Ryan Polich is our design and production assistant and image manager at Marquand Books, which means he is busy turning visions for book projects into tangible realities. Ryan moves from designing book layouts and managing images on his computer to printing and binding small-run books and brochures by hand. This week, we caught up with Ryan to ask him a few questions about book production and design.
What is your current favorite typeface?
Franklin Gothic. It’s a solid design that’s really versatile, but still has plenty of personality. The fact that it was designed over one hundred years ago and still looks contemporary is also pretty fantastic.
What does a typical day as the design and production assistant and image manager look like?
There is definitely no such thing as a typical day for me, and that’s just perfect. I’m involved in a lot of different activities in the office: layout, design, printing and binding, image management—it’s never slow, and there’s always something new to keep me on my toes. I don’t think I’m cut out for a predictable job—I’d probably just fall asleep at my desk.
What sparked your interest in book production?
Working on books is one of those things that I didn’t realize I should be doing until I started doing it. When I started at Marquand Books, I thought it might be an interesting change of pace from the design work I had been doing. And now that I’ve been here awhile, it’s hard for me to think about doing anything else. Part of that is because you can access a book from so many angles; sure, you may be drawn to the content, but you can also appreciate the design, the typography, the printing, and the binding. I’ve always been a type geek and a designer at heart, so I think that was the doorway into the world of book production for me. Books are places where design and typography can really thrive and do what they do best.
What projects have you been excited to work on this year?
The Rodin book we’re wrapping up has been a really interesting project—it uses a wide variety of printing techniques, so there had to be a lot of thought and planning about how it was going to work from a production standpoint. I’ve also gotten the chance to stretch my legs a little more from a design perspective this year—there are a couple projects where I’ve been heavily involved in the design process, or have built the design from the ground up.
What things, people, or experiences have recently inspired your work?
I find a lot of inspiration in letterpress printing, especially within the community of printers at the School of Visual Concepts (where I’m an occasional teaching assistant). After spending a day sitting in front of a computer, it’s so amazing to interact with physical pieces of type and make something tangible and immediate with them. And the experience directly relates to the world of books, because it’s how books were made for hundreds of years. That alone is crazy and inspiring—it’s not very often you get to tinker with such old and important technology.
photography by Jeremy Linden
Exhibition catalogues and other art books line the shelves at Marquand Books. We asked our design director, Jeff Wincapaw, to select a title and discuss its design process with us. He chose the exhibition catalogue Willie Doherty: Requisite Distance, produced by Marquand Books for the Dallas Museum of Art in 2009.
The exhibition was significant; for the first time, Doherty’s media installation Ghost Story was shown together with photographs he’d taken in Ireland during the 1990s. The exhibition separated the works into adjoined rooms. The catalogue takes its design cues from both the nature of Doherty’s work and the layout of the exhibition itself.
What makes this book different from others you’ve worked on?
The exhibition had two parts we needed to include in the catalogue: a series of photographs and a video installation. The challenge was to bring both segments of the exhibition together in a book and to somehow recreate the movement of the film on the page.
How did this influence the design?
Well, we wanted to bring the experience of the exhibit to the catalogue. To simulate the rhythm of the film and create emotional responses for the reader, we varied the sizes of the video stills, how many were on a page, and so on.
To separate the two parts of the book, we used a formal white backgound for the photographs and a dark gray for the film’s still photos. The gray makes it feels like you’re in a theater—everything but the image fades into the background.
In what way did the subject matter shape the design?
The format of the book conforms to Doherty’s photographs and film. Overall, the design is restrained. The typography is neutral, understated. An essay separates the photographs from Ghost Story, and once into the film portion of the book, it is primarily pictorial. There aren’t page numbers. We kept it as minimal as possible in an effort to present the work cinematically.
The subject matter is beautiful, but it’s also discomforting. The pictures from the film are moody and, subconciously, a bit unsettling. We wanted them to pop off the page, so we used a gloss finish on the photographs, which helps to illuminate them.
To purchase a copy of Willie Doherty: Requisite Distance, visit Yale University Press online.
photography by Jeremy Linden
Gina Glascock-Broze has worked for more than five years in rights and reproductions with local, national, and international artists, studios, galleries, rights agencies, and museums as a project manager of artist copyright permissions and photographic material for various clients, including non-profit groups, museums, and publishing houses. She is interested in the many complexities of copyright law, gardening, and making pickles. She blogs here: http://smartrights.wordpress.com/
© Robert Wade Photography
Can you sum up for me what you do and how you got started?
I would like to be able to say that image sourcing and copyright permissions are pretty straightforward, but they aren’t, really. I help museums or publications secure photography and image/copyright permissions for the works they want to reproduce in a catalog or as part of an exhibition. This entails working with the catalog’s checklist, contacting the museums or owners of the works of art to ask for photography, and contacting artists or their estates for copyright permissions on works that are not in the public domain. It sounds easy, but when you think of it as part of a major catalog with 200–300 images, and add in all the decision changes to the design and the artworks that will appear, and then add in all the research it takes to find out who owns the copyright (not to mention the understanding of what copyright is), it can be quite daunting.
I started by working for the Seattle Art Museum. As exhibitions and publications coordinator, I had to research images and coordinate permissions for catalogs. I always liked the research, tracking artists down, and figuring out what we needed and how we were going to get permissions to do it. I still get a thrill when I get a letter from a famous studio or artist’s estate. It’s like, “Oh wow—Gilbert and George are writing to me!” It’s fun to get mail from famous artists. Later at SAM, I became the rights and reproductions administrator responsible for all non-commercial rights clearance for the museum and the management of image rights for external requests.
How did you begin working with Marquand Books?
I started working with Marquand Books when I worked at the Seattle Art Museum. Marquand Books was often the publisher of the catalogs I worked on as exhibitions and publications coordinator. Later, my former boss at SAM recommended me when MB needed freelance permissions work done.
Continue reading: “A Conversation with Gina Glascock-Broze”
Congrats to former Marquand Editions | Tieton studio manager Amy Rabas. She’s the April featured artist on the excellent Chicago Publishes blog. Amy moved to the Windy City in 2009 and is working on her MFA in Interdisciplinary Book & Paper Arts at Columbia College in Chicago. Read the conversation, touching on everything from binding techniques to vintage animal fur, here.
Mighty Tieton, home of artisan businesses including Marquand Editions | Tieton and Tieton Farm and Creamery, is featured in the “Small Town Getaways” article in the October 2010 issue of Seattle Metropolitan:
Continue reading: “Small Town Getaway”
The May/June issue of Yakima Magazine features a cover story on Ed’s work developing Tieton, a small town in Central Washington near Yakima.
A second article talks about Tieton Lofts, a fruit warehouse transformed into live/work lofts that are cool enough to be photographed for Apartment Therapy. You’ve really got to visit.
Ed recently visited Bernard Bonnet, Book Buyer at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Bonnet, a French ex-pat, has been a vital part of the European and American art book community for decades. Here, he shares insights on the craft behind his profession, how he feels about used books, and book buying versus bookselling.
EM: Talk a little bit about who is shopping at your store. Are museum visitors just looking for souvenirs or are they specifically interested in buying art books?
BB: We have people visiting the MFA Houston from all over the world and they usually stop at our store, often noticing that the MFAH has an unusually large museum bookstore. This strategy is not really fashionable these days. Very often the book section in a museum store is limited to a basic selection of titles from the mainstream publishers distributed in the U.S., maybe two, three, or five copies of the same title poorly displayed on the shelves. It’s what publishers and distributors call “Special Markets,” and it is not what we do at MFAH. We carry around 9,000 titles, including foreign books. We have some sections that are very well developed, such as Latin American art and Architecture, and also a fairly deep back-listed selection of art books. With the help of our professional staff, we are able to provide the same service as that which a specialized independent bookstore could offer. The MFAH hired me in 2000 with this idea in mind, so that we could not only build an efficient museum bookstore but also provide a resource for the art community in Houston and beyond.
EM: What are some cultural differences between selling books in France and the United States?
BB: In France, we actually have schools for bookselling with very professional training, we have college degrees in bookselling. In Paris, there is a good general bookstore on almost every single block. Here in Houston, the fourth largest American city, we can count the remaining independent bookstores on one hand.
Continue reading: “Every Book Needs A Good Neighbor: An Interview with Bernard Bonnet”
I have loved books for as long as I can remember. The process of making books is an almost 600-year-old technology that is constantly being reinvented, particularly where art and artist books are concerned. Regardless of what is going on politically or economically, those of us in the book industry have always felt that there is never really a good time not to make books. It helps, of course, that our vocation is almost entirely populated with obsessive enthusiasts (or enthusiastic obsessives): artists, gallerists, curators, designers, contributors, color-managers, pressmen, and so forth, all the way down to the sellers and consumers/collectors of art books.
I’ve been involved with almost every aspect of book making for over ten years. It started back in 1993 when I was the editor-in-chief and associate publisher for Incommunicado Press, an independent press specializing in contemporary fiction and poetry. We were only a small staff of two; together with publisher Gary Hustwit, I acquired, edited, designed and promoted every book. When I moved to New York, I had the good fortune to be hired by Avery Lozada, Vice President at D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers.
Working with Avery was an incredible experience and I learned a great deal from her. We tackled all aspects of distribution and publishing, covering a wide variety of projects—working directly with artists, galleries, museums, collections, special projects, and internationally recognized publishers, such as JRP/Ringier, Aperture, Hatje Cantz, and Steidl.
Now, although I am based in New York and far away from the Seattle office, working with Ed and the rest of the Marquand team has been a joy. When meeting with clients here on the East Coast regarding prospective or in-progress projects, I find it easy to communicate the creativity, energy, enthusiasm, and integrity that has always existed at Marquand. I think most of our clients come to realize rather quickly what an extraordinary structure we have at Marquand—one which exists for the primary purpose of supporting their publishing ventures and also for the mutual love of books. –Donna Wingate
We caught up with Cloudery, a designer and visual artist who has grown a series of rewarding businesses around Etsy, a website for buying and selling handmade goods, including Cloudery, Cloudery Digital and Crescent Maille. The artist talks design and offers tips for anyone new to the world of on-line art and craft. More at somethingcloudery.com and on her gallery-style blog featuring Etsy’s visual artists, MVSEVM.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Does it seem like design work and now Cloudery grew out of childhood aspirations?
I’ve always felt a need to make things; arts & crafts have played a huge role in my life. I think that’s one reason I gravitated professionally to graphic design, specifically book design (and even more specifically, art book design). I’m able to combine my appreciation of art with my desire to make things, and have tangible results of my work.
By the first grade I was composing and illustrating my own stories (my first big project was called “Miss Mole Gets Married”). I dictated while my mother patiently typed each sentence—I was very specific about the paging, and which sentences I wanted on each page—then I illustrated the pages. I added a cover, title page, even a table of contents. I created little books of my stories, which I stapled together or bound with a three-hole-punch and yarn.
In drawing I have found my artistic voice to be relevant to who I am right now. My background as a designer influences how I use the page. My drawings are very purposefully positioned in the space, and often bleed off one or more sides. White space is as important in my drawings as the lines. Recently I received an apt compliment on my work: “Cloudery’s drawings strike me in some way as an artist’s rendition of thoughts—someone expressing an idea or sentence—in visual format. I suppose all painting and drawing is this to some degree, but to me these are close to sentences.”
Continue reading: “Interview: Imagining Etsy with Cloudery”
We recently caught up with bookmaker, visual artist and writer Alisa Golden. Golden founded never mind the press in San Francisco in the 1980s and has taught bookmaking and printmaking at the California College of the Arts for years. Here, she shares insight into staying creative and staying put in San Francisco’s vibrant book arts community.
Tell us a little bit about your education and background.
People used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’d say, “a writer and an artist.” Then I would get a lecture about how you couldn’t make a living being a writer and an artist. I also wanted to be a teacher, but was told by my favorite high school teacher not to do that either. Meanwhile, I always had art lessons, I always wrote, and I worked with kids constantly.
Continue reading: “Never Mind the Press: A Chat with Bookmaker and Artist Alisa Golden”
Susan Stamberg reported on the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Morning Edition today as a part of NPR’s “Museums in the 21st Century” series. The new museum, being built as part of the Smithsonian Institution, won’t be completed until 2015, but already its broad collection of historical objects and artifacts is growing rapidly, dating back from several centuries to the present day.
One of the museum’s most recent acquisitions? A chalkboard signed by Obama volunteers at the campaign’s office in Wasilla, Alaska.
Marquand produced a collection of African American portraits called Let Your Motto Be Resistance to accompany the museum’s inaugural exhibition in 2007. Click here for more info on the book. Stamberg’s story, well worth a listen, can be found here.
We spoke recently with Michael Lieberman, co-founder of the venerable Wessel & Lieberman bookstore in Seattle. He discussed how to thrive as an independent bookseller in a shrinking economy moving heavily towards on-line sales. Wessel & Lieberman Booksellers was founded in 1992. After a spending a year in the Eastlake neighborhood of Seattle, the shop moved Pioneer Square where it has been ever since.
What in your development as a thinker and entrepreneur led you to the book world?
One thing that has always fascinated me about bookselling is that the learning curve is always vertical. Sure, after doing this for 16 years, I have attained some level of expertise and deep experience, but you can never know it all. It is a humbling occupation that presents new opportunities for knowledge on a daily basis. So much of our culture emanates from the printed word; I feel very fortunate to be have been able to spend a good part of my life surrounded by books.
How would you describe your role as a bookseller?
Technology has changed things quite a bit in the book universe in recent years. There are now more ways to buy books and more ways to read their content, but less places to be with books. This shift adds a whole new dimension to the role of the bookshop and the bookseller. These days, I am as much of a book cheerleader as I am a bookseller.
W+L sells new, used, and rare books, many with a nod to visual arts and photography. You also specialize in hand-made and letterpress books. Why did you decide on this focus?
When Mark and I started this journey, we consciously chose to be open to the whole book spectrum—taking a more holistic approach to bookselling. While being able to handle the antiquarian and collectible material, we also wanted to provide a space for the vibrant book arts community of the Northwest. We also wanted to carry select new books in our fields of interest.
Just playing devil’s advocate, why choose an independent like W+L when you could just go on-line, pay less, and not leave home?
Let’s just say we cater to the tactile crowd. Using a keyboard to find a book is a very different experience than holding one in your hand. Much of the serendipity that is inherent in visiting a bookshop is lost online.
Any advice for struggling independent booksellers?
Yes, become more interdependent and broaden your world to include other elements of the book universe. It has become very difficult, almost impossible, to just sell new books or to just sell used books. This is a dying model. I wrote a two-part piece titled The Bookseller Manifesto for Book Patrol that tackles this challenge.
Here is an excerpt from Bookselling 2.0: The Bookseller Manifesto. Part II:
Our first order of business is to accept the fact that independent bookselling as we know it is on its deathbed. Period. The model has been severely disturbed by the changes of the last 10 years and will no longer work.
There is no need to read on until this step is understood.
We need to let go of the term “independent” once and for all. To remain independent in the new landscape will almost certainly guarantee failure. Yes, the trade is swarming with independent, unique individuals that add so much flavor to the trade but most healthy organisms must exhibit some dependent behavior or they do not survive. It should be no different for booksellers. We need to create bookshops that are unique in their complexity.
Is there something about having W+L based in Seattle that makes it successful?
That’s an interesting question. Seattle’s a great city and one that is extremely well positioned for the 21st century. While much of our customer base is located outside of Seattle, we are very much of Seattle and the region. We pay special attention to the history, literature, and book artists of our region, and do what we can to support and promote that material to the world.
Here is a great example—the city of Tacoma recently undertook a project, See Hear: Hear/Say, pairing Tacoma poets with local printers to create a suite of broadsides that would appear on the buses. In addition to the reproductions that will appear on the buses, they produced 40 sets of the original broadsides printed on letterpress. We supported the project by purchasing a fair number of the sets and now we can promote this marvelous collaboration to a larger audience.
I’ve heard the argument that as chains get bigger and compete with each other, a space for independents is being carved out. Do you agree?
No, if anything, independent booksellers are being carved up! Yes, there is room for everyone but unfortunately, the chain epidemic has changed the playing field and has put tremendous pressure on independent bookstores. The mantra for the corporate bookseller is “growth, growth, growth,” while the independent bookseller’s has become “survive, survive, survive.”
Corporate bookselling can never serve the needs of a community the way an independent, locally owned bookstore could. Conversely, independent bookstores can never compete with the chains in terms of price point and resources. I’ll let you decide which is healthier for a community.
Instead of offering huge discounts on books like Amazon.com and other large chains, it seems that independents are opting to provide the a higher level of service and quality in order to thrive. Have W+L’s priorities changed or modified as chain stores have grown? Or have certain core values been a part of your business from the beginning?
I can’t say that our priorities have changed. The book business has certainly evolved, and in the last 10 years or so we have seen seismic changes to the bookselling landscape.
Our focus has always been on building relationships and fairness. Relationships with our customers, the community, and our colleagues, and fairness in our pricing and in what we offer for material. Books are not just commodities here at W&L; they are given the proper respect and care that they deserve.
Michael Lieberman was born and raised in New York and emigrated to Seattle in 1991. He co-founded Wessel & Lieberman Booksellers in 1992. Lieberman has served on the Board of the Friends of the Seattle Public Library, the Book Club of Washington, and the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA). He is also the creator of the syndicated blog Book Patrol: A Haven for Book Culture, and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
+ Why did you decide to pursue graphic design?
I spent most of high school drawing logos and sketching album covers for nonexistent bands. No guidance counselor had the sense to tell me that people get paid to do that, so I ended up studying film in college. After school I started working at a copy shop, then moved to an actual print shop doing prepress and a tiny bit of design, and I gradually transitioned from the production world to the design world over the next few years. Somewhere along the way I went to grad school for library science. Like most people who somehow find themselves in their ideal job, I got here entirely by accident.
+ What’s your design process/style?
I’m not very process-oriented, and in general I think style is bad for design—or at least for the kind of design we do. My job isn’t to have a recognizable style, it’s to let each book be what it needs to be. Of course, we want our books to have compelling designs because we want people to pick them up, but ultimately the design has to be subordinate to the content. That’s basically true of all kinds of design, but it’s especially true in our area. Some kinds of design, say ads or album covers, can be pretty freewheeling, but books require a more delicate balance—this is particularly true with the kind of illustrated art books we make, because each book’s content already has a highly developed visual identity. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for aggressive design sometimes—some books you can push further than others.
+ How did you develop an interest in letterpress/book arts?
I think the question is really “How does anybody avoid developing an interest in letterpress/book arts?” Everybody loves books. It’s very rare for people not to respond positively to a well-printed, well-bound book. In fact, when you hand somebody an example of nice printing or binding, the vast majority of reactions range from positive at the low end to the sort of gushing, zealous enthusiasm that’s almost uncomfortable in its intensity. So, you know, I love books but don’t think I’m at all unusual in that regard.
I love technology too, and I look forward to the day (probably very soon) when I can have a little handy tablet that I can keep in my back pocket that holds one thousand novels and is actually pleasant to read. But loving to read and loving books are not the same thing—they’re related but not the same. Fine illustrated art books are never going to go away, because everybody loves them. The realities of producing and distributing them have changed and will continue to do so, but I think people need these books and aren’t going to give them up.
+ What’s your process for selecting fonts when designing a book?
This is probably the part of designing a book that I spend the most time on. It’s definitely the part I enjoy the most. Obviously, type is pretty critical for books. I often think that as a book designer, choosing the right type is about 90% of my job. And I also think that when a design of mine is successful, I owe about 90% of the credit to whoever designed the type I chose. Sometimes it seems like you find the right type to go with the art and all you have to do is sit back and let the book be pretty.
I think many book designers have a couple of typefaces that they know well and tend to go back to over and over. Mine are Whitman and Caecilia, but I try not to beat them to death. We’re living in a sort of golden age when it comes to typography, and the big problem is that there’s just too much good stuff to choose from. There are lots of ways to choose type, like using Dutch type for a book about Netherlandish paintings for example, but that kind of rationale is generally just that: a rationale. It’s not a process so much as a coping mechanism, because you have to narrow the field somehow. Ultimately it comes down to choosing a bunch of candidates and then setting some text and printing out a gajillion pages until you’ve got the right type at the right size.
+ How do you become inspired when designing a new book?
In general, I think inspiration is for suckers. You just start working, and you get some ideas down, and those ideas lead to other ideas, and eventually you find the right idea which you then develop. That said, we’re really lucky in what we do because inspiration is basically built in to all our books. We’re not starting from scratch, or even from a design brief*—we’re starting from the art. It’s not too hard to look at a bunch of art and get inspired. The content of the books suggests the design direction for the books, and you go from there.
* I hear designers talking about “briefs” all the time, but I don’t actually know what a “brief” is. I’ve never seen one. I’ve never worked in a “regular” design firm. I’m sure that all designers are secretly picturing underpants when talking about briefs, but this is especially easy for me to do since I have no concept of a real design brief that could compete with the underpants.
+ What design blogs/Web sites are you reading these days?
Coudal.com is a many-times-daily thing. Lately I’m really enjoying The Ministry of Type, Type for you., and I Love Typography. The Nonist,* BLDGBLOG, and Language Log are further afield but really gratifying, though they’re maybe all a bit too meaty for reading at work. I’m addicted to Achewood, which is almost never about design, although there’s a character who is a designer and it is written (and crappily drawn) by a (former? recovering?) designer.
*I just discovered The Nonist has been retired, which is a shame, but there’s still tons there.
+ When you design, what do you listen to on your iPod?
I listen to soft music that doesn’t have words, so that I don’t get too distracted. Right now I’m listening to When the Detail Lost its Freedom by Brian McBride.