Relax and you’ll be swept away
The Floating World: Ukiyo-eBy John Warwicker
Where to start with a book like The Floating World: Ukiyo-e? There is a tendency for books (with pictures) by designers that aren’t expositions or memoirs, to be labelled self-indulgent or unfathomable. Previous books by John Warwicker and his partners at Tomato have been tarred with just such a brush, and damned with faint praise too; along the lines of ‘looks good, but what’s it all about?’
Add text and you can more accurately deliver ideas, meaning and understanding. With this personal project, Warwicker has produced a new kind of book. Melding images, quotations and his own writing, elucidated via layout and typography, Warwicker orchestrates a poetic reading / viewing experience that both informs and entertains. At times it ‘sounds’ like music; the arrangement of words offers more than one route across the page, effortlessly. The flying punctuation, the italicised side bars, the subtle colour shifts – after this, a ‘normal’ book feels bland, dumb and scrappy.
But I ask where to start not out of exasperation, more like exhaustion. There are so many references and strands; some ideas are familiar, other sources and musings appear oblique, and possibly deliberately shrouded. I hesitate to suggest what this book is about, as each reader will find a different emphasis…
Whether it ends up on the coffee tables of young designers, or people who have bought other ‘tomato projects’ or on reading lists handed out by design educators, depends on just how much time they give it, and how open to contemplation they might be. … I admit to having been intimidated; now I could keep reading, and reading... and not just because it’s 400 pages long.