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Stickyscapes: New York
Stickyscapes: New York
by Tom Froese
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.73
34 used & new from CDN$ 7.51

5.0 out of 5 stars A delicious taste of the big apple. And it's fun too!, July 9 2016
This review is from: Stickyscapes: New York (Paperback)
Wildly-talented and prolific Canadian illustrator, Tom Froese, works out of an old converted hog barn in the middle of nowhere. That didn’t stop him from capturing the frenetic composition and energy of New York City in the Laurence King publication, “Stickyscapes: New York”. I received this unique foldout piece complete with 100 reusable stickers well after its Fall 2015 release. I knew Tom attended a branding conference in NYC, which inspired me to hit The Big Apple for a design conference too. Thus, I held off reviewing the book until I explored the city myself to get reacquainted after a long break.

Tom definitely succeeded in capturing the character, architecture and unique details of the city and its people. Well-known tourist sites like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building or Grand Central Station are included along with familiar landmarks of Katz' Deli, fire escapes (there IS such a thing as #fireescapeporn on Instagram!), Washington Square Arch, and the Guggenheim Museum. Using layers of densely detailed line art, graphic shapes, vibrant colors and whimsically illustrated figures (including dog walkers, folk singers, fashion models, bagel vendors & even Macy’s parade balloons!), all are harmoniously brought together in such a way that one can place any sticker wherever…and it’ll never be wrong! That’s what makes this piece so delightfully fun while remaining somewhat educational for ages 6 and up (yes, even adults would love this). The two-sided foldout features both imaginary and historic New York coupled with real and present-day New York, while each sticker element is supported with an informative writeup (by Stephen Ellcock) to explain the significance of each subject. I actually want to read what each item is about, as I’ll likely be familiar with some through visiting the city, and likewise, will learn something new along the way.

Following the success of this series (2015 editions also include Polar, Tropical, London & Paris, by various illustrators), I look forward to this Fall’s release of Stickyscapes Space, also written by Stephen Ellcock & illustrated by Tom Froese, with background space elements by illustrator Tom Clohosy Cole.

Blanco Y Negro Years
Blanco Y Negro Years
Price: CDN$ 27.09
23 used & new from CDN$ 18.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection of one of many high points in Eddi Reader's career., March 25 2016
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This review is from: Blanco Y Negro Years (Audio CD)
Excellent collection of one of many high points in Eddi Reader's career. Nice to consolidate all of her b-sides and additional songs onto a single collection. Likewise, her 3 brilliant Blanco Y Negro albums. I only wish they were remastered but even so, they sound as great as ever and housed in a tight little collection, at an affordable price for 5 CDs. Thanks for making this available outside of the UK.

Graphic Design Visionaries
Graphic Design Visionaries
by Caroline Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 44.13
30 used & new from CDN$ 29.96

4.0 out of 5 stars An easy resource covering distinctive accomplishments by worthy design thinkers, Jan. 26 2016
“Visionaries" are described as people with original ideas about what the future will or could be like. That was unlikely the plan of those graphic design thinkers featured in “Graphic Design Visionaries” by Caroline Roberts. This book covers a broad scope of international designers who had the talent and fortune of working with corporations that enabled their creative freedom beyond the usual for its time. Paul Rand, FHK Henrion, Saul Bass to more obscure names like Ladislav Sutnar, Giovanni PIntori (Olivetti) & Cipe Pineles (Seventeen Magazine) are represented. And yet there’s a void left by the lack of female representation (Margo Chase, Marian Bantjes) or extraordinary designers like Alvin Lustig & Stefan Kanchev. (Perhaps an opportunity for a followup?)

In all fairness, the intention here is not to be an exhaustive encyclopedia-style collection, but rather an easy resource covering distinctive accomplishments by worthy design thinkers. It functions to give each designer four feature pages of key projects, career highlights, and a timeline of biographical hallmarks in their life journey. Each feature skims the surface of each visionary—more as an introductory of what makes them worthy to be included—without going much deeper into their personal motivations, thought processes or career goals. Many are well-known and expected for their inclusion, while others are more obscure but just as worthy for their contributions and courage, as much as for their curiosity. What does unite them were their own personal passions to be explore graphic design beyond what was considered safe, easy or already done.

Pushing boundaries, challenging status quo, or simply following the beat of their own drum, it is refreshing to see works from the past appear just as fresh as if they were created today. In the same vein, it clearly demonstrates how incredible the technical skill of past design craftsmen and abstract thinkers had led the charge prior to the computer age utilizing basic, primitive resources. Where they were given autonomy and trust by their employers and design patronage, today’s brand design for those same corporations (Olivetti, Conde Nast publishing, Westinghouse) seem led by the mass market consumer appeal of today over innovation and vision for tomorrow. And yet these once small emerging corporations that were trying to find their brand voice, is where the forward-thinking design innovators of today are focussing their energies...

Outside the Box: Hand-Drawn Packaging from Around the World
Outside the Box: Hand-Drawn Packaging from Around the World
by Gail Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 43.55
24 used & new from CDN$ 25.32

5.0 out of 5 stars Developing page layouts and conceptual thinking already starts by hand, so why stop there?, Nov. 13 2015
The act of drawing, sketching and lettering by hand is enormously popular, as Pinterest and Instagram feeds have evidenced. It’s a refreshing, cheap break from solid computer work that can be integrated back into digital design via Photoshop and other e-tools. The feeling of brisk experimentation, exploring new challenges, creative discoveries, and just doing things for the love of it versus following specific directives, is both cathartic and fulfilling from a personal growth perspective. It also brings forth a unique human identity, voice or personality to the creative product. Leaving one’s own imprint is what many strive to do, moreso in this DIY age where anonymous workers of big corporations diligently build with almost no acknowledgement or notice.

Developing page layouts and conceptual thinking already starts by hand, so why stop there? This enjoyable, image-heavy collection of international packaging case studies (with a foreword by the always memorable and reflective Debbie Millman), covers a delightfully diverse range of handdrawn styles and techniques from graphic designers, illustrators and lettering artists alike. Four categories are covered, ranging from the spontaneity of DIY and the looseness of ART, to heightened details found in CRAFT and the obsessively intricate complexities of ARTISANAL works.

The best part are the numerous close-up process sketches, explorations and developmental moodboards shared at length, along with backstories of how these diverse projects came together in their own way. In some cases, photos documenting drawing, painting and lettering processes are shown with support illustration or sketches where applicable. I appreciate how the personality of each letterer’s hand was retained right to the final product, as well as some exhaustive variations that were vital to informing what the final outcome would or should become. Some might see it as a waste of time and energy to work so broadly from a design development standpoint, but every sketch is beautiful in its own way and deserves its time in the sun, especially in this manner.

And if that wasn’t enough, the book concludes with a not so little section titled, “Inside Outside the Box” with 7 pages of author Gail Anderson and Joe Newton’s super-tight lettering for the book’s four title spreads. I’d be hard-pressed to choose my favourite single version of each word, as they’ve skillfully and artfully demonstrated that although one may be a front-runner for each concept, there's always more than one way to solve a design problem. So rather than hunt around for the perfect typeface or font for your design problem, the solution might be right at hand. Or left. Or both, if you’re ambidextrous.

New Perspectives in Typography
New Perspectives in Typography
by Henrik Kubel
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 33.49
25 used & new from CDN$ 31.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully diverse and refreshingly current collection of the best typography-focused design, Oct. 27 2015
“New Perspectives in Typography” is a beautifully diverse and refreshingly current collection of the best typography-focused design from international design firms, foundries, publications and everything in between. The title pretty much captures the contents of the book compiled by A2/SW/HK’s Scott Williams and Henrik Kubel. (In addition, the cover design that wraps around the entire softcover book is just as beautifully considered, as are the contents within!) Starting with an in-depth historical review by typophile Paul Shaw, and followed by exploratory essays of the future of typography, artistic perspectives and communications (with Introduction by Rick Poynor), this book succeeds on so many levels. It is a broad collection of all sides of typography, from simple minimal brand design to experimental graphic interpretations. It is a pictorial documentation of how diverse typographic language and media can be expressed, and it is a selection of short bios & case studies from designers who happily break down convention and rebuild type communications. It is also encouraging evidence that typography—whether it be existing fonts or custom type—is growing vibrantly, ever-changing, accessible, and inspiring to all designers past, present and future. This book is a welcome addition to the usual typography textbooks and recommended reading from seasoned design educators.

David Downton Portraits of the World's Most Stylish Women
David Downton Portraits of the World's Most Stylish Women
by David Downton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 55.38
31 used & new from CDN$ 48.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Must-have collection of David Downton's incredibly gorgeous & artfully executed fashion illustration., Oct. 6 2015
Stunning. Captivating. Sensual. Distinctive. Stylish. Words alone can't describe David Downton's exquisite illustrations, nor the majestic muses who make up this sumptuous collection of over 150 portraits of the world's most beautiful women. Distinctive, contemporary beauties such as Dita Von Teese, Cate Blanchett and Linda Evangelista to timeless icons like Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling and Carmen Dell’Orefice grace the pages of this elegantly designed and appropriately large-format monograph.

Downton is the world’s preeminent fashion illustrator for over 15 years, and recognized internationally for his work with Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Chanel, Tiffany’s New York, Harrods, Lancome & the V&A Museum. What sets his distinctive portraits apart is his ability to accurately translate the depth of beauty and soul of each of his female subjects with an economy of line deftly executed with brush, ink, pen and hints of graphite or charcoal. Every line, mark, stroke and shade of color is deliberate, while spontaneous at the same time. There’s a graphic abstraction found in his work where calculated, textural brushstrokes and the interplay between positive & negative space invite the eye to linger and explore every detail. This modern quality found in his compositions is equally embraced and uniquely executed in his own right, while thematically reminiscent of 1920’s fashion-forward illustrator, J.C. Leyendecker.

Sprinkled throughout this book are his personal written recollections of working with each icon, as well as documentary style B&W photography with his subjects. It concludes with a section printed on vellum stock of his exploratory sketches. With a foreword by Christian Lacroix and an afterword by Dita Von Teese, this collection is as much a celebration of his hugely successful career, as it is a masterclass study of an art form that is matchless to conventional photography. I am grateful to have discovered his work, and anticipate more David Downton collections like this to follow, as he has no signs of slowing down as his regular Instagram feeds attest to.

In Progress: See Inside a Lettering Artist's Sketchbook and Process, from Pencil to Vector
In Progress: See Inside a Lettering Artist's Sketchbook and Process, from Pencil to Vector
by Jessica Hische
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 35.61
31 used & new from CDN$ 16.66

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The modern designer's essential lettering book., Sept. 30 2015
Let me start with the fact that I can't love this book more than I already do and am giving it 5 stars with 2 thumbs way up. Jessica Hische has taken practically (I’ll come back to that word again later) everything she knows about lettering and typography and put it into this book. “In Progress” is distinctive from other books written by designers merely showing off their work. It gives equal weight to process development as well as final product, as she shares her thoughts and guidance along the way. It's definitely Jessica's own voice coming through in an intimate conversational way, like one-on-one mentoring. She shares her design history in great detail without arrogance or dryness, and is practical in the flow of writing and content. She is frank, passionate and thoughtful about her process that it's hard to find any fault at something that is achievable IF like Jessica, you really push yourself and over-deliver. There's plenty of WHAT and HOW, but more importantly, more of the WHYs, explained with clarity, confidence and encouragement. This is particularly valuable for novice letterers who feel intimated at the prospect of taking the handlettering plunge. Take this example of RESEARCH & BRAINSTORMING: "Proper research alleviates a lot of anxiety at the start of a project—the more confident you are in your understanding of the subject matter, the less worried you will be about your ability to come up with solid concepts.”

This 176-pg hardcover book is beautifully designed, and well-considered in her approach of each spread. (Although there are some stray typos throughout and a shame there isn't a type colophon for the fonts used). I would often take a break to research things online that she discussed: her work samples, digital tools, drawing materials—wow I haven't used a pencil extender since art school, gee I wonder where you buy those now....just a minute....see what I mean? The preface also has a lovely intimacy, written by Jessica's previous employer before she went solo, the equally gifted designer Louise Fili.

This is the modern designer's essential lettering book without the stale, verbosely dry content of old academia or the numerous pages and pages of baseline templates that suggest endless hours of generic calligraphic practice. Jessica has succeeded in creating the satisfying kind of book that is a reflection of who she truly is. Overflowing with dedication to her craft, high standards and infectious passion for type design. Definitely a keeper.

Graphique de la Rue: The Signs of Paris
Graphique de la Rue: The Signs of Paris
by Louise Fili
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 43.72
29 used & new from CDN$ 27.81

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only every country could have the honour of rich pictorial documents such as this!, Sept. 1 2015
Graphique de la Rue (Princeton Architectural Press) comes from the well-travelled and decorative design eyes of New York-based Louise Fili. As lovingly shared in the book's Introduction, she has diligently travelled throughout Europe over the past 40 years, with camera and tripod in tow, passionately building a visual archive of dimensional, carved and painted typography crafted on 20th-century buildings and older. Previous books devoted to Script, Shadow, Stencil (these first three co-authored with her equally talented art director/author husband, Steven Heller), Italian ('Grafica Della Strada: The Signs of Italy') and now French typography provide a vast historical document of lettering in all its forms.

Elegant gold-left scripts, classic neon, intricately colourful mosaics, to molded metal and carved into stone, the range of works'many created by hand'are endlessly vast and breathtaking. The book design itself, is equally crafted and elegantly designed by Fili and her team of super-talented designers including Spencer Charles & wife Kelly Thorn (who also illustrated the gorgeous cover!) and Nicholas Misani. Each section is broken into categories (e.g. Scripts, Mosaics, Art Deco) with an introduction (meticulously researched, one would assume) for each that is equal parts art history lesson, French class and travel guide or walking type tour commentary. The book concludes with a brilliant listing of every photo name and location address, some additional photos with larger crops and extra background notes about the building's history, facade or neighbourhood. A lovely bonus as a result of Louise's numerous trips, are a few before and after images of signage that ended up changing with new ownership or replacement parts'and rarely for the better.

Anonymous and credited authorship, in celebrated as well as obscure architectural facades make up the library of images and proves to be a most valuable and inspirational source of cultural and historical typographic forms. If only every country could have the honour of rich pictorial documents such as this!

Munari's Books
Munari's Books
by Maffei Giorgio
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 48.02
18 used & new from CDN$ 39.55

3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely targeted for the serious Munari fan, yet worth a general perusal by graphic designers., Aug. 7 2015
This review is from: Munari's Books (Paperback)
Munari’s Books by Giorgio Maffei (Princeton Architectural Press) covers the design history of Italian artist, writer and book designer, Bruno Munari (1907 – 1998), and is described as “The Definitive Collection of Book Designs by one of the greatest designers of the 20th century.” I had not heard of Munari until I first read his well-regarded book, “Design as Art”. When travelling in Japan a decade ago, I visited the Takeo Paper mill and was given some incredibly designed diecut graphic books that undoubtedly had his influence. His books are still sought after by Japanese designers and book collectors, some translated in other languages and still in print. The impact of Munari’s work (particularly from the exquisitely crafted, “Nella Notte Buia: In the Darkness of the Night”) was unmistakable, with uniquely shaped cutouts on each spread, and a rich use of color and translucent papers. Those cues come up time and again throughout his extensive career in print designs with tactile interaction. Primarily in his native Italian, the books range from the playful and whimsical, to graphic constructivist structural grids and high concept design thinking, a fact I quickly discovered upon a general online search.

As I spent more time reading, I noticed nagging flaws in the content and structure that gave the feeling of being somewhat shortchanged. The comprehensive survey (at times awkwardly translated from the original Italian text) that preceded the visual collection was rather in-depth and detailed in its descriptions of various book designs (thread color, square pages, etc). It immediately made me yearn for visuals to support the writing (which seemingly assumes the reader already has an deeper awareness of Munari’s work; sadly I did not). I found myself trying to look up the titles or years being referenced further along in this 1” thick book, but not all were displayed or quick to find while pausing in the wordy 22-page survey. As the “definitive collection” began, each design (in chronological order with comprehensive details of publisher, year, printer, size, page count, print run, binding specs, and reproduction colors) was exquisitely featured with well-lit display photography of the cover and a few spreads. However, as the book progressed, the focus of archival imagery switched to covers only. Oddly enough, there was even a blank page with captions noting that a particular book was created, but no physical proof was available. I suppose in the author’s/publisher’s defense, it’s not possible to show EVERY spread on a 7” x 10" page in order to give attention to the fine details. Or perhaps the assumption is that more well-known or current book designs have been published or seen more widely elsewhere. Still, this was a stumbling block that gave the sense that this was definitive in covering the LISTING of books he's created, but not definitive in the visual support or elaboration I anticipated from this book.

That being said, the creative quality and experimental nature of his key design work at such an early period is beyond reproach. Few mass market or independent publishers would offer the luxury of design freedom that Munari was given. Having any book of this kind available to English audiences is more than a gift when I think about other amazing designers/illustrators of the past (specifically UK’s Tom Eckersley) who have yet to have their time in the sun. I truly appreciate and admire some of his most inventive graphic books, as well as some of his experiments with translucency, varying page sizes, cutouts and even single pieces of string. Other publications throughout the archive seem rather generic or uninspired in comparison. Definitely targeted for the serious Munari fan, yet worth a general perusal by graphic designers. Not in-depth with regards to process, concept or content, more of a catalog for historical purposes.

Ladies of Letterpress: A Gallery of Prints with 86 Removable Posters
Ladies of Letterpress: A Gallery of Prints with 86 Removable Posters
by Jessica White
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 40.46
17 used & new from CDN$ 37.17

4.0 out of 5 stars A great resource and visual celebration of what makes these ladies so passionate about print in the first place., Aug. 7 2015
Letterpress has historically been a male-dominated art form concentrated on a combination of paper, ink, wood or metal-cast type and heavy mechanical printing presses (with much of the dirty, laborious post-environmental print work maintained by hand). A new generation has continued with those same kind of machines, using modern technologies of polymer plates in tandem with digital software, and led by a younger, female leadership. Ladies of Letterpress by Kseniya Thomas & Jessica C. White (Princeton Architectural Press), is a stunning collection and celebration of the best letterpress art, illustration & design from members of an international organization championing the work of women printers (whose name adorns this book’s title). Packed in 11” x 14” space, complete with 86 removable posters, this high quality book serves to inform and inspire with detailed letterpress reproductions in all its numerous forms. From the typical broadside poster designs, to invitations, packaging, business cards, coasters, and gift tags, the almost 200-pages of printed delights definitely proves that print design is FAR from dead, and that crafts(wo)manship is very much alive and keeping very well.

Each page features a single opening piece followed by a selection of works from a particular designer/print studio, accompanied by lively personal bios and a complete set of specs for each piece (print size, paper stock, type of press and number of colors). In-depth interviews are sprinkled throughout, sharing the motivations and challenges that attract these ladies to the letterpress world. Some personal favorites include work from US designer/educator/printmaker Joey Hannaford (of whom I had the pleasure of taking her lettering workshop) and unique pieces from Australian, Italian & Dutch designers. I’ve enjoyed reading many books about letterpress print design in recent years, but not one so consistently strong throughout, and one that utilized size and textural reproduction details so well. I don’t have to squint to take notice of all the textural nuances of letterpress, various printing techniques are clearly explained and demonstrated graphically (e.g. translucent layers of color create depth & tonal mixes), and I can practically smell the printing ink as I flip through. A great resource and visual celebration of what makes these ladies so passionate about print in the first place. Highly recommended and long overdue. I look forward to the 2nd edition!

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