Archive for the ‘Fine Art Book Designers’ Category

  • Fine Art Book Designers #3: Katy Homans

    For the past ten years, I’ve had the privilege of typesetting books designed by the very talented Katy Homans, so I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed for this series. Katy is known for her cover designs for New York Review Books; her collaborations with photographers, such as Lee Friedlander; and her complex, multi-volume catalogue raisonné designs. In addition to being a talented art book designer, she is as generous with her time as she can be.

    Tell me a bit about your background, your education, how you got started as an art book designer.

    I’ve had a marvelously privileged education. I discovered a love of pattern sewing costumes for high school plays; studied at the rare book library in college; went to work as a letterpress printer for David R. Godine; held various design-related jobs; and finally attended the Yale MFA graphic design program with a semester at the Royal College of Art in London. There I discovered the work of Robert Brownjohn, maverick conceptual designer of ’60s New York and London, and was able to write an extensive thesis about him and his work. Starting at Godine I’d been designing books, so it was easy to keep working while I was in school and then afterwards. Having studied art history as an undergrad has helped me enormously.

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    Who are some of your favorite artists (whether you’ve worked on their books or not)?

    With no exceptions I’ve come to appreciate the work of all the artists I’ve worked with, from Wendy Ewald to Lee Friedlander; Rembrandt to 18th century Indian drawings to John James Audubon to Shahzia Sikander. That’s been one of the great bonuses of designing art books, the opportunity to look closely at such a wide range of material. I try to get to the exhibitions for which I’ve designed catalogues: the originals inevitably surprise and delight.

    Please describe a few of your favorite projects. Are there any interesting stories about how you came to work on them? Any big challenges that popped up during the project? If so, how did you handle them?

    Collaboration is my favorite medium. I worked on the design of a series of posters for the schools of Tanzania (Wendy Ewald’s project) with a small group of local teachers in a classroom with a dirt floor and one lightbulb. My first major book with Lee Friedlander (Letters from the People) was done with Lee on a xerox that could go to 25%, 75%, or 128% (something like that). The greater the challenge the greater the reward; the conversations keep moving, and we’re all surprised in the end.

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    Do you have any interesting stories from press checks? Do you get to travel much to interesting locales for press checks?

    There is always a benefit to going on press, and great camaraderie between designers and printers. The most exotic location I’ve visited is Tanzania, but the most unfamiliar approach to art-book printing was a plant in rural Pennsylvania.

    Have any of your books received any special awards you’d like to mention?

    I have had my share of awards! But the greatest reward is always a successful collaboration.

    Are you an artist yourself? If so, what type of art do you create? Would you like to share any of it?

    Art appreciator, not maker!

    If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

    I would have added teaching to my practice.

    Tina Henderson Book Designer - website images


    Katy was also profiled on the Yale Art Books blog.

  • Fine Art Book Designers #2: Amanda Perez

    Amanda and I met on Twitter, connecting because we were both using Apple’s iBooks Author software to create exhibition catalogues. The fine art book design community is a small, but active one, and it is easy for art book designers to meet and stay in touch with each other online.

    Amanda currently is Senior Designer, Exhibit Graphics and Digital Media, at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Her first Multi-Touch iBook, “Making Their Mark,” explores the signatures of American dignitaries, celebrities, and even people unknown to history. This fantastic digital book incorporates many interactive elements, including video, hyperlinks, slideshows, pop-up notes, and interactive images. “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” was her next project, a beautifully designed ebook that explores the government’s effect on the American diet.

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    Tell me a bit about your background, your education, how you got started as an art book designer.

    For my BFA in Photography, I went to Parsons School of Design in NYC. I really wanted to become a photojournalist but I didn’t have what it takes for such a dangerous career. I left NY and moved to Miami Beach, where I got my first museum job at the Bass Museum of Art working as curatorial assistant. From that experience, I decided to go to graduate school for Museum Exhibition Planning and Design at University of the Arts in Philadelphia. A few months after I graduated with an MFA, I accepted an exhibit design position at the Smithsonian working on Asia Trail, a large outdoor exhibition project for the National Zoo. Several years later, I started at the National Archives. There, I worked on my first print exhibition catalog related to an exhibit for which I was lead graphic designer: “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” My next exhibit catalog was a wonderful photography book called “Searching for the Seventies: The Documerica Photography Project.” Last year I launched our eCatalog projects.

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    Who are some of your favorite artists (whether you’ve worked on their books or not)?

    Alex Webb is definitely one of my favorite photographers. I really love how he composes images and the choices he makes when cropping. His photos always feel fast and have this sense of catching a fleeting moment. I also love the work of Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus, and Vivian Maier. As for other mediums, I really love Frida Kahlo, Kehinde Wiley, John Baldessari, and Kara Walker. I could go on!

    Please describe a few of your favorite projects. Are there any interesting stories about how you came to work on them? Any big challenges that popped up during the project? If so, how did you handle them?

    My favorite exhibit was “The Zoo in Your Backyard” at the National Zoo. It was a fun project about attracting wildlife to your backyard and helping to support native ecosystems. I had the opportunity to work closely with the horticulture staff, the biologists running a bird tracking program, and the education team. I also got to have a lot of fun with the project, designing house facades to frame the visitor’s views into the gardens. I was the only designer on the project, so I was very hands-on, designing all of the 3D and 2D elements. I also art-directed the contract illustrator who created the artwork.

    My first eBook was a big challenge. Due to budget cuts, we were no longer doing print catalogs at the Archives. So I proposed an eBook for our exhibition “Making Their Mark.” After the idea was accepted, I needed to learn how to create one! Learning iBooks Author and how to create ePUBs in InDesign was actually a fun process. The eBook got so much great feedback and Apple featured on the iBookStore education section. I like projects in which I am learning something totally new and getting out of my comfort zone.

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    Do you have any interesting stories from press checks? Do you get to travel much to interesting locales for press checks?

    No, I never got to travel for press checks! I used to listen to a colleague complain that she “had to go to Italy, again” to do a press check for an art exhibit catalog. It was painful. We had our “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam” catalog printed in the U.S. Which I actually thought was pretty cool and was completed very quickly. The “Documerica” exhibit catalog was printed in China and that was very tricky. We definitely had more challenges with color matching. When I was at the Smithsonian, I got to travel for exhibit development projects and that was so awesome. We went to some amazing places, like India, China, and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was definitely my favorite. It’s an incredible country. So beautiful, ecologically diverse, and the people were so nice. We had to stop to use the bathroom at an outpost for the “People’s Liberation Army” and they couldn’t have been nicer. I really miss that part of my job, but museum budgets are an endangered species. It is hard for administrations to see the value in exhibit development trips, but they really enriched the content of our exhibits and gave me amazing design material to work with. We also saved thousands of dollars on stock photos because I took all of the photographs myself.

    Have any of your books received any special awards you’d like to mention?

    The “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” catalog won a few awards: PGAMA Excellence in Print Award 2012; HOW In-HOWse Design Award, Nonprofit Institutions, Organizations & Associations 2012; and the Award of Distinction in Publications Design, American Graphic Design & Advertising 2013.

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    Are you an artist yourself? If so, what type of art do you create? Would you like to share any of it?

    In my heart, I still consider myself a photographer. It’s pretty much how I look at the world and it informs everything I do. I love documentary photography and would probably put my images in that category. My photography work now is pretty much siloed to Instagram. But I love that social media exists and it keeps me shooting.

    If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

    Travel Photographer! I haven’t ruled it out, I’m hoping there’s still time.

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