Archive for December, 2012

The Year Just Past

Add comment December 31st, 2012

2011 was a boom year. 2012 not so much. Not to say that I was not busy. In fact, I worked pretty much throughout the year. I worked on a couple of long-term book projects—interior design and layout on one; cover design and execution and interior design and layout on another—longish books with stringent creative requirements that stretched through from one year to the next. These two books actually made up the lion’s share of my work. There were other books as well, but, overall, though I worked steadily, the year was not so profitable as the one before.

Entering 2012 my optimism was on the wane. It simply seemed to me that I could not expect it to be as financially rewarding as 2011. Of course, I always worry about self-fulfilling prophecies and giving myself excuses for failing. But 2011 had been head and shoulders financially better than any other year I had ever worked as a freelance book designer/layout artist. The way the rest of the American economy suffered, I could not imagine that freelancing in the publishing arts would continue to fare so much better.

This was also the year in which my promotional skills took a step forward. I don’t pretend to know any more or any different than people who, for instance, make social media their main field of play, but I have finally coordinated my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blog presences. The result is that I have been contacted through each of those venues by prospective clients. This last quarter of the year has seen a number of exciting propositions materialize.

First, I managed to line up three new books to begin in January. And second, I have opened a new avenue  to promote my services, beginning to review big, new books on design on my blog. The first appeared about a month ago and was about Stephen Coles’ The Anatomy of Type. The second is being done as a series, the first of which appeared just a couple of days ago, on Phaidon’s boxed set, The Archive of Graphic Design. (The latter will resume next time I post to the blog after the instant piece.)

And so it goes. I am set up for the biggest start to a new year that I have ever had!

The Year Just Past

Add comment December 31st, 2012

2011 was a boom year. 2012 not so much. Not to say that I was not busy. In fact, I worked pretty much throughout the year. I worked on a couple of long-term book projects—interior design and layout on one; cover design and execution and interior design and layout on another—longish books with stringent creative requirements that stretched through from one year to the next. These two books actually made up the lion’s share of my work. There were other books as well, but, overall, though I was worked steadily, the year was not so profitable as the one before.

Entering 2012 my optimism was on the wane. It simply seemed to me that I could not expect it to be as financially rewarding as 2011. Of course, I always worry about self-fulfilling prophecies and giving myself excuses for failing. But 2011 had been head and shoulders financially better than any other year I had ever worked as a freelance book designer/layout artist. The way the rest of the American economy suffered, I could not imagine that freelancing in the publishing arts would continue to fare so much better.

This was also the year in which my promotional skills took a step forward. I don’t pretend to know any more or any different than people who, for instance, make social media their main field of play, but I have finally coordinated my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blog presences. I have been contacted through each of those venues by prospective clients. This last quarter of the year has seen a number of exciting propositions materialize.

First, I managed to line up three new books to begin in January. And second, I have opened a new avenue  to promote my services, beginning to review big, new books on design on my blog. The first appeared about a month ago and was about Stephen Coles’ The Anatomy of Type. The second is being done as a series, the first of which appeared just a couple of days ago, on Phaidon’s boxed set, The Archive of Graphic Design. (The latter ill resume next time I post to the blog after the instant piece.)

And so it goes. I am set up for the biggest start to a new year that I have ever had!

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design Companion, Part I

Add comment December 28th, 2012

I must say, the experience of viewing and reading The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design leaves me with the uneasy sense that I possessed the capability, after all, to do a whole lot more with my work life. Not that I, in any way, cannot appreciate all of the graphic design work in the Archive. Nor do I mean that just anyone can create such graphic art. Rather the whole package breathes such creativity, I wish I had tried harder earlier. But I digress.

*  *  *

I came home to find a box, fourteen, maybe sixteen, inches high; a bit more than ten inches wide and eight or so inches deep. It weighed what seemed like fifteen or so pounds. I opened the box, removed some styrofoam packing on top and pulled another box out of the shipping box. I pulled it out by a felt-like, cloth handle that snapped around two loops of an intricate harness. It still felt heavy, substantial. The weight was not packing material.

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I unsnapped the handle, took it off, and put it aside. I pulled back the cover and, on the inside of that cover found a sticker with three paragraphs of introduction. The first thing you see in the front of the box is a booklet measuring about 93/8″ × 121/4″. It is only forty pages long, but is stitched rather than stapled. Inside the front cover are Acknowledgements, the roster of authors, a Table of Contents, a Foreword, multiple listings of each piece of art on the 500 cards, an Index, and Picture credits. On the back cover is all the information one would find on the copyright page of a book.

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Behind the booklet were divider cards, fifteen of them.

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The first one was a dark kind of olive green. From the second divider on, the green got progressively lighter. The last one was much lighter, almost, but not quite white. At the top of the cards, on one side, were letters, for filing the pieces in alphabetical order. Some of the cards had more than a single letter on them. On the other side was a single category per card:

• Advertising

• Book

• Book Cover

• Film Graphics

• Identity

• Information Design

• Logo

• Magazine and Newspaper

• Magazine Cover

• Money

• Packaging Graphics

• Poster

• Record and CD Cover

• Symbol

• Typeface

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The cards that each piece of graphic art has been printed on arrive packed in chronological order. But since each piece carries an ID number, title, designer’s name, year done, client name, and category, there are a host of ways to divide the pieces. The methods that the divider cards encourage are alphabetically by title or designer, or by category. I went with the latter, dropping each card behind the appropriate category as I  read.

The breakdown of pieces into each category was not even. I suppose this holds no surprise, as an even breakdown would make one wonder whether some pieces were not included simply to keep the categories even. But perhaps the actual numbers held a little surprise. They ran like this: Advertising, 24; Book, 81; Book Cover, 9; Film Graphics, 5; Identity, 21; Information Design, 25; Logo, 44; Magazine and Newspaper, 77; Magazine Cover, 20; Money, 3; Packaging Graphics, 5; Poster, 116; Record and CD Cover, 6; Symbol, 7; Typeface, 57.

*  *  *

The individual cards themselves are put together in an interesting, attractive, and occasionally puzzling manner. God help me if I am wrong, but it appeared to me on first blush—and I admit to not double-checking to make sure, but instead deciding to live with my eye, whether or not it is an accurate one for type—that the card text is set in Helvetica in two 23p8 or 9 justified columns. Now, you would not ordinarily think almost 24 picas is too narrow a column for justified text. But, oddly, there is a little bit of inconsistency with the typography. In most every card the wordspacing is fine; every once in a while, however, it is surprisingly wide. I can only imagine that in a project this size, different people were responsible for the typesetting. I bring this up only because it surprised me, given that this whole project is about design and, at least partly, how things look.

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But that is just the back of the cards. The card fronts are filled with wonderful shots of the graphics themselves. Large creative pictures, often photographs, always from eye-catching angles or in powerful silhouettes, fill the fronts of the cards.

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In a nutshell, the graphics are inspiring. Whether or not I “liked” each and every one, they caught my eye and I can see where this will be an indispensable aid to me in my book design practice when I am stuck or need a jolt toward a design choice on a project.

The beauty of these cards is in how they bring together aesthetics and a sense of history about what was done by whom, when and in what cultural context. They admirably represent a cross-section of the fairly known design universe along with more obscure work that will both surprise and delight the student, the seasoned design professional, and the casual viewer of art. This boxed set is worth the price of admission.

*  *  *

 In future pieces I plan to discuss the individual categories and some of the works themselves. I look forward to discussion with those who have viewed and read through the collection, as well as to any questions raised by those thinking of getting the set.


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