Penguin Junior Designer, Chris Bentham, describes the design process behind Live This Book, by Tom Chatfield. Live This Book combines design and practical exercises to inspire you to reflect on, and interact with, the world around you.
What was the initial brief for the design of Live This Book, and how did you approach your concepts for the spreads and the overall design style?
The initial brief was quite open. I was basically handed the manuscript and then discussed a visual approach with John Hamilton, the Art Director at Penguin. Live This Book is about reclaiming your time from digital distractions, and using technology discerningly rather than dropping it completely.
As the book feels a lot like a journal I collected works from designers with a hand made aesthetic – a lot of letterpress, plus work by amazing designers like Paul Rand, Reid Miles, Elaine Lustig Cohen and Alvin Lustig. These designers all have a real human element to their work, from the ideas they use to the hand-rendered elements – for example the use of handwriting. I showed these examples to John and began experimenting with the design to work up a few rough spreads with no intention at this stage of making something that felt like a coherent book. John and I then presented these spreads to Tom Chatfield, the author, and Dan Bunyard, the editor of the book, who really liked the creative concepts and gave me a lot of creative freedom to dive in and play around with the design.
How did working with the author and the editor so closely shape the designs? Is there anything you worked on that really changed following their feedback?
Following the initial meeting with Dan and Tom in which we agreed a loose direction for the book, I would meet with both of them every couple of weeks to talk through things and discuss everything in detail. They gave me a lot of confidence to play with the design of the book and it meant there were no nasty surprises leading up to deadline day for anyone! These meetings meant I got feedback at every stage of the design, and if something wasn’t quite working it was spotted early and we were able to work out an alternative route together.
The book features quotes from a huge variety of authors and influencers, and it’s clear that the quotes have all been designed around the words and heritage. Which were your favourites to design and what was your process?
I like the illustration for the Carl Jung quote as it’s playful. The use of sign language felt like the obvious way to link the meaning to the imagery, as it is about solving problems and doing by working with your hands. I asked our Picture Researcher, Alice Chandler, to find any teaching aids for sign language and she found a me a beautiful vintage set of photographs which were perfect. I then cut out each hand signal to spell out the quote. I like this illustration as it combines typography and imagery so much that the image is the type.
I also like the Honoré De Balzac and the Søren Kierkegaard spreads as they both make the reader interact with the world around them and play with the book as a physical object, which is a central concept behind Live This Book. In the case of the ‘Routine’ quote by De Balzac I broke the reader’s routine by designing the spread upside down, meaning that you have to physically turn the book around to make sense of any of it.
For of the Kierkegaard quote which is about looking backwards and living forwards, I flipped all the type on the page so it has to be read in a mirror.
How did the key themes of the book influence the way you designed it?
Using handwriting was an important element of the design as it helped prompt the reader into using the book and writing in it. The aim was to create something beautiful which I hope we did, but at the same time creating a usable object. I hope that the beauty contained within the book will be improved by the continual scribbling of the reader. I also added a hand-made element to a lot of the illustrations, whether it be something as simple as adding handwriting, or , like in the example of the Claude Levi-Strauss quote, printing out some type, cutting it up and sticking it back together, or creating the effect of letterpress scanning in hand-painted textures and layering them over the top of the typography.
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