College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts)
Session and Year of Graduation
Honors Major Advisor
Jan Albert Gratama
As a graphic design student, within the past two years I have become increasingly enammored with the intricacies of book/publication design. For an artistic medium such as book design, that exists, as book designer Richard Hendel would describe, “as a craft with its own traditions and a relatively small body of accepted rules,” there seems to concurrently exist many theories about how a designer might achieve a harmonious solution to the problems presented by the relationship of content (text and/or image) and the printed page. With this opportunity to present an Honors project, I have decided to research the topic specifically pertaining to photobook design and incorporate my background in photography and ceramics by experimenting with the content of imagery to achieve a printed visual narrative of a conceptual nature.
Initially, I needed to create the content, and the objects I decided on for this project were a series of coffee cups. I wished to incorporate a repeatable form that could provide subtle contrasts in shape and size and would yet be instantly recognizable despite these intended contrasts. Further contrast would be realized by experimenting with glaze chemistry to achieve an array of colors and textures in order to provide an additional element in the curating and sequencing within the design process that would follow. Next, once the firing and glazing of the subjects was complete, the series of 26 coffee cups was photographed in the controlled environment of the studio. Each coffee cup was rendered with the camera with consistent lighting and in four identical orientations; handle straight left, handle 45° from left, handle 45° from right, and handle straight right. Each photograph (of the 4 orientations x 26 coffee cups, 104 total photographs) was treated identically in the process of editing to minimize contrast in exposure. From these 104 photographs, the content of the visual narrative was curated and sequenced. Finally, upon the completion of creating the content, I then began my own attempt at book design. By utilizing knowledge gained in the research of essays and publications of such book designers as Jan Tschichold and Richard Hendel, and the study of many of the brilliant publications produced by contemporary photobook designers including Gerhard Steidl and Michael Mack, I set out to develop a systematic grid system in which these separate elements of imagery would be accommodated and displayed on the printed page, spread by spread and between two covers, within the finished product of a book.
What I personally found most challenging with this particular project was the construction of a grid system that could successfully be employed throughout the sequencing of the page spreads to promote a continuous, harmonious flow of the dual narratives of the subjects and the abstract compositions created by the detail of the glazes. As of yet, I’m still undecided if I have approached my ultimate vision of a successful design, but at the very least, it gives me something to build on with my next attempt. By selecting one design from the many I deliberated on for the final book design, I found an increasing appreciation of just how detail–oriented this particular task can be. Successful photobook design often conveys an inherent simplicity, and can deceive one into thinking it was easy to create. The knowledge gained with this experience of trial and error proved to be greatly beneficial to me, and having gained these new insights along with a greater understanding of book design, this research effort has been time well–spent and beneficial to my growth as a designer.
book design, photo book, ceramics, publication design
© 2017 Scott Christian Hage
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