February 19, 2008


This book is only the recipe for kicharee. You can fold the pages so that you can see only the actions that are required. But, you can spread out the whole book to see supporting, extended information. The length of the book also gives a sense of time and duration as well as rhythm.


This book is meant to house the dual story and recipe. It has a concertina format, with sewn-in, fold out signatures on the inside—in the valleys. The concertina will hold the recipe which provides the structure to hold the story.

The whole thing may be held together with hinge pins, which can be pulled out to reveal an image, other story, or supporting information along the back.

Book 2: collected

This is a book for the collected stories of all (or a large number) of participants. Each chapter fans out so you can see the chapters to come, along with a hint of each chapter "cover". However, this is a mock-up with plain white paper, thought there are interesting possibilities for illustration, colors and patterns. It almost has a file folder effect.

Book 1: STEVE

This is a model book for Steve's story.

Steve is from Green Bay, WI. In the winter of 1993, he visited some friends in Milwaukee for a weekend. These friends lived in a house that unexplainable had a gigantic (think: dining room table-sized) hole that went straight down through the entirety of the 3-story house.

However, that's not the defining aspect of Steve's story. That weekend in Milwaukee, the municipal water supply had become contaminated with cryptosporidium. Sadly, Steve consumed some of the water, and the remainder of his story chronicles his illness and resulting 3+ days without food back in Green Bay.

This book uses the "hole motif" found throughout the story. From the hole in the house, to the sort of "in one end and out the other" aspect of his illness, and his reverence for the saltine cracker which is nearly always puckered with five holes in a dice shape.

The hole on each page overlaps with the hole on the page before and after, allowing the reader to view hints of what is to come, while peering at what came before—often in a new or juxtaposed way.

Note that the text is just taped on for a rough layout and exploration of form. It is not final—in typeface or otherwise. Neither is the binding or binding materials of the book

February 7, 2008

Russian Avant-Garde Books

Just found this link through Thinking with Type

Russian Avant-Garde Books

You can see the covers of all of the books, but if you click on "Reading Room", you can flip through a few selections. Nice.

February 6, 2008



By Fanny Todd Mitchell, 1961

This book is the recount of some of the places the author has gone, and the food she ate while there (in recipe format). At first I was interested in the book because I expected it to be about the frou frou foods of a highbrow woman, and I thought it might be interesting to use the altered book form to comment on the unapproachable “foodie? atmosphere that often surrounds “high-quality? cooking. And many of the recipes in this book are ostentatious. However, I became intrigued by much of the subtext that lies within her writing. This book is structured (chaptered) by locations. Each location section begins with a lush, expressive illustration (incidentally penned by her son). On the verso of these illustrations is a short paragraph explaining Mitchell’s connection to the place and / or foods. The recipes then follow. Even though the paragraphs are short, she makes remarks that seem to have deeper significance—for instance she was in Russia at some point during WWII. This book is also fascinating because of its description of cultures and “ethnic? foods during a time when much of this food (and the peoples it came from) were deeply stereotyped. But Mitchell seemed to travel widely, and appears to have had an open viewpoint. It is interesting to see her write about these exotic foods for an audience who knew little to nothing about them—foods we know well today needed explanation then. For instance, in the section titled “Arab Cookery?, she subtitles “kebebs? with “Hamburgers on a Skewer?, and “Homos? with “An Hors D’oeuvre? .

Concept & Intent

The concept I would like to explore with this book is “food as an experience?. The illustrations are presented in black and white, and this seems to me to be in stark contrast to Mitchell’s experiences and the experience of the food and the varied culture. When I think of food, I think of the sensory experience it brings—the colors, smells, tastes, textures. While taste—and perhaps smell—are not easily communicated through the book form, I would like to allude strongly to these important and enjoyable aspects of food by making the visual experience much richer.

I think this approach could then tie into the cultures experienced in a very strong way. As stated in the cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates, “Food, beyond meeting our basic need for nourishment, is a profoundly significant instrument of cultural identity. Through food we experience abundance, nurturing, generosity, pride, and fulfillment. It connects us to our past, reorients and centers us in the haste of the present, and is a practical, beautiful means of renewing, sharing, and passing our ethnic, regional, national, even ideological identities? (23).

I would like elaborate on, and make literal the connection of food to culture (and vice versa) by illuminating and further illustrating these pages to denote a rich and colorful experience. Secondly, I’d like to explore the places she describes at the time that she is describing them, to set these rich experiences and her slight narratives against what had to be tumultuous times. The success of this approach could very well depend on available research materials, and the ability of each section to be dated. If little is to be found, then the illustrations and her narratives will be set with explanatory narratives of the foods within, or contemporary investigations of the cultures and foods she depicts.

One of the last things I find so interesting about this book is Johanna Drucker’s notion that there are two kind of altered books—books that are well known and that carry significant cultural and regional importance, and books that would otherwise slide into obscurity. The Pleasures of a Gourmet clearly falls into the second category. Cursory internet-only based research reveals little about either the author, or her son the illustrator. The jacket flap of the book itself refers to the elder Mitchell as a widowed, failed actress who—because of pity—was offered a job transcribing plays, and subsequently became a writer, often adapting scripts for plays, and plays for cinema. What little mention is made to her online is either connected to these plays, or to the book in question. An illustration called “Fanny Todd Mitchell? , dated 1928 found on flickr could refer to her, and it depicts a 1920’s era woman. More information seems to be available for her son—the illustrator. He seems to be somewhat-known artist who did illusionistic, neo-romantic designs tinged with surrealism, but who is better known as a wallpaper, textile, and pattern designer. However, biographical information was not available on either person. Another interest I have is shedding some light on these forgotten people—unraveling the mystery of their lives that was seemingly exotic and whirlwind—through form and through illumination (artistic and informational).



The Ultimate Game and Fish Cookbook: 110 years of great Sports Afield Recipes (Gray, Rebecca, Ed.,1997)

This book was purchased new at a local Borders Bookstore, and contains a number of recipes from the hunting magazine Sports Afield, some of which date prior to 1900. The recipes are broken down into season, and then further into a number of animals that are available to hunt in that given season. Animals range from fish and deer, to iguana, crow, and mice.

What attracted me to this book-—and I use the term “attracted? loosely—was the sheer ridiculousness of many of the recipes (shish kabunny, chicken-fried iguana), as well as the fact that many of the recipes are not in the least bit appetizing (mouse stew, squirrel pot pie) and actually sound quite barbaric. Lastly, many of the recipes spare little in the brutal, graphic description of the death of the animal or in the details of preparation or cooking techniques.

Concept & Intent

The concept I would like to explore with this book is the conventional acceptance of animals for human consumption, using Eat Like a Wild Man as its base. This book is long, at over 300 pages, and as such, I would like to use the entire codex, breaking it up into five or six smaller books that explore this idea in different conceptual and formal ways. This set of books would then be housed together, perhaps in a slipcase or box. Concepts could range from issues of violence, ideology, health, ecological / environmental concerns, commercial agribusiness, and perhaps even contrasted notions of wild animals as creatures to be hunted and eaten (Eat Like a Wild Man) versus wild animals as creatures that aid and instruct human beings (mythologies and folktales).


It is one of my aspirations for Design Studio that the content and forms examined throughout the semester align with my thesis interests to possibly illuminate that process as well as give insight and inspiration to that creative inquiry. The project I proposed was a series of altered books. As such, I restricted the books I was to look for to cookbooks alone, with the intent that the found books could help tell narratives about food. I located two books that seem to hold promise as starting places for new or expanded narratives.


Altered books are books that use the form and content of an existing, published book as a starting point and springboard towards a message of another kind. This could be either in opposition to, in support of the content that the book already contains—or—it could use the content to create a new kind of content altogether. However, no matter which approach the artist uses, the content and form that exists becomes the foundation and an integral part of the new content, whatever that may be. As Johanna Drucker says in The Century of Artist’s Books,

“The convention of the book is both its constrained meanings... and the space of new work... But working on an existing book is not quite the same as either of these—it is not a replication of conventional form and it is not a completely new statement within the existing vocabulary of forms. The transformed book is an intervention... All of these practices of working onto or into an existing work are interventions into the social order, and the text of the world as it is already written? (109).

In short, working with altered books allows one to investigate not only the form of the most common book—the codex—by deconstructing it and restructuring it, but altered books are also a kind of postmodern re-examination of the state of the book. The destruction of the book is widely seen as sacrilege, and it is often equivalent with the destruction of knowledge and free thought. But in a publishing world where thought seems to be second to profit and mass appeal, altered books call the viewer / reader to question what it is they are really buying and reading.

February 5, 2008


I’ve read both Beatrice Warde’s 1955 essay, “Printing Should be Invisible? and Jan Tschichold’s The Form of the Book, and I agree with both of them to certain points. I agree that in the case of the written word—where an author or writer can artistically and eloquently deliver some meditation or exploration of an aspect of the world in an engaging written form—then to a degree, the design has to be genuine, if not illuminating of that content and intent. Part of the joy, benefit and experience of reading books also has to do with the reader being able to simultaneously project their own version of the writer’s world in their head, while reading those words that the writer has laid out for them.

So within that, there is a paradox: How much design is too much? For me, there is a fine line. Design can explore, illuminate, engage and cause further reflection and thought. But too much design could turn off the fundamental task of the reader to be actively and creatively engaged as a part of the text. In effect, it’ll become a lot like television—which can strongly elicit emotions from the viewer, but rarely engages active creation of a part of that world.

One of the things that has always struck me about Warde’s essay was her fundamental metaphor—that of the crystal goblet.

She says: “You have two goblets before you. One is of solid gold, wrought in the most exquisite patterns. The other is of crystal-clear glass, thin as a bubble and as transparent. Pour and drink; and according to your choice of goblet, I shall know whether you are a connoisseur of wine… you will find that almost all the virtues of the perfect wineglass have a parallel in typography? (11).

She goes on to draw parallels between the crystal goblet and areas of typography.

Now perhaps I am arguing over verbiage, over semantics, but I feel I have to make a point that her metaphor carries a number of value judgments that I think need to be fundamental considerations in design.

The first is with the goblet itself. Now, I have had the “pleasure? of working a number of years in an upscale culinary store, explaining and selling their wares. We too, sold crystal goblets. They were german, embedded with lead—and are nearly universally accepted as the best glass to drink wine out of. These glasses, thin and transparent as a bubble were shaped based on the kind of wine they were to hold. As such, the glass itself targeted the wine to the exact area of tongue that was best suited to taste that wine. See, your tongue is broken into regions that taste bitter, sour, sweet, etcetera. I had always wondered why, when reading wine labels that I could never detect those hints of strawberries, chocolate and roasted chestnuts. It turns out that the glass itself is fundamentally important in that experience. Furthermore, these glasses while being thin and transparent as a bubble cost upwards of forty dollars a glass and were exceptionally prone to breaking. Not to mention that lead thing.

In the end, I find these glasses elitist. If you were to shell out for a really good bottle of wine as a treat, or for a special occasion, you could certainly do so, but a lot of the experience is lost because you can’t shell out three times more than the wine just for appropriate glassware. So I guess I’m trying to say that the glass in-and-of-itself is a value judgment on not only the act of drinking wine, but what is in the glass in the first place. Some wines are good independent of glassware, and there is a certain charm and experience just drinking the wine—be it out of Ikea wine glasses, juice glasses, tumblers or plastic cups.

My second point of dissent comes in the value judgment inherent in what is in the goblet to begin with. Wine comes with a whole host of elitist leanings and connotations. As if all one should be drinking out of a goblet (or drinking at all) is a “vintage of a deep shimmering crimson? (11). From a personal standpoint, I always feel the odd woman out at parties and dinners. I don’t drink a lot of wine even though I do enjoy a glass now and again. Part of this is for personal reasons—I am vegan (a form of strict vegetarianism, as I see it) and as such do not eat anything that came from an animal. Most wines are fined with isinglass, a form of gelatin derived from fish guts. While most of this isinglass is removed, a small amount remains, and so I abstain from most wine, most of the time.

But I also just like the taste of good beer, despite the carbs, calories, and the lack of antioxidants. Some beers too, are fined with isinglass, but there are also many that are not. So inevitably at dinners and parties, there is a sea of women with glasses of white wine and red wine. Then there are the men with their beer, and me… with my beer.

So I feel like in constructing her metaphor, Warde is making a significant value judgment on the content of books that deserves fine graphical treatment, and then using the fine graphical treatment to continue an elitist idea of reading in general. Why a goblet at all, and why can’t we be drinking orange juice, water, or Schlitz?

Though there are some of her ideas about transparency that I do agree with. When she says that we must not first ask “How should it look?, but What must it do?? I am in fundamental agreement. I don’t think any designer should through the writer’s skill, work, and ideas out the window, at least not at first. Find out what the design has to do, and then determine the extent of the look. Later on down the line, once the writing has become a part of our cultural milieu, then look at the design, and the potential for it to help give the book new meaning. The great thing about great writing is that it is flexible. It will continue to resonate in some way as times, peoples and cultures change. Design, I think, can help elucidate and explore new and / or alternate meanings in these texts.


I developed my interest in narrative through my interest in reading. I think there is still a lot of merit in the notion of an author, a writer, an individual who can conjure up a narrative that leads us to an understanding—however subtle, subconscious, or overwhelming—that we did not have before reading their words.

Designers and artists are good at seeing, at looking, at interpreting the world through shape, type and form. Writers do this through words.

So I guess in short, I still believe in the creation of mediated experience through words, and also in reading those words.

I have to thank Sven Birkerts for very clearly and passionately explicating my thoughts and emotions on this subject. I agree with him nearly fundamentally. In particular I really believe that the act of reading—its slow, meditative pace—undertaking over a length of time is fundamental to the experience of narrative in book form.

To clarify. One does not “read? when being told a narrative. Such an oral communication is a different art and a different experience. I think the same holds true with cinema. One does not read film. It is akin to an oral narrative—one experiences it and thinks about it subconsciously at the time, and consciously later.

Books and texts, on the other hand, are an active creation between the words (the writer) and the reader translating them. But it is not merely the reader turning symbolic markings into verbiage, it is the reader turning words into visuals in their mind. It is the reader effortlessly matching someone else’s words with their personal experiences, melding the two and creating a world unlike no other—tailored and meaningful to the reader, but structured and formed by the writer. According to Birkerts, “Reading is fundamentally an agent of self-making?. And how can someone make themselves if the experience does not last long enough, or cut deep enough to make an impact?

It is the “deep? and durational time in this world that elucidates a narrative (see all the importances above) and really allows an individual to experience them on a significantly deep and meaningful level. One that cannot (yet) be matched by any other medium.


When I talked before of what I see as the overlooking of the fundamental strengths of the printed book, I feel like I should clarify some about the future use of these conventions.

I could see such a future where form could be used deceptively or gaudily, to trick people into connecting with something when the connection is purely on looks. Or where form is taken overboard much like ornamentation after automation became routine. I have always tried to live and design by the William Morris standard: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful?. My personal belief in design is that anything created, above all else, needs to be genuine to its communicative intent.

I would hope, in a future where form is part of a designer’s job, and part of the joy in owning and reading books, that the form is well thought out, honest, and as integral to the content as the author in the first place.

Maybe I’m excessively utopian, but I think we all desire this in our daily lives. More connection, more relatedness between ourselves and that which we choose to surround ourselves with. And I think authors and writers are ways to this end, but so to can the designer help to root their words, ideas, concepts, and interpretations to ourselves as physical creatures.

There was an interesting (and appropriate) beginning to an article over at Design Observer, penned by Jessica Helfand:

“Things, as we all know, connect us to the world we inhabit. Big or small, expensive or insignificant, our attachments to other people and places begin with things. As infants, we navigate by smell and touch; with the social and verbal awareness that comes later, we progress to more quantifiable values — size and price and look and feel — the stuff of conspicuous consumption. And yet, evidence abounds to suggest that the enduring emotional value we place on our prize possessions is rarely the stuff of logic.?


I am signed up for the ELO e-mail list. Some very interesting things come through this list. Recently, there was a link to the website Writer Response Theory. This is an interesting site in and of itself, but their bookmarks are intriguing too.

This site is an interesting way to structure a webpage. I really liked the narrative quality and the humor. It's one of the few "click through" sites that kept me going.

January 31, 2008




The Humument Website