GD:NIP #4: Riley and His Story
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GD:NIP #4: Riley and His Story

We’ve been trying to get Riley and His Story (which is featured in our current exhibition) on the design blog for a while now, so it was great to find this article posted yesterday on Twin Cities Metro. The designer of the book, Matthew Rezac, is a former Walker design fellow and a force to be reckoned with in the Minneapolis design scene. Here is Matthew’s description of the book:

Riley and his story. Me and my outrage. You and us. is the end result of a three-way collaboration between Monica Haller (visual artist), Riley Sharbonno (Iraq war veteran), and myself (graphic designer). Reconstructing Riley’s experiences at Abu Ghraib prison, where he served as an Army nurse from 2004–2005, the book is primarily a visual experience composed of hundreds of digital snapshots captured during Riley’s time in Iraq — many of which he has no memory of taking. These images are punctuated by two different texts culled from conversations between Sharbonno and Haller — one ongoing and narrative, the other infrequent and pensive. A third text, written by the artist, takes over the cover — the experience then immediately begins on page one. The usual conventions of a book are used sparingly — even though there are 16 distinct sections there are no chapter divisions; page numbers only appear with the main narrative; a title page and table of contents — referencing key passages — appears only at the very end of the book. The design is decidedly minimal, presenting the images and text without obstruction. The most dramatic design moment occurs in the central section of the book — an extended mass casualty sequence — wherein the pages are cropped short along the top and side, allowing images to bleed into and intersect with one another. The images, text, and design coalesce — relaying the trauma of war and its effect on memory.

This book’s inclusion in the show represents yet another expanded role that designers have taken on in recent year, that of editor or image editor. The book is featured next to another beautiful book, Why Mister Why?, designed by Mevis + van Deursen, though that book represents a collaboration between designers and a photojournalist, and less of a personal exploration.

After Riley was created, Monica and Matthew proceeded to create a program by which other veterans could easily organize/layout their images and create their own books printed through, and Monica has been traveling the country, hosting workshops with them. She is amassing a fascinating collection of perspectives which you can browse through at the Veteran’s Book Project website.

Below: screen grabs of the layout program used to create the books.

Below: spreads from other veteran’s books as part of the Veteran’s Book Project.


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