About vjbscribe

Book designer, project manager.

Day at the LA Art Book Fair

Yesterday I spent the day at Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.  Here are some of the books and ephemera I brought home:

Printed materials from LA Art Book Faire

Books and ephemera from the LA Art Book Fair, 2014*

If you have a chance, get down there to see it tonight or tomorrow! The Fair is full of creative energy with visual and tactile excitement. This isn’t a fair of stodgy conservative expensive fine editions, although there are a few example of that. This fair celebrates the creative adventure of making books and shows the work of first-time as well as seasoned publishers.

Over 200 exhibitors show off their books, zines, posters, wall paper and ephemera. Artists and produces are there at the tables. With your attention focused in the strange and exciting world of an artist book, or engaged in conversation with a creator, you’ll emerge refreshed by the vitatlity of the book arts!

*Books and ephemera including clockwise from bottom Beautiful Monsters: Paper cuttings by Jad Fair produced by Knust/Extrapool; Otis Books catalog by Rebecca Chamlee; Mahmoud Darwish: Once poemas produced by crc (Casa Refugio Citalaltépetl); Venice Beach Biannual 2012 by Lisa Anne Auerbach, Robby Herbst, Kimberly Varella; Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas by Denis Wood produced by Siglio Press. NIH NIH by Miniature Garden (Jamie Stewart, Denise Schatz, Casey Cook)

Paris Was a Woman

In 2013, Counterpoint Press asked me to design the reissue of Andrea Weiss’ richly illustrated history of the Paris cultural scene in the 1920s and 30s.

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About the design

The book includes many illustration in the form of photographs and documents. I was grateful for the previous editions as they provided a plot to follow for the sequence of the illustrations. The trim size was different from the previous, and the schedule was short. I knew I had to accomplish the best layout on the first page proof as there wasn’t time to rework. I chose a 5 column grid for a lively asymmetry.

To approach the text design, I did some research.  As usage lags invention, typography from the Belle Epoque and were still used in signage and publications from the time covered by the book, so I included those influences in my type palette. I used Fontshop’s FontBook app to browse typefaces designed in the 1910-1940 period.

For the text I chose Stemple Garamond, a beautiful Garamond (Stemple, 1924). I like to think that the date a typeface is created has some of the DNA of its time. For the display type, I chose Handle Oldstyle (1917), designed by a rare woman typographer. Handle pairs nicely with the letterforms of the Garamond.

For subheads and running feet I chose Cooper Oldstyle Italic, a stalwart of advertising of the time period, and Quadraat. Quadraat Sans has a bit of deco in it and a bit of warmth.

Stemple Garamond
Handle Oldstyle
Quadraat Sans Semibold
Cooper Oldstyle Italic

Many of the photos were scanned from books, or rough scans from the photos and so needed attention to adjust the gray tones and bring details out of the shadows.

This is a wonderful book. While I was familiar with Gertrude Stein and Shakespeare Books, there were many other women, such as Janet Flanner and Djuna Barnes, who contributed to the cultural milieu that was expat Paris in the 1930s.

Here’s a link to the author’s website, where there is a link to purchase the book:
andreaweiss.net/books/paris-was-a-woman/

Published in 2013

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I feel satisfied that my time was well spent when I stack the books I helped publish in 2013.

This “shelfie” includes titles from Copper Canyon Press, Counterpoint, Berrett-Koehler, Westchester State University, American Poetry Review, Silverfish Review Press, FamilyWealth Consulting, and Unfettered Mind Media.

Contact me about your publishing project and add your book to the stack this year!

You can read the titles better here:

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Book appears in the New York Times

It has been an exciting week, with a review of Tom Hennen’s Darkness Sticks to Everything in the New York Times along with a photo of the book.

While designing the book, I grew to love the poems and have been telling all my poetry friends to read Tom Hennen. Well, the book is now out, and I hope is reaching many new readers.

For this title, we found another great cover image in the work of Susan Bennerstrom. I chose a smaller trim size, that fits the generally brief poems and prose poems well. You might even carry this in your coat pocket.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/06/books/darkness-sticks-to-everything-surveys-tom-hennens-poems.html?ref=books

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Books of poetry by Alan Stephens arrive

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Today, I received the results of 2 years’ work:  three volumes of poetry by Alan Stephens, edited by his son, Alan Archer Stephens. There are a few poems by Alan Stephens on the web here, and a beautiful website about the books is here at alanstephenspoems.com.

This book project was unusual in that we pursued excellence in a way that publishing ventures rarely do.

I centered the poems on the page for nearly 1000 pages of poems. Nobody is crazy enough to do that anymore. There are lots of complicated hierarchies of things — part titles, subtitles, part title epigrams, poem part titles, poem subtitles . . . lots of things to obsess over. And we did. By printing single books at LightningSource (now Ingram), we were able to make adjustments and perfect even more details.

Today I held those hardcovers for the first time. The book makes it possible for me to read the writing in a way I couldn’t while it was onscreen, or on single letter-size pages. I found I was reading, enjoying, and then had tucked the jacket flap in as a bookmark so I could read the poem again next time I opened the book. Books really are a wonderful technology.

We built these books to last, and I believe they have the qualities that will make them stay in book collections for a long time.

VJBScribe designed and composed the books. Dowitcher Press handled printing, fulfillment and marketing. Some information about ordering books is here.

Collected Poems: 1958–1998
Selected Poems
Running at Hendrys: Sonnets

by Alan Stephens
Limited edition hardcovers available from Dowitcher Press

Books on book design

I was just asked about book design titles. Here are some that have stayed close to my desk:

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

Everything you need to know is in this book. This book is beautifully designed and printed. The books have a ribbon bookmark. Mine is set on the spread of ratios. At one time I worked through the math and proportions for every book I designed. Eventually, I had a body of experience that I could refer to — templates, notes, and printed results of my efforts. At this point, amazingly enough, some of it now part of my own body. That is, I can amaze myself by drawing boxes or choosing positions on the page that turn out to be in proportion if I check the math. I’ve absorbed the aesthetic.

The Design of Books by Adrian Wilson

This great book appears to be out of print. I have a copy that was issued by Chronicle Books in 1993. The process and methods in the book are pre-desktop computing. The book is richly illustrated with examples of book design from the 1960. Adrian Wilson worked at a time when comping was done by hand and the designer communicated their vision to various craftspeople who worked in other buildings or other towns. Those methods enforced a clarity of vision that we do not need in a world where we can create a visual faster than we can imagine it. Covers type, papers, binding, boxes for limited editions — I return to this book again and again for inspiration.

The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Good Design by Jan Tschichold

This one is out of print too. Guess that says a lot right there. This collection of essays covers typography and the materials of book production. I have a flag on the page about footnotes. Between Bringhurst and Tschichold, you can learn everything you need about setting beautiful type

Travel book design for Rum & Reggae Guidebooks

Rum & Reggae's Caribbean Page from Rum & Reggae style guide
Page from Rum & Reggae style guide Page from Rum & Reggae style guide

Back in 1999 a designer friend of mine referred me to Rum & Reggae Guidebooks. At the time, R&R wanted to redesign their travel books focusing on countries with beaches. Their attitude was their brand: irreverent, witty, and informative.

I worked closely with author and editor Jonathan Runge. We went back and forth through several design approaches and in the end settled on a design with typography that rests on energetic and sophisticated Scala and bold and edgy Journal.

I developed a vocabulary of icons to aid readability and findability of the minutia of the restaurants and accommodations. I also developed a coding system for R&R to use on the editorial side. They provided styled Word docs with codes for icons. I translated the files with Torquemada and imported to Quark Xpress. The system reduced the cost of composition.

The books are graced by illustrations by Eric Orner. My favorite covers from the series have his vibrant and whimsical art.

When the economy crashed, R&R was hit hard, and like many businesses, and our work of 10 years together ended. I’m still dreaming of visiting the places in those guidebooks . . .

 

Favorite covers

This week I had a birthday, and it is way past time to get this project going. I spent a few hours today dearchiving and pdf-ing and now have folder of portfolio images

This blog post, I’ll pick my favorites — covers that please my eye. All are covers done for Copper Canyon Press over about 1998 to present.

As Earth Begins to End by Patricia Goedicke The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin
In the Next Galaxy by Ruth Stone Book cover of Lao-Tzu's Taoteching translated by Red Pine, Copper Canyon Press
The Insomniac Liar of Topo by Norman Dubie One With Others by C.D. Wright
Of This World by Joseph Stroud Transparence of the World by Jean Follain, translated by W.S. Merwin

I showed my portfolio once and asked the art director her impression. She said “your covers are kind of quiet.” In the case of these covers for my longtime client Copper Canyon Press, that quiet is probably an intersection of my taste and Copper Canyon Press’s usual presentation of a strong image with understated typography.

I’ll talk more about these covers in future posts.

I welcome comments.