When you hit upon a memorable book title—and Joseph Conrad certainly did that way back in 1899—the book’s cover design is rightfully expected to give the title (and the story it encapsulates) equally memorable visual expression. The dozens of book cover designers of Conrad’s classic—and devastatingly bleak—novel have mostly taken a woefully literal approach, presenting various tableaux of generic landscapes and jungle scenes to illustrate the book’s brutal Congolese setting.
British artist Fiona Banner’s Heart of Darkness, a reinterpretation of Conrad’s story as a contemporary photographic essay, brings a modernist designer’s austere sensibility to the publication’s cover design, and, quite simply, gets to the heart of the matter. Seems Banner, an artist celebrated for her text-based compositions, knows that words this eloquent and powerful deserve to stand alone—in the dark.
That we find great romance in maps is a given. We may deem them indispensable in the moment, but our attachment to old fashioned printed maps tends to linger long after the moment has passed—when the creased and stained travel maps we’ve crammed into our purses and pockets have morphed into our lives’ ephemera, reminders of where we come from, where we’ve been, and where we wish we had gone. Try getting all that from a Google map.
Designer Melissa Schwall gives map adoration a winsome, literal spin. Schwall, whose work can be found amongst the novel hand-crafted offerings at Uncommon Goods, has applied her romantic worldview to a collection of made-to-order collages designed for lovers, in which two halves of a heart, each carefully extracted from a specific area of a new or vintage paper map, are brought together to form a single fully-formed heart—creating a graphic illustratiom of the merging of two disparate worlds. Personalized copy completes the art piece. which Schwall creates by hand, and delivers framed.
Schwall is amongst a range of artists, designers, and craftspeople featured on Uncommon Goods, a Brooklyn-based online marketplace for quirky, inventive home decor, fashion, and artworks, sourced directly from the original makers. Sustainability and social responsibility—in addition to the championing of a select group of creatives who ply their trade by hand—lies at the heart of the company ethos. Uncommon stuff.
What’s a graphic designer to do when he loves both typography and dogs? Find a way to marry the two, of course. That’s precisely what Romanian designer Andrei Clompos has done with his Dog Alphabet, a self-initiated project in which he’s juxtaposed dog breeds with their related letterforms. Some illustrations are cleverer than others—the Weimaraner is a wow—but all offer an excuse for dog lovers to wallow in the unmitigated cuteness of pooch expressions. And there’s some useful information to be gleaned from Clompos’ project, too—like how to pronounce Xoloitzcuintle, better known as the Mexican Hairless Dog.
The London Design Festival has come around again, and partial proof lies in the suite of limited edition screen prints being offered by Ground Floor Space, a gallery curated by the UK design agency dn&co. Entitled Co-ordinates, the exhibition brings together the effort of 25 notable London-based design studios, each of which has put forth an exceedingly simplified graphic ‘map’ denoting specific street coordinates. Fittingly, proceeds from sales of the geometric, monochromatic print series will benefit Streets of London, a charity which serves the city’s homeless population.
Even without animation, this cover illustration by Christoph Niemann (bringing to life Gertrude Stein’s “A rose is a rose is a rose.”) for the latest issue of The New Yorker would be pretty sweet—but then, add some movement, and…magic.
British graphic designer Claudia Pape oversees a small range of home goods and art pieces from her online site, Above and Beyond—most notable of which is a set of towels bearing beautiful illustrations of draped fabric (a nod, no doubt, to Christian Lacaroix’s Riviera pattern). Smartly, she’s made her Between the Lines motifs available as a handsome set of well-priced screen prints, too—ready for the taking at her shop.
Via Above & Beyond
For those traversing London in search of worthy, if lesser known, discoveries, British illustrator Tobias Hall has helpfully created a series of hand-illustrated posters pointing wanderers in the right direction. Created for Great Little Place, a site which seeks out hidden gems in the city’s vast landscape of pubs, restaurants, and galleries, Hall’s faux vintage posters are a handsome suite, each featuring a hefty, fittingly architectural drop cap, and showcasing his natural affinity for typography and finely detailed compositions—all skillfully and vividly rendered in pen and ink. Gems, indeed.
So much for print being dead. This recent two-page spread in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper featured a compelling ad by a green energy company. Noting the nil effect that a major power station fire had on households using wind power, two words managed to tell the whole story—proving that when it comes to the printed word, even nothing can be quite something.
Even accomplished furniture and product designers need to express themselves more informally. French designer Pierre Charpin, whose portfolio includes furniture for Ligne Roset and tableware for Alessi, finds expression in repetitive lines. His Loop drawings, originally executed in felt tip pens, have been converted to a suite of four digital prints, each now available for purchase in a limited edition of 50. “I attach great importance to this practice,” says Charpin of the act of drawing, “because it is the link to my visual arts background.” An awfully pretty link, I’d say.
“When I arrived in New York for the first time, it was pouring. Maybe that’s why, to my mind, there’s no place on earth where being stuck in traffic on a rainy day is more beautiful.” Clearly, there’s no end to the ways in which New York City can work its magic. German illustrator Christoph Niemann manages to make being stuck in traffic in New York City in the rain look like an exquisitely melancholy experience–thanks to a brilliant interactive cover for this week’s New Yorker that may succeed in making City dwellers long for a rainy day.