Our catalogue for Graphic Design: Now in Production is now available. Above is the illustrated colophon for the book which gives a lot of detail about the production so click in at your leisure!
With more than 250 artists and some 1,400 images, this ambitious catalogue and exhibition survey the vibrant landscape of graphic designers who have seized the means of production and are rewriting the nature of contemporary design practice. Charting a rich vein of activity that cuts across wildly diverse fields, Graphic Design: Now in Production chronicles the postmillennial scene of all-access design tools and self-publishing systems, the open-source nature of creative production, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the designer turned producer. Part operating manual, part academic reader, and part sourcebook, the catalogue features writings by some of the field’s major thinkers, including Åbäke, Ian Albinson, Peter Bil’ak, Andrew Blauvelt, Rob Giampietro, James Goggin, Peter Hall, Steven Heller, Jeremy Leslie, Ellen Lupton, Ben Radatz, Michael Rock, Dmitri Siegel, Daniel van der Velden, Armin Vit and Bryony Gomez-Palacio, and Lorraine Wild. Freely mixing writing styles, from personal rants to the collective speak of Wikipedia, the book touches upon hundreds of topics. Picking up where the design authorship debates of the 1990s left off, this catalogue examines the evolution of graphic design in an expanded field of practice. It considers myriad issues, such as the changing nature of reading and writing, self-publishing and clientless design, the persistence of the poster and the book in a screen-based culture, the designer’s voice in the age of crowdsourcing, the visualization of journalism, the ubiquity of branding, and the democratization of design tools and software. Sprinkled throughout are numerous bits—factoids, explanations, and tangents—exploring everything from fake Apple Stores to Adobe DPS, Ghanaian coffins to cultural analytics, Scriptographer to heraldry.
Above: stack of proofs
The design of this book is the culmination of a text-image strategy first employed in a campaign created to promote an exhibition of the Walker Art Center’s painting collection (2009). Inspired by museum founder T. B. Walker’s own salon-style hangings in his nineteenth-century mansion and our painting storage facility, this display style allows for a dense presentation of material and unexpected juxtapositions. Although dominated by its strong visual approach, the design also integrates textual material throughout its composition. In 2010, this layout strategy was used in a poster to celebrate the Walker’s twenty-five-year collaboration with the AIGA on the Insights design lecture series. For this catalogue, the strategy was elaborated and extended. Previously utilized in the design of a single poster or billboard, the layout approach was used to create more than one hundred pages of this 224-page publication. Small texts that we call bits are incorporated throughout the catalogue and represent a combination of original writing, aggregated authorship, and excerpted quotations. In this way, the design weaves together the voices of curators, “crowds,” and artists with images of works found in the show and beyond, including the supplemental and the tangential. This premodern style of arrangement, which attempts to impose an order and sensibility on an often incoherent assemblage of objects, speaks to our contemporary condition of information overload in an increasingly fragmented search-based culture. The Whole Earth Catalog was also a key reference point, both in terms of layout as well as the general intention of the book to provide “access to tools.” As part of the content generation phase we created a wiki, editable by Walker Art Center and Cooper-Hewitt staff as well as the guest curators, to collect all these bits of knowledge. The layout of this book was a unique process for us, in that every page was inevitably designed 2 or 3 times. We would take a first pass at the general layout, then assess the specific content, add in new texts and images, assess again, and redesign the page again. To say the generation of the book was “organic” is an understatement. The book clocks in at about 118,000 words with 1366 images (collecting image rights for this book was an endeavor in and of itself).
The book also includes the 21st issue of Åbäke’s “parasite publication” I Am Still Alive. This ongoing project only exists within other magazines and books, relying on publishers donating pages for Åbäke to use. This particular issue of I Am Still Alive is a transcript of a lecture presented as a play that Åbäke gave (and continues to give in various forms) about the form of the lecture as an art form. That’s right.
The book ends with a great essay called “School Days” by Rob Giampietro on the production of designers themselves—an overview of the influence of graduate programs on the field. Read more about it on Rob’s blog.
The book is a paperback wrapped with a thin, coated, four color dustjacket. We were looking for a very floppy book, something that falls open quite easily and is very easy to read. In order to achieve that we asked our paper mill, French Paper (which I visited in Niles, Michigan), to cut the paper on the opposite grain direction than what they normally do, to make sure that the grain fell in line with the binding of the book. Åbäke’s parasite publication is the only signature in the book that is cut in the typical grain direction, which is quite noticeable when you flip through the book.
In tandem with the run of the exhibition, the design department is also teaching a class called “The Designer as Producer” consisting of students from the College of Visual Arts (St. Paul), the University of Minnesota, and the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. (Look for posts on that soon.) We took the class on the final press check for the catalogue at Shapco Printing, and photographed them on press, ran back to prepress, chose the photo, color-corrected the photo, wrote the caption, inserted the photo into the layout (its in the colophon . . . see top of this post), burned the plates, and printed the final form. And of course we even caught some unexpected typos at the last minute . . . “in production” doesn’t even begin to describe this book . . .