrian and Tony, and of course Unit Editions. Cheers guys!


Leeds Print Festival: free tickets for CR subscribers

Posted: December 15th, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine / Newspaper, Type / Typography | Comments Off

Next up for the CR Club – free tickets to the Leeds Print Festival 2015 for Creatve Review subscribers

Following on from our free Alan Kitching lecture and tour of the RCA50 show by Adrian Shaughnessy, our next special offer for CR subscribers is for the brilliant Leeds Print Festival.

With exhibitions on book binding, risography, letterpress and screenprinting, a week of print workshops, and exclusive talks from speakers including Ken Garland (whose work we featured in our February 2013 issue, shown below) and Alec Dudson, the Leeds Print Festival is a great place to rekindle your love of all things print.

The event runs from January 23 to 31, full timetable and venue details are here

We have 30 free tickets to give away exclusively to CR subscribers. All you have to do is register your interest here and we'll select 30 lucky people at random to attend.

To become a member of the CR Club, which offeres inviations to exclusive events, special offers and reduced rates for CR magazine, visit subscribe.creativereview.co.uk and start your subscription to Creative Review today.

 


N for Napoleon

Posted: December 12th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Illustration, Type / Typography | Comments Off

Napoleon is a name so loaded with associated imagery that for the design of a new biography, Penguin art editor Isabelle de Cat looked to avoid images of bicorne hats and battles – and instead referenced some intriguing symbols of the French emperor's own invention...

"We all have a certain image that springs to mind when we think of Napoleon Bonaparte", says Penguin art editor de Cat on the Penguin blog. "From the heroic figure on the white horse to the short man with the characteristic velvet hat, hand stuck inside his coat. To the British public Napoleon has become a caricature of himself, almost a figure of comedy."

For the cover of Andrew Roberts' Napoleon the Great, de Cat saw that it was necessary to move away from these stereotypes.

"Very early on we decided that the cover shouldn't feature any portraits, oil paintings, or battle scenes," she says. "Instead, it would take a symbolic approach, with the cover creating a sort of ‘brand' for Napoleon."

So de Cat sought to avoid this kind of thing ...

Napoleon Crosses the St. Bernard, by Jacques-Louis David (Malmaison), 1801 (Wikimedia Commons)


... and this ...

Portrait de Napoléon dans son cabinet de travail, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812 (Wikimedia Commons)


... as much of the perception of Napolean, via James Gillray's drawings of him as the King of Brobdingnag or George Cruikshank's sketches of 'Little Boney', had already become more caricature than anything:

Napoleon as played by Terry Camilleri in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, 1989 (cinema.de)

 

De Cat says that far from struggling to find appropriate imagery, however, there was a wealth of symbolic material to work with.

"As he rose to power Napoleon himself created a consistent iconography to represent and ‘settle' his regime," she explains.

"Borrowing from classical antiquity and early medieval French sources, he reinvented the symbols of power and defined the fashion of the Empire that he was building."

Monogram of Napoleon in the gate Marengo of the Cour carrée of the Louvre, Paris (detail, Wikimedia Commons)

De Cat's use of the Napoleon 'N' monogram and the 'bee' symbol on the book's cover

 

"His monogram, the eagle holding thunder, crowns of laurel or oak leaves – to name just a few – began to be seen everywhere."

These symbols were embroidered, carved, engraved, printed or sculpted in the most luxurious of materials, de Cat says, and surfaced on everything from "furnishing, military uniforms and equipment, to buildings, books and dishes".

Also of note was the symbol of a bee which Napoleon used because of its links to notions of immortality and resurrection – "it linked his new dynasty to the very origins of France," says de Cat.

"Golden bees were discovered in 1653 in Tournai in the tomb of Childeric I – founder in 457 of the Merovingian dynasty and father of Clovis – and, as such, were considered as the oldest emblem of the sovereigns of France."

Golden bees found in the tomb of Childeric I, founder of the Merovingian dynasty (Wikipedia)

 

De Cat shortlisted a few of these ornamental symbols and began to combine them in different ways.

"The monogram ('N') and the 'bee' symbol stuck from the very beginning, in some versions combined with a title," she says.

"The options which used only the bees and monogram pattern felt much stronger and we opted to pursue this route. I was delighted to be allowed to carry on with a cover without a title or an author name on it!"

 

However, this approach did mean that the spine of the book had to do a lot more work. But being over 1,000 pages in length, Roberts' study presented a big canvas and an opportunity for de Cat to make the spine really stand out.

"My inspiration was from one of Napoleon's achievements," she says. "He rethought the entire French legal system, which was recorded in a volume which came to be known as the Code [see below].

"The first edition of this book has a bold and magnificent embroidered spine, which I used as the basis for the spine design of the biography."

German language edition of the Code Napoleon (originally the Code civil des Français) – for sale at Eric Chaim Kline Bookseller

 

"The next challenge was to find a finish which was strong enough to carry the title-less and author-less front cover approach, and to convey the exquisite and luxurious craftsmanship of the Napoleonic era," says de Cat.

"Rather than embroider the pattern on a cloth cover we decided with the producer of the book, Imogen Boase, to stick to a traditional paper cover and find a foil reminiscent of the golden thread embroidered on Napoleonic fabric, uniforms and ceremonial clothing."

 

The finishing touch was the choice of end-papers, which can be seen in the first image on this post and in full in the shot of the window display below (also shown is Timorous Beasties' 'Napoleon Bee' wallpaper – see timorousbeasties.com).

"Although we wanted to avoid showing Napoleon in his more stereotypical personae, I thought that a close crop on a lesser-known portrait of him as a young (and handsome) man would evince his extraordinary charisma," says de Cat.

"With the help of Peter Pawsey, who did a magnificent job of rescuing a badly damaged and stained drawing, the gaze of young Napoleon was restored to its original magnetism and strength."

Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts is published by Penguin imprint, Allen Lane, and is available to purchase here. De Cat's post on the design of Napoleon the Great first appeared on the Penguin blog at penguinblog.co.uk. Extracts are republished with permission

 



First of Penguin Monarchs editions released

Posted: December 5th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Illustration | Comments Off

Cover art by Vania Zouravliov

Penguin Monarchs is a new 45-book series that looks at the individual reigns of Britain's kings and queens over the last 1,000 years. For each biography, a new portrait has been commissioned by a range of artists and illustrators...

Penguin art director Jim Stoddart worked on the series for the Allen Lane imprint with Pentagram's Angus Hyland, who oversaw the design of each of the covers (Hyland is interviewed about the project on Design Week, here). The series of 45 books will be released over the next four years.

Cover art by Iker Spozio

 

"Looking back at existing images of royalty through the ages there is a huge discrepancy in styles and quality," says Stoddart. "Many medieval monarchs aren't represented visually at all, or perhaps only in a rough etching or tapestry.

"Where there are royal portraits there is often a reserved stiffness or overly-reverential composition which usually lack charisma and appeal – many of those artists are likely to have worked with extreme caution and feared for their lives if their work did not please."

Henry VIII cover art by Peter Blake

 

From Athelstan (894 - 939) and Aethelred the Unready to George VI and Elizabeth II, the Monarchs series includes the dynastic houses of Wessex, Normandy and Plantagenet, through to Lancaster and York, Tudor, Stuart, Hanover and Windsor. Oliver Cromwell is also tackled by David Horspool.

Cover art by Riikka Sormunen

 

Stoddart says that the brief for the artists was to approach each of the the kings and queens in the series with a fresh eye and that conveying an idea of the 'spirit of the age' was more important than accurate representation.

This approach enabled the artists to show the monarchs as "eccentric, interesting individuals rather than just as the focus of leadership," Stoddart says. "The outcome is that we have a series of impassioned characterisations, which appeal to the modern eye, as well as those already familiar with history."

Cover art by David Downton

 

"We have also included each monarch's signatures on the covers [see below] which reminds us of the authenticity of these very real people," Stoddart adds. "But there is a further significance to this – these signatures, unlike yours or mine, carried a huge amount of power, including the capacity to send enemies to their graves at will."

For more on the Penguin Monarchs series at penguin.co.uk. Each book is £10.99. Angus Hyland is interviewed about the project on Design Week here.


CR December: The Photography Annual – iPad edition

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Art, Books, Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

The CR Photography Annual, our double issue for December, is also available for iPad, where you'll find the Best in Book and all of the successful submissions, plus the print mag articles and exclusive additional content in Hi Res, our showcase gallery section, and CRTV, with video profiles of creative people, animations and other moving image work from around the world....

 

The CR Photography Annual features the best in editorial, advertising, fashion, stock and personal work with some fantastic imagery from a wide range of experienced practitioners and relative newcomers.

Also in the Features this month, a look at Vince Frost's new self help book Design Your Life; our investigation into designing for an ageing population; native advertising; illustrator Jean Jullien; photographer Sophie Ebrard; and 'exploration house' The Unseen who combine art and chemistry to create interactive clothing. Plus a look at a political poster conference at Manchester's People's History Museum  and Alan Fletcher's type only posters; and not forgetting regular columns from Michael Evamy, Daniel Benneworth-Gray and Paul Belford.

In Hi Res you'll find category galleries for all the successful submissions for the CR Photography Annual 2014; posters from the BFI national archive celebrating its sci-fi season; Paddy Summerfield's moving photo series Mother and Father; classic pieces from the Illustration Cupboard's winter show; and Laura Stevens' cinematic photo series Another November.

CRTV includes a little film about Jean Jullien by Handsome Frank; the story of the Woolmark production process from CG animation specialists Neon; the making of Harrods Christmas ad; Unit Editions talk with Ken Garland; A profile of glass-plate photographer Brian Gaberman; interviews from the key speakers at this years Modern Magazine Conference; and an amusing animated chicken from Max Halley.

 

To submit work for consideration for CRTV or Hi Res, please email antonia.wilson@centaur.co.uk

For further info on the CR iPad app or to subscribe, click here.


CR December: The Photography Annual

Posted: November 21st, 2014 | Author: Creative Review | Filed under: Advertising, Books, Digital, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine / Newspaper, Music Video / Film, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

December's CR is a double issue and features our Photography Annual; 80-pages of the best in editorial, advertising, fashion, stock and personal work...

This year's Photography Annual (in association with Precision Printing) includes some fantastic imagery from a wide range of experienced practitioners and relative newcomers. We launched the special issue last night at the Design Museum and were able to celebrate the achievements of those whose work is featured in its pages and the seven projects which were judged Best in Book. Congratulations to all.

Flip the issue over, and up front in the regular CR half we look at how Precision Printing worked to produce this year's Photography Annual cover; take a look at the best of this year's Christmas ads; and look at the Barry Island climbing wall which doubles as an art installation. We also have Bagpuss as we 'almost' new him.

In the columns, Daniel Benneworth-Gray struggles to cope with two new demanding clients in his life – a poorly wife and child; while in Logo Log, Michael Evamy explores the power of punctuation in branding – on the back of the NSPCC's recent logo redesign.

Kicking off our main features, Patrick Burgoyne talks to designer Vince Frost about his new self-helf book, Design Your Life. In it Frost explains how the same design principles which work for clients can be applied to making our personal lives better.

 

Patrick also investigates the social and political challenges that our ageing populations pose to Western economies – and looks at the opportunities that might arise, too.

Eliza Williams examines a year in which native advertising established itself as a controversial presence in our media landscape...

...and in using materials that change colour in the wind – or even react to brain activity – Rachael Steven talks to The Unseen, an 'exploration house' effortlessly combining art and chemistry.

French graphic designer and illustrator Jean Jullien is much in-demand at the moment and Mark Sinclair talks to him about his work to date as he leaves his adopted home of London for New York.

 

Five years ago, Sophie Ebrand swapped life as an advertising account manager for that of a professional photographer – and she's never looked back. Eliza Williams meets her.

In Crit, Jean Grogan attends a Paris conference on the work of type designer, artist and ad man Roger Excoffon, whose work is enjoying something of a revival at the moment...

... and Craig Oldham is also conference bound – to Manchester's People's History Museum for an event dedicated to the history of the political poster in Britain.

Finally, Paul Belford celebrates a type-only poster designed by the late Alan Fletcher which proves that working counter-intuitively can pay off in a big way.


Our pick of the best new children’s picture books

Posted: November 19th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Books, Illustration | Comments Off

While children's favourites Alfie, Mog and Paddingon each have Christmas books out this month, we thought we'd put together a special round-up of some of the most interesting illustrated titles we've seen in recent weeks. There's something for everyone this season: a dog on stilts, a bear who wants to read, new-look Richard Scarry and two books about snow...

 

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole – Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Walker Books, £11.99)

First up, in a second collaboration with writer Mac Barnett, illustrator Jon Klassen helps tell the story of two optimistic diggers who venture deeper underground in a search for something spectacular. As with Klassen's previous books – I Want My Hat Back and the more recent This Is Not My Hat – the visual humour is spot-on (keep an eye on that dog!) For me, he's one of the best illustrators currently working in children's publishing and, when paired with Barnett, the two of them clearly have a lot of fun. Here, the drawings are all earthy tones and soil colours – and Sam and Dave get progressively muddier as the book goes on. A lovely thing.

 

 

Bears Don't Read! – Emma Chichester Clark (HarperCollins, £12.99)

In the latest from Emma Chichester Clark, a bear finds a book in the forest and decides he wants to read it – so he tries to find someone who can help him. Unfortunately, to most of the people in the town he just looks like a massive bear holding a book so, with a sad inevitability, the police become involved and it looks like it might not happen. However, a young girl has sympathy with him and, well ... you'll have to read it to find out what happens. Chichester Clark's story is very funny and the imagery has a wry humour as well.

 

 

Snow – Sam Usher (Templar, £6.99)

The first of two snow-related books on our list, Sam Usher's story is all about having to wait to go outside and play, while everyone else is already tramping around in the white stuff. But when Grandad is finally ready to take his grandson outside, they find that it's not just boys and girls who have got to the park before them. Usher's engaging style is very much in the tradition of Quentin Blake (his characters have similar upturned noses!), and there's a similiar sensibility to the story as well, which is no bad thing.

 

 

No Such Thing – Ella Bailey (Flying Eye Books/NoBrow, £11.99)

Published in time for Hallowe'en, Ella Bailey's lovely book features Georgia, a young girl determined to find out just who is responsible for scribbling on her bedroom walls, pinching her socks and knocking all manner of things over. Bailey's illustrations are full of wide-eyed character and expression with plenty of detail in each scene to keep keener eyes occupied. Georgia also happens to live in a charmingly messy house, so there's a touch of realism (and sympathy with parents) about it all as well. Incidentally, Flying Eye Books is NoBrow's childrens imprint.

 

 

Paul Smith for Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go – Richard Scarry (HarperCollins, £25)

Now this is an interesting one. At £25 this isn't going to be unwrapped by that many five year-olds this Christmas; instead, the likely audience is those who are keen on a smart new edition of a children's classic, in this case readers who have fond memories of Richard Scarry's book, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, the first time around (e.g. the late 70s). Sir Paul Smith, himself a big fan of Scarry's line, has designed the slipcase, covers and endpapers and introduces the book. It's a lovely edition – but clearly for fans who want to celebrate the book's 40th anniverary rather than become aquainted with it for the first time. A limited edition is of course also available and, unsurprisingly, looks great (a pop-up scene, three press-out-and-make vehicles, five art prints contained within) but at £200 is for Scarry collector's only. (Press-out-and-make vehicles though...).

 

 

The Lavender Blue Dress – Aidan Moffat, illustrated by Emmeline Pidgen (Cargo Publishing, £13.99)

By far the sweetest story in this collection, the debut children's book from singer and musician Aidan Moffat also has a fantastic moral at its heart. As Mabel prepares for the school's Christmas ball, she's aware that many of her friends will be wearing new dresses and that her parents don't have the money to buy her one. Yet, unbeknown to her, her family are working together to give her the perfect dress for the party. Emmeline Pidgen's soft pencil illustrations accentuate the warmth of the story, which delivers a great Christmas message, too. There's even an accompanying CD which, for fans of Moffat's work which perhaps isn't so suitable for little ones (this dad included) is also a treat to listen to. A teaser for the book is here.

 

 

Plip, The Umbrella Man – David Sire, illustrated by Thomas Baas (Little Gestalten*, €14.90) *English edition not yet in the publisher's store but keep an eye on Little Gestalten

We've seen a few of the German editions from Little Gestalten, the Berlin-based publisher's new childrens imprint, but this is one of the first titles to appear in English (it was originally published in French in 2013). Plip has an otherwise regularly-shaped head but, when it starts to rain incessantly, he decides to become an 'umbrella man'. As it turns out, he has some issues of his own to work through before he can truly enjoy himself, let alone the weather. This is a strange, ever-so-slightly bleak tale which looks great on the page – lots of space, just three colours throughout from Thomas Bass – and in its own way deals with some fairly complex issues. Interesting also to see a visual arts publisher venturing into the children's market.

 

 

Snow – Walter de la Mare, illustrated by Carolina Rabei (Faber & Faber, £12.99/£6.99).

Set to de la Mare's short poem, which featured in his 1924 collection, Peacock Pie, this is a beautiful rendering of a classically-imagined Christmas. All the scenes and characters are depicted in browns, greys, reds and blacks while the dominant colour is of course a blanket of white that covers everything. Caroline Rabei's illustrations are very warming and full of detail – perfect to pore over on a cold, wintry day.

 

 

Dog on Stilts – James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon aka the Superhairies (Digital Leaf, £10.99)

And finally, from the duo behind the madcapped caper that is The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race comes Dog on Stilts. Medium Dog is, well, unhappy with being just 'medium' – and so longs to be noticable. So after a night in the shed he bangs together some stilts so he can be as tall as a towering tree. As with their debut, Mackinnon's artwork is full of invention (he's clearly a fan of odd angles and perspectives) and, combined with the character designs, this new book makes for a busy feast for the eyes. Again, as with many memorable children's picturebooks, there's a traditional message at the heart of a crazy adventure.


A Quality of Light: Vintage Classics’ Virginia Woolf series

Posted: November 18th, 2014 | Author: Mark Sinclair | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Photography, Type / Typography | Comments Off

Over the last two years, Vintage Classics has republished 14 of Virginia Woolf's works in an ongoing series which includes her novels, essays and diaries. For the series' cover designer James Jones it's been an opportunity to use images from a range of photographers and create a set unified by the strength of its imagery...

Take a look at any recent round-up of great book cover design and it seems that illustration and type-only designs are more popular than ever – photography, it now seems, perhaps less so.

But Vintage's ongoing publication of the complete works of Virginia Woolf (based on her original Hogarth Press texts) has developed into a series linked by its great choice of photographic image.

The covers often use tight crops of pictures (there are four examples below), with some subtle tonal manipulation, all of which is overseen by Jones.

 

For the Vintage designer, the job of covering the full set – of which Street Hauntings (above) was the most recently published – began with an immersion in Woolf's world. "Redesigning Woolf's novels was a challenge, not just because of the endless options out there, but for the fact I hadn't read any of her work beforehand," Jones explains.

"I was surprised by how obscure and highly experimental it was; her work is distinctive, her style her own, and her words bold and new. And it was the words I was struck by the most, so I began visualising the first few paragraphs of her novels purely through typography."

A detail from Jones' first typographic idea is shown below (this was later exhibited in the Killed Covers exhibition at the Hay on Wye festival).

 

Jones says that, while keen on the type-based approach, the route didn't convey "how contemporary her novels felt, and it would prove a challenge to stretch the typographic route across her many books. What I really wanted to bring across, and what I felt was missing from my earlier ideas," he says, "was the sense of colour and light that I pictured when reading her work."

Senior editor at Vintage, Frances MacMillan, concurs. "We wanted new jackets which would make potential readers rethink their ideas of this famous author; covers which presented Woolf as modern, relevant and surprising," she says. "Woolf's own beautiful, sensuous descriptions of light and water in The Waves were one of the starting points for inspiration."

 

The Waves, one of Woolf's most experimental books, was the first to be published in the new Vintage edition in April 2012. To the Lighthouse followed and set the tone for the resulting series.

Jones says that he and MacMillan picked out various passages from each book that could be investigated further – key moments, themes and setting descriptions all played their part when looking for the right images. The designer then researched photographs that helped to represent certain lines within the work, however abstract they were.

"We decided to go photographic, and give a wide brief – the main thing we were looking for in the photos was a certain quality of light: early evening summer light; hazy, sunny light; or cold London daylight," says MacMillan. "Suffused colour, and over-exposed, bleached or tinted images seemed to suit the intensity of Woolf's voice."

"Cropping of these images was important, as it kept the covers modern and fresh," says Jones. "A good example would be for The Waves. A wrinkled bed sheet. A window. A dark line across the horizon. All feature in the first few paragraphs, and I loved how with the right crop the bedsheets themselves resembled the title of the book." The original photograph is shown below, beneath an image of the finished cover.

Giacomo Furlanetto, Millennium Images

 

"We wanted the photos to mirror her famous stream-of-consciousness style and represent captured moments, giving the sense of lives going on before and after the photo taken," adds MacMillan. "Unusual details, or an odd crop, would suggest a unique, innovative point of view."

Most of the images used in the set are crops of larger photographs but what's perhaps more surprising is how tight the details extracted are.

For Jones, this was about focusing in on certain details in the images which would then help to bring the overall series together – as in the cover designed for Woolf's famous lecture, A Room of One's Own, which uses a small element from the right-hand side of second shelf of books in Matthew Somorjay's picture, shown below. (Jones would then work with the tones, highlights and saturations of each of the images to bring them all into line.)

Matthew Somorjay, Millennium Images

 

"I wanted to zoom in quite heavily to focus on the shadows and the light falling against the books," he says. "You can also see how the colours have been altered to fit in with the rest of the series. Each cover uses a different photographer and most of them were represented by Millennium images as they seemed to have the style of photograph I was after.

"Making each unique image work as part of a series proved trickier, but was solved through the colour changes and again the crops of the images."

Matthew Strong, Getty Images

Tim White, Millennium Images

 

"When it came to the type – a version of Caslon – I wanted to keep it quite elegant and simple so as not to distract from the images," says Jones. "

Each cover was great to work on and hopefully as a series they tie together well and represent the authors style of writing, which is still an active influence on many writers working today."

The Vintage Woolf series is published by Vintage Classics. More details here. Jones is also one of the founders of the CMYK blog which charts the design of various Vintage books. For more of his work, see jamespauljones.tumblr.com or follow him via @jamespauljones


Gothic: the stuff of nightmares

Posted: November 17th, 2014 | Author: Rick Poynor | Filed under: Books, Graphic Design, Illustration, Music Video / Film, Type / Typography | Comments Off

The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935, Universal/The Kobal Collection

The Gothic still retains a powerful influence on visual culture, as an eerie show at the British Library reveals. Rick Poynor ventures inside

I have always had a slightly guilty taste for the Gothic. I say guilty because there is something undeniably adolescent about the Gothic imagination. At its most excessive it is certainly not subtle: ruined castles, dark forests, evil monks, supernatural occurrences, lashings of black and rivers of blood. My dalliance with the Gothic began as a teenager, watching Hammer horror films on late-night TV and reading the classic novels.

What still attracts me is the pleasure of the fantastic, the genre's willingness to embrace the irrational, the proximity of terror and the sublime, and the way that Gothic works usher us down into crypts of inner experience that more decorous forms of storytelling cannot reach. I draw the line at dressing up like a Goth, but I can see the appeal for those who do.

Model of Gothic revival country house Fonthill Abbey, on loan from Beckford's Tower and Museum, Bath. Photo: Tony Antoniou

 

Terror and Wonder, the British Library's unusually crepuscular exhibition - low lighting, black walls, typography (by Kellenberger-White) like inscriptions on a tombstone - brought it all back. This is another of those compendious surveys, like the library's Out of this World science fiction show in 2011, which begins with the historical origins of a phenomenon and traces it through to the present. For make no mistake, the Gothic's overwrought contemporary progeny are still intrinsic to our cultural life, from Mark Z Danielewski's typographically experimental cult novel House of Leaves (2000) to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (1999-2006), a knowingly morbid set of children's books, which became a hit movie. Jane Austen may have made fun of Gothic literature in her 1817 novel Northanger Abbey. Today, she herself gets mashed up and parodied in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009).

The exhibition begins, as it must, in Strawberry Hill, where Horace Walpole spent three decades building a tribute to the medieval Gothic style with towers, battlements and ornate chambers. In 1764, Walpole published The Castle of Otranto, commonly regarded as the first Gothic novel - "a tale of mistaken identity, illicit sexuality, supernatural happenings and tense pursuits", as the curators put it - set in a medieval Italian castle. Lurid Gothic romances rapidly became a craze and many early examples are on show: William Beckford's Vathek - a later German edition with a hair-raising illustration by Gottfried Helnwein; Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho; and Matthew Lewis's The Monk, an astonishing book, which I recently read again. Written when its precocious author was 19, it significantly boosted the Gothic novel's sex and violence quotient. A James Gilray cartoon from 1802 shows a lady at a table reading The Monk out loud to three startled but utterly enthralled female companions.

The Nightmare, after Henry Fuseli, print made by Thomas Burke, London, 1783 (on loan from the Trustees of the British Museum)

 

The mood of these novels receives visual expression in some well-chosen paintings of the period, such as Philip James de Loutherbourg's Travellers Attacked by Banditti (1781) and Henri Fuseli's Percival Delivering Belisane from the Enchantment of Urma (1783). But the early parts of the exhibition are inevitably bookish, with many title pages to be studied, and the exhibition's accompanying volume, written by literary scholars, emphasises the literary history.

For non-specialists, the most rewarding aspect of Terror and Wonder is its detailed exposition of the many channels through which the virus of Gothic themes and imagery took cultural hold. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) continues to haunt the popular imagination, as does Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven, which in 1990 made it into an episode of The Simpsons. The exhibition also includes a clip from a 1953 animated version of Poe's story The Tell-Tale Heart, narrated by the actor James Mason, which received a precautionary X certificate from the British Board of Film Censors.

 

Cover of Bram Stoker's Dracula, featuring the first ever illustration of the Count, Leeds, 1901

 

Gothic imagery can be found in the Brontës' Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, which was restyled in a 2009 reissue to look like a volume from Stephanie Meyer's Twilight vampire saga, as well as in Dickens' Bleak House (the exhibition has a clip of the BBC dramatisation), Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, not forgetting Bram Stoker's seemingly immortal creation Dracula (1897). The Victorian penny dreadfuls, where Spring-heeled Jack, a persistent urban legend, made regular appearances, were also significant. The exhibition finds a place, too, for a front-page story from 1888 in The Illustrated Police News, detailing Jack the Ripper's latest slaying in the Gothic gloom of London's Whitechapel.

The Plague of the Zombies poster (BFI National Archive)

 

As the narrative moves into the 20th-century, the displays become more garishly graphic. There are film posters for Dead of Night and The Innocents, Jack Nicholson's scrapbook from Kubrick's The Shining, and clips from The Bride of Frankenstein, Hammer's The Plague of the Zombies and The Wicker Man. At times one wonders whether the curators - led by Tim Pye - have become too over-enthusiastically all-encompassing in their interpretation of the theme. The Wicker Man has an enduring power to chill, and it gets some useful contextual support from an alarming but dubious illustration from 1771 showing Druids burning sacrificial victims in a wicker man, but is the film in any real sense Gothic?

Early illustration of a 'wicker man' from Nathaniel Spencer's The Complete English Traveller, 1771, British Library Board

The Wicker Man, 1973, Studio Canal Films/The Kobal Collection

 

Since the 1960s, horror has become so extreme as a genre that traditional tropes - castles, dungeons and deranged clergymen - now seem rather fangless. The Gothic today is more an arena for stylistic play and irony (see the Chapman Brothers) than a place of fearfulness or true transgression. In the late 1970s, Gothic style jumped the species barrier into pop. Listen to Bela Lugosi's Dead by Bauhaus on YouTube, if you have never heard it - the sleeve graphics are in the show. Performers like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Robert Smith of The Cure became icons of Gothic moodiness. Costuming yourself as a Goth was now a lifestyle choice, an act of subcultural allegiance and a declaration of difference.

Jim Kay, preliminary sketch for A Monster Calls

 

Every year, the face-painted tribe converges on the port where Bram Stoker's Dracula came ashore, for the Whitby Goth Weekend, and the British Library sent Martin Parr along to document the event. His photos, on display in the last room, are washed out by the weather and don't have the glamour some photographers might have contrived. What Parr records, 250 years after the first Gothic novel appeared, are gentle and surprisingly touching visual gestures of everyday defiance.

This article was first published in CR's November issue. For more like this, subscribe here

Rick Poynor blogs at designobserver.com/profile/rickpoynor/81. Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination is at the British Library until January 20, 2015. See bl.uk