Interview with Peter Mendelsund

book covers by Peter Mendelsund

A lot of great stuff in this interview with Peter Mendelsund by Christopher Tobias at design:related:

I definitely gravitate towards using illustration, in general, more than photography in book jackets; and the more abstract the better. I think this approach leaves more to the reader’s imagination. It’s easier to be evocative without being literal. Though, upon reflection, those geometric jackets were to some extent influenced by the fact that they were all designed in Quark, which, really because of the limitations of the software, one finds oneself designing with the most accessible tools—boxes, circles, in flat colors or simple blends on top of art. It’s more tempting in that environment to simply place a shape on top of art. In PhotoShop, or InDesign, of course, because of the ease of blending layers, compositions tend to be denser, shapes more amorphous, and the final result, well, more photographic. We need software updates here at Knopf.

Cant. Stick. To. Just. One. Quote. . . .
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A thin slice of history

image thumbnails from English Literature Flickr set

I was looking for a particular image (which I did not find) on Google Books last week, and I stumbled across this fabulous tome: English Literature: An Illustrated Record in Four Volumes. Volume II: From the Age of Henry VIII to the Age of Milton. Part II, by Richard Garnett and Edmund Gosse (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905). It has illustrations on nearly every page, most of which are title pages from the books under discussion. Some are gorgeous, some are appalling, nearly all are interesting. And they’re all well within the public domain.
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Pulchritudinous penmanship

“1860 Warsaw 1? by Zeva Oelbaum, 2006

We posted a lovely gallery today at yeshiva students’ scribblings on their textbooks’ endpapers, photographed by Zeva Oelbaum: Biblical Marginalia. Click the “View Gallery” link under Eve M. Kahn’s byline to see the slideshow.

I guess they didn’t have that rule that one of my schools did, which if I recall correctly was that if you marked up your school-issued textbook, you had to pay for a new one.

Shown above: 1860 Warsaw 1 by Zeva Oelbaum, 2006.

Interview with James Victore


I’d never heard of James Victore before, but I enjoyed reading this.

I had one instructor in my second year, the graphic designer Paul Bacon. He gave me a D. But when I dropped out of school, I went to his office and said that I’d like to apprentice. I didn’t even know what it meant, but I wanted to apprentice with him. He looked at me and put his pen down and told me that no one had ever asked him that before. Then he agreed to let me do it. I learned a huge lesson at that moment: You have got to ask. I got that apprenticeship because no one else had ever asked. So I started hanging out in Paul’s studio, looking over his shoulder. I’d get there in the morning and sweep; I didn’t really have any jobs. And then I’d hang out. When a desk became available, I tried to do some “real” design. Three months after I dropped out of SVA, I had put together a portfolio with three fake book jackets. I started showing my portfolio, and I got hired right off the bat. I’ve been working ever since.

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Bindings! Ahoy!

Man, oh, man. Sheila (“my” Sheila?) just pointed Cooper Renner to a page of book bindings at A Caballo Artes del Libro, who got them from the Guild of Book Workers 100th Anniversary Exhibition site.

The Billy Budd one. By Jerilyn Glenn Davis. I’m in love with it.

Farmers by Sarah Creighton is also very nice.

Claudia Cohen‘s Schriftgiesserei im Schattenbild.
To Remember Ray Frederick Coyle, by Jeannie Sack.
Livre D’Amour, by Peter Geraty.
De la Dominoterie à la Murbrure, by Joanne Margretha Sonnichsen.
Spaces, by Catherine Stanescu.

The page is still loading, and I think I’m hyperventilating . . .

(And I’m now even more disappointed by the staid case stamp I just did for a gift edition of one of our books. BO-ring!)

Redrawing the right side of the brain

In cleaning out my bookmarks-I-didn’t-get-to-follow-before-I-had-to-reboot- because-FontReserve-was-acting-funny folder, I came across a link to a speech by Milton Glaser. Sorry, I don’t remember where I got it—some design blog or other. The whole piece is charming, but I particularly liked this:

The brain is the most responsive organ of the body. Actually it is the organ that is most susceptible to change and regeneration of all the organs in the body. I have a friend named Gerald Edelman who was a great scholar of brain studies and he says that the analogy of the brain to a computer is pathetic. The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on. And he believes that the brain is susceptible, in a way that we are not fully conscious of, to almost every experience of our life and every encounter we have. I was fascinated by a story in a newspaper a few years ago about the search for perfect pitch. A group of scientists decided that they were going to find out why certain people have perfect pitch. You know certain people hear a note precisely and are able to replicate it at exactly the right pitch. Some people have relevant pitch; perfect pitch is rare even among musicians. The scientists discovered – I don’t know how – that among people with perfect pitch the brain was different. Certain lobes of the brain had undergone some change or deformation that was always present with those who had perfect pitch. This was interesting enough in itself. But then they discovered something even more fascinating. If you took a bunch of kids and taught them to play the violin at the age of 4 or 5 after a couple of years some of them developed perfect pitch, and in all of those cases their brain structure had changed. Well what could that mean for the rest of us? We tend to believe that the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind, although we do not generally believe that everything we do affects the brain. I am convinced that if someone was to yell at me from across the street my brain could be affected and my life might changed. That is why your mother always said, ‘Don’t hang out with those bad kids.’ Mama was right. Thought changes our life and our behaviour. I also believe that drawing works in the same way. I am a great advocate of drawing, not in order to become an illustrator, but because I believe drawing changes the brain in the same way as the search to create the right note changes the brain of a violinist. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.

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