Spring 2010

The book design complex

The Form of the Book Book

Edited by Sara de Bondt and Fraser Muggeridge<br>Occasional Papers, &pound;12.50

The annual one-day conference at St Bride Library in Bride Lane (off Fleet Street) has become a popular fixture in London’s graphic calendar, tackling themes such as magazine design and (most recently, in January 2010) music. The Form of the Book Book is a modest record and souvenir of the 2009 event.

Each talk is a chapter, and most work well on the page. There’s a scholarly account of Le Corbusier as book designer, and a memoir of working with Herbert Spencer in the 1970s from Chrissie Charlton (above right). Armand Mevis’s ‘Every Book Starts with an Idea’ is more preface than complete piece, and an interview with Bob Stein (about the future of the book) is a little opaque. The most rewarding chapters are by Richard Hollis and James Goggin.

Hollis’s ‘Ways of Seeing Books’ begins with Gyorgy Kepes’s views on the use of the book. After a brief swipe at Bruce Mau and Phaidon, he describes his manner of working with John Berger on G. before berating Penguin for their treatment of the reissue of his innovative, still radical book design for Berger’s Ways of Seeing.

Goggin’s ‘The Matta-Clark Complex’ is a good-humoured critique of the temptations that await the unwary (or over-ambitious) designer. This ‘Complex’ denotes the way designers create books whose form apes and competes with the content. Art books about the late Gordon Matta-Clark, known for his ‘building cuts’, make ideal case studies. Goggin’s thoughtful conclusions demonstrate why he is one of the most interesting designers of his generation.

First published in Eye no. 75 vol. 19 2010


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.