New Work: Seven New Nabokov Covers


Angus Hyland and his team have designed seven new book covers for Penguin’s Vladimir Nabokov series. As with the previous titles, these covers each feature a different game, sport or visual illusion used as background pattern, which echoes the contents of the book.

Illustrations for this latest batch were provided by Agnès Decourchelle (Ada or Ardor), Masumi Briozzo (Transparent Things, Look at the Harlequins), Christina Christoforou (Nikolai Gogol), Peter James Field (Pale Fire), Berto Martinez (Strong Opinions) and Sam Weber (The Real Life of Sebastian Knight).

Texas Institute of Letters Award for Gernsheim Book Sets Record


Pentagram Partner DJ Stout and Associate Julie Savasky were awarded the Fred Whitehead Award for Best Book Design at the Texas Institute of Letters (TIL) 75th anniversary awards ceremony last Saturday night in Dallas. The award-winning book, The Gernsheim Collection, written by Roy Flukinger, was designed by Pentagram’s Austin office for the Harry Ransom Center and published by the University of Texas Press last fall.

The Texas Institute of Letters gave its first literary award in 1939 to the legendary Texas author J. Frank Dobie for his book Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver. DJ Stout won his first TIL award in 1992 for his design of a Keith Carter photography book called Mojo. Since then Stout has been awarded the TIL award for best book design a record-setting nine times, with seven of those nine wins with Julie Savasky as co-designer. No other author or designer has won more awards in the 75 year history of the Texas Institute of Letters. “It is amazing to look back at the names of the winners over time,” says Stout. “In 1957, the year I was born, Tom Lea and Carl Hertzog won the award for best book design for The King Ranch. Those guys are my heroes and that is one of my all-time favorite book designs.”

The Gernsheim Collection, housed at the Harry Ransom Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, is one of the most important photography collections in the world. Amassed by the renowned husband-and-wife team of Helmut and Alison Gernsheim between 1945 and 1963, it contains an unparalleled range of images, including the world’s earliest-known photograph, made by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. Its encyclopedic scope—as well as the expertise and taste with which the Gernsheims built the collection—makes the Gernsheim Collection one of the world’s premier resources for the study and appreciation of the development of photography.

New Work: MICA History Book


Founded in 1826, the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore is the oldest accredited art school in the United States. MICA has educated artists for almost two centuries, from the Industrial Revolution—it was first called the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts—to the current era of digital innovation. To commemorate this incredible heritage, the school has published Making History / Making Art / MICA, a lavishly produced illustrated history designed by Pentagram’s Abbott Miller, who is a member of the school’s graphic design faculty. Written by Douglas L. Frost, MICA’s Vice President for Development Emeritus, the highly readable book follows the evolution of the school’s educational program in the context of historical, technological and cultural change, and spotlights the school’s transformative role in the Baltimore community, particularly the Bolton Hill neighborhood where it is located.

The book design integrates the institutional identity designed by Miller for MICA in 2007. Bridging the school’s history, the cover of the book features the Main Building, built in 1908, wrapped in a translucent jacket of the identity’s graphic pattern, which was inspired by industrial elements in the school’s architecture and the high-tech frit of the iconic Brown Center, built in 2004. Inside, the story of the school is traced through 450 images including historical photographs, illustrations, works of art by students and faculty, building plans, artifacts and ephemera. The design uses fonts of the identity, Giza and Griffith Gothic, the latter of which was originally designed by a local designer, Chauncey Griffith. Lexicon is the text font.

The book is available for purchase through MICA’s online store.

New Work: ‘Exposed’


Cell-phone cameras, reality television and YouTube are innovations in making private images public, but photography has lent itself to “invasive looking” since the invention of the medium. Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870, now in its final weeks at SFMOMA, is a major survey that examines the historical and contemporary context of surreptitious images.

Pentagram’s Abbott Miller has designed the catalogue for the exhibition, which features more than 200 photographs, installations and video pieces by artists including Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, Lee Miller, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe and Philip Lorca DiCorcia, as well as images made by professional journalists, government agencies and amateurs. The exhibition was co-organized by SFMOMA and Tate Modern, where it debuted last year. It next travels to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where it opens on May 21.

New Work: ‘Marathon’


Marathon is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Located almost exactly a “marathon distance” from the small West Texas town of Alpine (the birthplace of Pentagram partner DJ Stout), Marathon is the closest town to the sprawling Big Bend National Park. The legendary park, located on the border of Texas and Mexico at the point where the Rio Grande takes a big bend, is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States, and includes more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles, and 75 species of mammals.

But to the uninitiated fist-time visitor the 800,000 acres of high desert landscape is otherworldly. Austin-based singer-songwriter Darden Smith says this about the experience in his new book: “On my first trip to Big Bend, in my early twenties, I was so unprepared it’s laughable. I’d never really been to the desert, and I didn’t know what it was even going to look like, much less what it would do to me. I felt like I was on the moon. Empty isn’t the word for it.”

Smith, originally from the idyllic green pastures of Brenham, in Central Texas, has obviously been moved by the big sky and desolation of the Big Bend. His new album, Marathon, designed by DJ Stout in Pentagram’s Austin office, is a collection of fifteen songs inspired by the region, and his new limited edition book, with the same title and also designed by Stout, pairs the album’s lyrics with images created by renowned artist-photographer Kate Breakey.

New Work: ‘Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand’


Today photography is recognized as an established and influential art form, but 100 years ago the medium was struggling to be accepted as a traditional fine art. In the years between the turn of the 20th century and the beginning of World War I, photography’s “Big Three”—Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Paul Strand—helped legitimize the medium. Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand at the Metropolitan Museum of Art documents this pioneering period in an exhibition of 115 photographs drawn from the Met’s permanent collection. Pentagram’s Abbott Miller has designed the catalogue for the landmark exhibition, on view at the Met through April 10.

Alfred Stieglitz’s gift of 22 photographs in 1928 was the Met’s first acquisition of photography, and the photographer had a long relationship with the museum, later donating over 400 works made by various photographers of the period including Steichen and Strand. Today the Alfred Stieglitz Collection is a core of the Met’s photography holdings, and “Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand” includes many of the museum’s masterpieces.

New Work: ‘Hard Ground’ by Michael O’Brien, Poems by Tom Waits


Two years ago we published Pentagram Papers 39, called SIGNS, which focused on the issue of homelessness in America. SIGNS featured a selection of hand-drawn homeless signs, photographed by Randal Ford, and gritty black and white portraits of homeless people by Michael O’Brien. The signs featured in Ford’s color photographs were from the personal collection of Texas music legend Joe Ely, who wrote the introduction to the book recounting his own experience of being homeless.

After the publication of SIGNS, O’Brien continued to work on his large format homeless portraits, which grew into a sizable body of work. O’Brien sent a selection of his photographs to the renowned singer-songwriter Tom Waits, described by the New York Times as “the poet of outcasts.” Waits, inspired by O’Brien’s powerful portraits, composed a series of poems, and the notion of a larger expanded volume was born. Hard Ground, published by The University of Texas Press, and designed by DJ Stout and Barrett Fry in Pentagram’s Austin office, features 78 of O’Brien’s portraits and 23 original poems by Waits. The combination creates a portrait of homelessness that impels us to look into the eyes of people who are down on their luck and recognize our common humanity. Hard Ground transcends documentary and presents independent yet powerfully complementary views of the trials of homelessness and the resilience of people who survive on the streets.

New Work: ‘Michelangelo Pistoletto’


Michelangelo Pistoletto is one of Italy’s most influential contemporary artists, a co-founder of the Arte Povera movement whose works link Pop, Conceptual Art, Minimalism and Post-Minimalism. Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974 is a major retrospective of the artist’s work now on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Pentagram’s Abbott Miller designed the exhibition catalogue, which collects over 100 of Pistoletto’s works in painting, sculpture and performance art, and texts by the artist about his work. The exhibition was organized with MAXXI—Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo in Rome, where it opens in March.

Pistoletto’s art often functions as a collaboration with the spectator, and he is perhaps best known for his Quadri specchianti (Mirror Paintings), Photo Realist images on mirror-finished steel that make the viewer part of the works. For the catalogue, Miller has covered the book in silver foil that catches the reader’s reflection. (The paper is Strike! Foil with a matte laminate.) Opening spreads of the book’s essays also make use of silver pages. Kievit is the font family used throughout the book.

A look inside the book after the jump.

New Work: The Studio Museum in Harlem


Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is a rising British artist of Ghanaian descent whose paintings are centrally focused on the human figure. Her work is influenced by painters like John Singer Sargent, Francisco Goya and Edouard Manet, but her portraits are fictional: she is also a writer, and in her paintings she creates characters with complicated back stories that are only hinted at in the dark tones, monochromatic backgrounds and thick, textured brushwork. The Studio Museum in Harlem is currently presenting Any Number of Preoccupations, Yiadom-Boakye’s first solo museum exhibition in the U.S., on view through March 13, 2011.

Pentagram’s Eddie Opara and Brankica Harvey have designed the catalogue for the exhibition. The book includes the 24 portraits featured in the show and a short story by Yiadom-Boakye and essays by curator Naomi Beckwith and critic Okwui Enwezor. The book’s simple, elegant design complements the formal atmosphere of Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings. Opara previously designed the Studio Museum magazine and Stealth, a poster installation at the museum.

A look inside the book after the jump.