Summer 2007

Pin-sharp process

GTF’s Tord Boontje monograph employs structural and decorative devices drawn directly from the product designer’s work

‘It’s a very commercial cover,’ says Graphic Thought Facility’s Paul Neale, in his thoughtful manner. ‘Tord’s name is big and bold, and it’s pretty!’ Rizzoli’s elaborate, sensual monograph about product designer Tord Boontje is bigger and heavier than my laptop. Its tactile front and back are covered in mull, a material normally used for the spine in book manufacture. Colour plates of Boontje’s work, many of them full bleed, are broken by three essays (biographical, factual and cultural) by Martina Margetts, set in sixteen-page sections whose wide margins are decorated with perforations.

GTF met Boontje when he was one of many exhibitors in the ICA exhibition ‘Stealing Beauty’ (1999), for which they designed the graphics and catalogue. Later they designed the distinctive box for Boontje’s Wednesday Light (adapted by Habitat as the Garland Light).

Neale explains that Tord Boontje was conceived as a picture-led book, driven by new photography of Boontje’s work by Annabel Elston and Angela Moore (Neale’s partner and frequent collaborator). Both photographers worked on medium-format film, whose proportions dictated the book’s. Elston and Moore shot the lamps, chairs, fabric designs, and so on, in and around Boontje’s new studio in the French countryside near Lyon.

In an essay that puts designs for Swarovski, Artecnica and Moroso in context, Margetts discusses the way Boontje mixes urban grit with spooky fairytales, citing Derrida’s notion of ‘hauntology’. ‘Boontje,’ she writes, ‘did not deny the “ghosts of history” in the name of progress’, unlike the Modernists he appears to reject.

Yet in GTF’s design, form still skips merrily after function. The principal typeface, Vendôme, was chosen for its ‘thorny’ qualities. The perforated patterns come from blocks of nails Boontje used on the handblown glass of his Wednesday Bird Vase (2000).

Neale tested the idea: ‘I got a pillar drill, one of Tord’s patterns and a block of ply, drilled it out, put the nails in – all set at type height – and mocked up a sixteen-page section of the book.’ The Chinese printer came back, having matched it, and said it could be done.

The cover, with its hyped-up colour beneath the binding, is also meant to communicate an aspect of Boontje’s work: what Neale calls ‘the way he moves seamlessly between mass manufacture and hand-made craft.’ He adds: ‘Everything came out of Tord’s work, which is a gift for graphic interpretation.’