Saturday, 19 November 2011

World Book Design 2010-2011

The print company Toppan's show – World Book Design 2010-2011 – at their Museum of Printing is everything that paper maker Takeo's Paper Show 2011 should have been.

Toppan's show plays it simple – while Takeo for some reason mostly displayed their books behind glass, at the Toppan show every book is there to be picked up, opened and explored. The show combines best-design winners from selected countries: Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Canada, China and Japan. Books range from the simple example of cover design, font use or content through to complex printing, binding and design processes.

- A Dutch book, Roodkapje was een Toffe Meid, whose cover features a CD – not just tacked on, but mounted on a sliding cutout from the single thickness of the cover cardboard itself, the cover maintaining its strength solely from firm binding paper and a plastic window showing the CD. It doesn't sound much, but is not a straightforward solution to CD mounting, and the very invisibility of its structure is what makes it noticeable.

- A German publication of Nadav Kander's Yangtze River photos. Kander's photos are superb in themselves, and are beautiful in part because of their very subtle tones and shading. The printing to match all those subtleties is excellent.

- A Japanese book of covers for Osamu Tezuka's manga, which is printed using thick, linen-y, folded paper to emphasise the designs' cover origins. (And here is where this show beats Takeo's, which also chose this book but displayed it with cover-only visible behind glass: yet the cover is plain black with a red obi and, while a neat design, is not indicative of the look and texture of the contents. In Toppan's show you could pick it up and handle it: although this was the only book with damaged binding, suggesting there was a slight difficulty in maintaining all that weighty paper – at least for multiple handing!)

- And two or three books from China: one superb one from Shanghai Fine Arts Publisher was a large, boxed collection of hand-bound books, Elegant Folding Fans from Suzhou. Each book is printed on folded, thin paper preventing ink show-through, perhaps, but more importantly reflecting the shape of a fan and also – the exhibition caption reveals – helping generate a breeze as the pages are turned, to reflect its subject. The pages are beautifully laid out, superbly illustrated (and bilingual – English and Chinese), while the fold-out box also contains a separately boxed actual fan. Beautiful – but the equivalent of £875 (¥100,000).

China had a couple of other neat designs and structures (as well, of course, being the binder for the Dutch book, for example). But I can't yet find a link to an image of the above folding fan book, no photography was allowed in the show, of course, and links to cover images don't say much, so, sorry for the lack of illustrations.

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