Bedford Press is an imprint at the Architectural Association School of Architecture and was set up in 2008 to create a space for books that look at the intersection of architecture, visual art, graphic design and theory. Graphic designer and publisher Wayne Daly is co-founder and co-director of the imprint and in our interview with him and Zak Keyes (the other half of Bedford Press), his love for printed matter was clear: “My parents were always very good about having books in the house, and comic books and things got me interested in design as a child, even though I didn’t know it as graphic design at the time,” he explains.
The idea of content informing design is key to what Bedford Press does, and a look through Wayne’s bookshelf suggests it’s something he’s always been drawn to. From a history of document reproduction to an experimental novel, Wayne’s selections are a goldmine of fascinating texts and compelling design.
Lüpertz, Nierhoff, Schoenholtz and Willkens: Villa Romana Prize 1970
I bought this in a second-hand art bookshop in Berlin a few years ago. It contains almost no descriptive information – there are no texts and no colophon, just pages of high contrast black and white reproductions. However, Villa Romana Prize 1970 is printed on the title page, and some cursory research revealed that this was published to commemorate a German art prize.
I love it as an object – the four sections, one for each artist, are split with tabbed dividers, and the cover does as much as it needs to do: the artists’ names printed in black, aligned with the tabs and repeated vertically in the same point size on the tabs themselves. This duplication is a nice touch. I have a thing about white covers – publishers, distributors and bookshops tend to dislike white for the very reason I’m fond of it – it shows signs of wear more quickly. This is a good thing, books should be used and bear the marks of their use.
Frederick Kiesler: Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and its Display
I was lucky to find this online recently, as research for an exhibition I’m currently co-organising. Austro-Hungarian-American architect and designer Frederick Kiesler proposed ways in which techniques for the display of art could be transposed to commercial spaces – shop windows, shelving, furniture, point of sale – through texts and illustrations which cite European and American precedents from the period.
It’s a beautiful work of book design – justified subheadings are spaced according to character count, text is set in two columns, placed tight to the page edges with wide gutters in between. Illustrations are placed asymmetrically on an open grid, sometimes bleeding off the pages on one or two sides, in a way that brings the book alive.
Lisa Gitelman: Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents
The best book I’ve read about printed matter. It’s an archeological dig through the history of document reproduction, starting with late 19th Century commercial “job printing”, through to the mimeograph and the photocopy, and ending up at the humble PDF. All of these technological developments are treated with equal significance – it’s a democratic, objective telling, and pleasingly un-nostalgic. This could in other hands be quite a dry read, but Gitelman’s writing is fluid and engaging. I think this is an essential reference for anyone with an interest in print.
BS Johnson: Albert Angelo
Johnson is well known for his attempts at disrupting the static form of the book. He saw the novel as a site for potential, taking cues from his heroes James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, he made use of visual and typographic devices for narrative effect. These ideas were often hard-fought – he would have blazing rows with reluctant publishers who he felt didn’t understand – or didn’t want to understand – what he was trying to achieve. In the case of Albert Angelo, a story about a trained architect making ends meet as a supply teacher in North London, examples of this inventiveness include pages at one point switching to two columns, with the protagonist’s internal monologue on one half of the page and interaction with his rowdy pupils on the other.
Towards the end of the book, two leaves are die-cut with narrow horizontal holes, compressing time by allowing the reader to peer through to a future event – a detail missing from some later printings of the book, presumably for reasons of cost. I also really like the cover on this edition by Abis Sida Stribley. A handwritten extract from the book overlaid on a photo of a typical London market scene supersedes a blurb on the back cover, in typically mischievous Johnson style.
Catherine Ince and Lotte Johnson (editors): The World of Charles and Ray Eames
Published alongside the eponymous Barbican show, this catalogue goes some way to absorb the seemingly infinite amount of material on display in the exhibition, and is a great example of what a catalogue should do – not simply replicate a visitor experience, but extend the subject matter in ways that perhaps an exhibition cannot achieve, notably here through an extensive collection of essays. Both the exhibition and catalogue reframe the Eames’ prolific output, so that we understand the couple not just as designers of chairs and furniture, but as information specialists, adeptly engaging and experimenting with an array of mediums, formats and technologies to realise their ideas. This is disclosed in a way that is at once expansive and intimate – it was a singularly, indivisibly personal-professional relationship which produced such a luminous body of work.
The book is necessarily large format, though the design (by John Morgan Studio) keeps it light-footed and accessible. Shifts in section treatments and paper stock activate the archive material. I’m a fan of the pages which reproduce frames of the Eameses’ three-screen slideshows, functioning kind of like intermissions.
Waddington Galleries: Cedric Price: Schemes
For the past two years, I’ve been working on the forthcoming AA/CCA book Cedric Price Works 1952–2003. One of the many pleasures of this odyssey has been discovering other publications by or about Price. Architect, designer, thinker and teacher, Price, whose work was largely manifested in the form of drawings, montages and proposal documents (he built comparatively little in his lifetime), had a strong sensibility for graphic design. He contributed to many journals, notably Architectural Design and Architectural Review, and liked to be closely involved in the layout of his articles and supplements. He was also a prolific maker of rubber stamps and badges.
This modest exhibition catalogue is relatively quiet for a Price publication (that amazing cover excepted), elegantly typeset in Gill Sans Medium, with black and white reproductions of selected projects. Yet there are some very Price-like quirks – for instance, captions running along the tops of pages. The publication centralises Price’s talent for drawing, and the format, close to a 7” record, is perfect. I could look at it all day.
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