Book of the week


Neuromancer book cover re-design, as part of a look back on the projects I’ve done this year so far, during and after the MA. 

On my trip to London last year, I picked up a copy of Some thoughts on the Common Toad, by George Orwell. The cover was beautiful and I decided to bring it back as a present to my (then) teacher and friend Maziar. When he got it, he mentioned it was designed by David Pearson, a wonderful designer from Penguin. David is a great designer in contemporary graphic design, and we were lucky to have him earlier this year at Khio, giving a workshop on book cover re-design.

I participated in this workshop, and the task was to re-design the cover of a book we liked. We started by selecting a genre and doing visual research of the existing book  covers within that genre. Afterwards, we sketched ideas and started to create mock-ups of our re-design. This process was guided by David, and he also showed us his latest work, inspiration and love for letters, books and type as image. We continued into the final design of our book cover, and presented to the whole group in the end. David’s perspective and critique was really helpful, and it was a pleasure to have him over. He also gave a talk at Grafill during his stay in Oslo, showing his work and talking about his process.

The book I chose was a personal favorite: Neuromancer, by William Gibson. Sci-fi book covers from the 60’s and early 70’s are gorgeous: there is a tactile quality in them. As I did visual research, I found that this could not be said from sci-fi book covers from the 80’s, and I thought this was an area of opportunity I could explore in this workshop. I created a book cover creating a texture and pattern made from a circuit board motif. The title of the book emerges from this pattern, both for the cover and for the spine. I created paper versions of it (paperback), but I wanted to push it forward, so I used the laser cutter to engrave and cut the design on book cloth. After that, I explored options with neon paper underneath, and finally, with LED’s (LED wallpaper would be wonderful, as a first layer of the book cover). I had a lot of fun creating this re-desing, and loved to have David with us!


neurorefsVisual research

neuro_sketch1Initial ideas, concept exploration

neuro_process_1Process: sketches for the layout

neuro_process_2neuro_process_3neuro_process_davidDavid at the crit.


Paperback version 

neuro_2bneuro_2c5 y 6_neuroSecond paperback version.

7_neuro8_neuroBefore and after, front cover.

9_neuroBefore and after, back cover.

neuro_1The book in context.

neuro_3Playing with the laser cutter!

neuro_4_paperExplorations with neon paper underneath the book cloth.

4_neuroneuro_3_aWith LEDs underneath the book cloth.

1_neuro2_neuro3_neuroneuro_3_allThe whole layout.

neuro_david2David Pearson at Grafill.

neuro_david1The book cover that started my interest in David’s work. 

firma 2


For the end of year show, the department of graphic design (students) create a publication/yearbook of the work being exhibited. In past years they have made a book where they take your picture, and some sketches and photographs of your exhibited work. They have also featured interviews with some teachers, and head of departments, in a more traditional yearbook type of publication.

This year, however, they came up with an awesome idea. Instead of taking a picture of the designers, they would take a picture of our work tables, or desks. The process is such a big part of the design, and this type of yearbook photograph would show that. I had an issue with this, however, because they had set “types of pictures” for each discipline. Interior architecture/furniture would be pictures from a corner perspective, looking at converging walls where they could place their final piece, or work desks, etc. The focus was three-dimensionality. For fashion they would use mannequins, on a portrait kind of photograph, and for visual communication (my area) the picture would be taken from the top, overlooking a desk, because “we work with sketchbooks/print material only”.

I explained that visual communication doesn’t limit itself to that, and that my project dealt with space and body movement, and to communicate that I didn’t need to be catalogued as “just show a sketch”, when my sketch is code and applying that through visuals into people’s movement, in real time!

I guess we still have a long way to go in graphic design (and design in general) to overcome labels and stereotypes of each specialized area, and embrace hybridity and working between boundaries of what design or graphic design “should be”.

I decided then to show my real desk: the environment I have when I work, and that was what they captured for the yearbook.

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.12.35 PMThe photoshoot.Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.18.01 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.18.22 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-27 at 4.18.34 PMmy desk final

My real desk. 

MA yearbook pic

The image for the yearbook. 

IMG_3459The publication displayed at the end of year show.

IMG_3460IMG_3462firma 2


The Annotated Alice in Wonderland

“Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way”

I’ve always loved Alice. Maybe I relate to the white rabbit constantly racing against time, or the asking-blunt-questions-keep-getting-curiouser part. Lewis Carroll’s classic is even more awesome in this version, that includes notes by Martin Gardner, as well as the original illustrations by John Tenniel (and is beautifully and thoughtfully designed).

The notes in the book give us context into Lewis’ world, and expands the meaning of the story a whole bunch. By knowing where it comes from, and to whom it was intended, Alice in Wonderland reveals itself as wittier, deeper and enchanting. Gardner links Alice’s questions to the theory of relativity, (Carroll was a fond of Maths), to British nursery rhymes of the day, and even notes about a virtual reality game that stemmed from these pages.  How puzzling!

The End of Hardware

They say “don’t judge a book by its cover” and I think that in this case, it rang true. Aside from the Clip-Art graphics on the cover, The End of Hardware, by Rolf R. Hainich talks about what a few years from now was in the edge of product development or user interface and now, 3 years later (it was published in 2009), has become a reality: virtual objects and new approaches to augmented reality.

The End of Hardware states that exactly: no more big tablets or clunky laptops to experience an augmented or virtual space. Rather, that space is perceived through our eyes (and other senses) seamlessly. I finished reading this book just as I saw Google’s Project Glass video. The future is now, at least, as Hainich predicted! Google’s Project Glass video/demo, gives us a glimpse into the life of what Hainich would refer to as “four-eyed”: someone that has Augmented Reality glasses on, (he calls them vision simulators) and experiences life with different layers of data input (some virtual, some real), hands free.

The End of Hardware goes on to talk about the implications of this technology and usages. Here is where I got really engaged: how we have to approach design and interaction in a different way, and if this is really purposeful or not:

“We will have to envision entirely new applications and usage habits. It’s a new world to explore.”

Keep explorin’

I Wonder

I happened to see this wonderful book by Marian Bantjes on a bookshop as well as on the school’s library and it immediately caught my attention. I didn’t know what it was about, I didn’t even read the title, but I was drawn to how it felt like. It murmured touch me, hug me, in a way few objects do nowadays. It is very tactile, both in a visual way and to the hand’s touch. Covered in silver and gold foil, with an intricate pattern, and a bright purple bookmark, I had to open it.

Inside, every spread is carefully designed by the author: she illustrates each detail, sets the type precisely where it should be (and even designs it herself) and the content of each story, each chapter has a lot of heart.

Marian Bantjes created this book with love and care, and it shows in the stories she tells, choosing content and container in a way that makes sense, that goes hand in hand and that potentializes the other. Every chapter/story looks different, as the content is quite different itself.

As she says : “some of the articles were originally published as blog posts for the now-archived blog Speak Up, but they have been resurrected, edited, rewritten and given new life in these pages”.

Marian talks about the sense of wonder, about ornamentation, secrets, the stars and constellations, honour, Santa as a brand, and her own mother. The layout is a visual feast, and the format of the book suitable to hold and read, to go back and forth through the pages, very inviting to touch. Also, throughout the book she manages to place quotations relevant to the chapters.

To Wonder is to be Human

Some thoughts that I considered touching and interesting are:

Essence and Memories

“The things that people make and touch and own often seem to hold an inexplicable essence of the person, and these items are cherished out of proportion to their actual, useful or aesthetic value. Smell, touch and sight combine to form powerful memories, and these sentimental objects are often sequestered from the everyday in order to preserve and honour the memory they embody”

The Return to the Source is Invaluable

“No digital archive, photo, print, copy or facsimile will hold the power of an original artifact possessed by the person it is connected to. This is the reason we have museums and archives, because the return to the source is invaluable.”

Immortality is the human in others

“Memory is what keeps us in place, in time. But our ability to shape and construct the past takes many forms, and those who take it on have great power in what we project to the future. Images of people are always so compelling for what we recognize and what we seek to recognize. They’re so much more than an image of a thing or a place because we’re able to project ourselves and our understanding of what it is to be human into them. When we look at a picture of someone and think about them as a person, we bring them to life. This is perhaps the closest to immortality that we will ever get.”

Books that hold stories that are relevant, question us, that are close to the heart and that are impeccably designed are hard to find. This one is a keeper.

I Wonder’s site here. 



Feedback Culture

This book has put into words some of the thoughts I’ve been having, as well as how and what my conceptual framework for my MA project is. It addresses reflection on design practice, and touches on Relational Aesthetics, open-ended (and shared) experiences, micro-utopias and asks: what happens after humanising technology through design?

This book, by Colin Davies and Monika Parrinder is part of a bigger project. Limited Language is a brand that uses the web as a platform to reflect on the design process, and how these processes inspire collaborations and cross-media practices. The articles found on these book are not meant to be finished, but are viewed (and displayed) more as an open feedback in order to generate dialogue. The platform (website) and by extension, this book, shows a critique on the process and experience of design, visual culture and the everyday.

I found the structure of the book very easy to read, and appropriate for the content: the chapters are grouped around themes. The layout has two columns. The column in black is the starter article, as it appeared on the website. The outer, coloured column is the reflective response, based on the feedback on the website and from the collaborators of the project.

Even reading this book was a dialogue, not only between starter article (author) and feedback reply (readers), but, as some feedback resonated as my own, I felt included in this dialogue and felt more like an exchange rather than information being thrown one way. Why is this cool?