Oh my goodness! Two of my book designs were nominated for this year's best 50 Books / 50 Covers presented by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. I am genuinely very surprised about this. But here's to nice surprises.
I love Max Bill and I love Jan Tschichold. Generally, when I'm reading about historical debates between various Modernist avant-garde factions, if I'm honest, I'm often just rolling my eyes a little. Probably completely unfairly, I imagine them passionately arguing about the importance of the horizontal plane versus the diagonal over red wine while their wives are keeping an eye on dinner and the kids and sorting the socks. Yet, at the same time, it's such a privilege to take their ideas for granted. There's nothing I create that doesn't reference, borrow or build upon 20th century design.
Now, when it comes to the Swiss avant garde, I let them all off the hook. I am amazed every time at how beautifully the Swiss School analyzes type and space. Ernst Keller was successful in making "Swiss" a seal of quality, because when I see imitations on the internet, and there are a lot, there is a missing...something. Whatever sublime quality is evident when any object is crafted by a master.
I imagine the Swiss kept their passionate arguments very short, took notes, had a quick glass of water, and then hopped back to it at their desks (this is unsupported). So when I hear that Jan Tschichold, my favourite writer on the subject of typography and Max Bill, possibly my favourite Swiss School man got into it over the asymmetric (Bill) versus the symmetric (Tschichold), I am genuinely interested. The fight took place in the "Schweizer Graphiste Miteilungen" periodical on type in 1946. Jan Tschichold replied to a series of spreads published by Bill in the April issue with a layout of "Hafis", set classically, symmetrically, with a woodcut by Hans Arp in the June issue. He titled his reply "Belief and Reality". The pull that every designer feels, between the personal, the universal the theoretical and the practical, it's all in here.
Jost Hochuli and Robin Kinross, who detail the argument in "Designing Books", note that Bill supported his beliefs with catalogues and architectural layouts, while Tschichold, who had taken over at Penguin, supported his ideas with literary layouts. I think this points to the way in which what we design influences us. I rarely meet a book designer who is absolutist in their ideas and generally as a group we are pretty low key. As design positions go, it's a pretty humble one: most of the time your job is to keep your design underneath the material you're communicating.
Over these holidays I was really under the weather and consoled myself one day by watching Dolly Parton on YouTube. I used this list of her best 30 songs from the Telegraph, which was inspired by her performance at Glastonbury this year.
I thought of her after I heard Whitney Houston singing, "I Will Always Love You" in the doctor's waiting room on Christmas Eve (it is a real waiting room song, isn't it). I love the original, simpler version of the song by Dolly Parton from 1974, because it's so pretty and understated. It was written for the host of the show she's appearing on, Porter Wagoner, who introduces her at the beginning of the video. She wrote it as a way of thanking him but also confirming to him that she really wanted to leave his show and have a solo career. It wasn't a very amicable split, so the spirit of it is impressive to me. Update: My son is worried for me since hearing Dolly, saying, 'Mama, dad and I will have to teach you how to like good music. Like Mastodon. You like terrible music, Mama." OK, OK :)
The song is on the soundtrack of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, which I'd now like to watch again. Beautiful, clean poster.
happy birthday, little h.
While we were shooting the first 6 episodes of Windy, we suddenly needed a tiny spatula for one of the dolls (to flip pancakes). We had similar emergencies every hour or so :)
Anyway, our grip, Will, half owner of the great bike below, ducked out into the alley and made us this great spatula...cut out of a spoon. It is the best. I really miss seeing our crew every day, they were just great.
bike by Will and bandana by Melody
— at the Grant street studio during shooting for episodes 1 through 6 of Windy
I just received a lovely message that Julie Flett's web site is on its way — hooray! We were just talking about the endpapers for Wild Berries (which has been receiving awards and rave reviews all over the place) and I was so happy to see them again. Honestly, if I could have a job just designing end papers I'd jump at it. It's my favourite part of any book.
The Alcuin Society Awards for for Excellence in Book Design in Canada for 2014 were just announced. In the children's category, hundreds & thousands received first prize for how to by Julie Morstad and third prize for Wild Berries by Julie Flett. I'm grateful to the Alcuin Society for their support of Canadian book design and to both Julie and Julie who individually are each so talented and kind that it bowls me over on every project.
I've had a little sick kid at home for a few days and then it's nice to sit outside wrapped in a blanket and get some fresh air. It was pretty sweet this evening when he asked to go outside by explaining, "I'm lonely of the breeze." Anyway, he seems better at last.
Pierrot collar for Spring (a new Windy character) and some tiny hats. We shoot very soon. Yikes!
The last month or so, there have been loads of sweet limes at the market. I'm not sure if they were always around and I just didn't notice, or if there's a new importer in town (if that's how the fruit business works...). I had never tried these before, they sort of taste like sweet water with a slight essence of kaffir lime leaves. This salad, with soft baby spinach, fried tofu, fresh basil and pistachios was really good. Sort of mellow and juicy. It is also nice with curried almonds or seeds instead of pistachios.
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
— William Carlos Williams, Spring and All, 1923
mixing table in the ink lab, hemlock printers
a little outtake from a photo shoot this weekend...
Wild Berries by Julie Flett is hot of the press. I feel very lucky to have worked on the design. These are just little details from the hardcover and endpapers. I will have to post some more about this soon. The book comes in two editions, each about a little boy going berry-picking with his grandmother. One is in English and in n-dialect Cree Cumberland House and the other, Pakwa che Menisu, is set in n-dialect Cree (Cross Lake, Norway House area) in syllabics. N-dialect Cree is also known as Swampy Cree.
I've been slowly collecting a little information about Cree as I work on some projects set in various dialects. I still understand only a tiny little fraction of what there is to know. Someday soon, when I find the time, I will do a dedicated post on Cree type, partly as a typographic reference tool for my future self. Promoting Aboriginal languages should be something for all Canadians to work towards. I'd really welcome bringing dialects into the school system. How can we teach children any culture without language?
I love the sun
I love a house
I love a river
and a hill where I watch
and a song I heard
and a dream I made
— Ruth Krauss, I'll be You and You be Me, 1954, Illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
I'm so glad that you are you, little H.