Brooklyn-based graphic designer Elana Schlenker is not only the creator of “occasional pamphlet of typographic smut” Gratuituous Type, she’s also a freelancer with a magnificent array of colourful projects on her (frankly quite beautiful) website, a very good speaker, an exhibitor at exhibitions in Edinburgh and at London’s own KK Outlet. And she’s won a bunch of awards, too. Her aesthetic is pastel coloured without being sickly, innovative without feeling audacious and involves the kinds of books which just seem to make life nicer.
In her Bookshelf she shows us the book she wishes she had designed, the one she turns to when she’s had a tough day and even the one she consults when wants to make apple pie without any apples, which is apparently a thing. Feast your eyes on this lovely assortment!
Matt Connors: A Bell Is a Cup
I’m a big fan of Matt Connors’ work, but maybe an even bigger fan of this book. Brilliantly designed by Sinisa Mackovic and Robert Milne, a slightly short dust-jacket and series of short sheets within the book create little layers of colour that echo Connors’ work. I’m just in love with this production detail, it beautifully complements the work without overshadowing it. I wish I had designed this.
The Book is Alive!
This book is a collection of presentations from BOOKLIVE!, a symposium that happened in London a couple years ago, although I just came across its printed companion recently. The book explores current thinking in contemporary publishing, with an emphasis on digital culture and the ways in which it is transforming how books are made, read, and distributed. It’s full of some amazing thoughts (which is why I’ve marked it all up), one of my favourites being, “the physical book is a battery, a specific concentrated source of energy.”
Peter Wieben: Animals in My House
Peter is an artist based in Cairo, who I met through his book It’s Time to Move, which he wrote and illustrated and I designed. At the end of the project, I asked him to make me a drawing, but instead he sent me this. It’s just a little blank notebook that he filled up with drawings and observations about the animals he shares his home with: “non violent” ants, assorted insects, a grey bird, cats that come in off the street, and other people. I find this book inspiring in two ways. Firstly, it’s so perfectly simple the way it is, it’s an example of the fact that sometimes the best design path is the most straightforward. Secondly, it ends with a very kind thank you note, which honestly makes me feel really good about myself, and reminds me why I like working directly with other artists so much. It’s very special to me and sometimes when I have tough days with other clients I pick this up and feel much better.
Kay and Marshall Lee: America’s Favorites
This bizarre book from 1980 presents the most popular foods in America (Reddi Wip, Cheez-Its, Hostess Sno Balls, etc), which it claims are as much a part of our heritage as the Statue of Liberty and Norman Rockwell. My favourite part of the book is the seriousness with which the food items are photographed, and sometimes I pick it up and daydream about reimagining these still-lifes myself – I think it would be so much fun. It also includes lots of weirdly meticulous product information: dimensions, packaging details, creator, ingredients, slogan, and other random facts – for instance, a recipe that was sometimes printed on Ritz Crackers boxes told you how to make a pie that tasted just like apple pie, using Ritz crackers and no apples. Huh? I love this book.
Jennifer Tee: Love Spells/Local Myths
This book was printed as a companion to an exhibition of the same name at Eastside Projects. Designed by Niessen & de Vries and James Langdon, it includes 22 different inserts – posters, postcards, and booklets which are tucked throughout the book into different slots in a die-cut pattern that repeats on each page. It’s incredibly inventive and an exciting way to explore an artist’s work.
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