I was on the hunt for blackletter typefaces this week whilst doing some research for the book and I stumbled upon a Polish collection of mythologies from the 16th century called Prawdziwe wyobrażenie trojga dzieci which Ada Pawlikowska designed for her doctoral dissertation.
I think it’s so very beautiful. Just look at this thing!
The white space! The typesetting! The soft hint of blue in the illustrations! Escapade! It’s all remarkable stuff that I want to steal for my own book, but this little object reminded me of two things that I should keep in mind once I focus on the design of this project:
Looking at Ada’s work reminds me that she treats this book less like a traditional book and more like a series of slides. And over the past few years I’ve been experimenting with websites that force you to view each idea one-by-one, just like a side.
With Newsletters for example I showed just an illustration and a sliver of text…
…and likewise with In Praise of Shadows I forced the reader to only see one paragraph at a time…
(To me there’s a satisfying clunk with “Ugh” printed on one slide that you simply cannot get in a regular ol’ paragraph. It’s almost…musical?)
Anyway, I wanted to control the scroll so that I could control the reading experience and add emphasis wherever I pleased. Moving words onto different “slides” encourages a certain kind of reading, a certain kind of pace, that I am absolutely stealing from comic books. But I realize now as I look over this Polish collection of myths, that I can do the very same thing with a book of my own: chunking up or breaking down the words in unconventional ways to add emphasis.
Likewise, Jason shared this tiny website by Helena Jaramillo called soft soft soft soft soft soft soft soft soft soft soft soft soft tech that does pretty much the same thing but I think less obnoxiously because it doesn’t hijack the scroll and treats the browser more like an infinite canvas....
So! I shouldn’t limit myself to a novel-shaped thing, or a series of spreads with nothing more than columns of text. I should instead think of a spread in this book as a slide in a presentation: if an idea requires just a single sentence on a whole spread to really emphasize it then I think I should do that! Screw it! Let’s take all the space we need! There’s no printer or editor or anyone else telling me I can’t or shouldn’t and if it makes the book more fun / more interesting / less like other books then I think it’s worth trying.
With a book there’s a finite canvas in the literal sense—you’re always confined to the format and the few inches that a physical book gives you—but there is an infinite canvas in terms of possibility! I can play with text and image in the same way that a comic book or a website can: with just a sliver of text and copious amounts of white space, whole galaxies crack open, ready for the taking. I shouldn’t just be looking at other books as inspiration then, but other mediums and formats, too.
Because an infinite canvas awaits.
Until next week,