Wednesday, 5 January 2022

The frog never looked more interesting


Illustrator Sybille Schenker has created another wonderful graphic storybook. This is her third Brothers Grimm book and uses plastic pages with a gold, silver and black ink with other paper pages printed with black and gold. Like the other books, the title is laser cut out of the cover (obviously fragile so the book has a clear plastic jacket).

It's the book's production that makes the story come alive for me. The illustrations printed on the plastic pages and gold type on the paper pages give this traditional story a contemporary feel. Graphic designers will love it. 

Schenker's previous Brothers Grimm books include Hansel and Gretel (2011) printed with some pages using tracing paper, Little Red Riding Hood (2014) used laser cut shapes on several pages. Her three books are a joy to look through.

Chock full of designer typographic whimsy

The book is volume one, published in 1996 and probably future books have the same contents of very little merit. The samples shown are equally from design colleges or professionals, I found it hard to tell the difference and neither groups seem to have taken on board that type conveys a message and needs to be read to put that message across.

So much of the contents, at first sight, give no indication of what they are. A book jacket has certain characteristics that say this is a book jacket, likewise with a poster, CD cover, Annual Report, magazine cover and editorial et cetera. Luckily every piece has a caption that includes 'Work description', otherwise I found it impossible to tell with all this work.

Nearly all the pieces reflect designer whimsy, that is, playing around with display type and columns of text to please the designer rather than thinking of the reader. It looks like design education, at least as far as the contents of this book are concerned, isn't bothered about the reader. 

Thankfully I picked my copy, recently, for next to nothing. I was drawn in by the title and thought it might be interesting, sadly not.

Thursday, 23 December 2021

The best of Streamline Chicago


In 2018 the Chicago History Museum had an exhibition called Modern by Design: Chicago Streamlines America. In his Preface, Joseph Loundy says that this book is a companion to the exhibition. I didn't see the show but I would agree that this superb title is really the last word about the style in the city.

The first essay in the book, by Robert Bruegmann, discusses the problem of defining Art Deco in relation to fine art and broader aspects of creativity like architecture, interior design, consumer and industrial product design, et cetera. I think this is one of the strengths of the book because it covers the broad scope of Deco styling (actually, I prefer to call it Streamline, which narrows it down to an American style, Art Deco suggests a more European movement).

There are five essays before the main theme of the book: Key 101 designs. Over 258 pages this considers, in year order, how the style is represented in the city and environs. Starting in 1914 with Frank Lloyd Wright's Midway Gardens and running through to 1949 with the fascinating Phantom bicycle from the Schwinn company. In between, you'll see plenty of commercial buildings and their interiors, houses, exhibitions, transport, toys, graphic design and from 1930 a Hostess Twinkie, looking very much like a shroud that covered steam engines to give them a streamlined look during the Thirties.

All of the entries are illustrated, frequently with more than one image and this is another excellent aspect of the book (325 in all) the pictures are well researched and mostly big on the page. The back pages have copious notes, index and nicely two map pages, one of the center of the city, the other the suburbs, both maps point out where commercial buildings and houses can be seen.

Art Deco Chicago reveals a city full of deco delights.