‘East London’

Book Design

Book design for Charles Saumarez Smith’s exploration of London’s East End.

From a desolate, and in many places derelict state after the bombing of the Second World War, East London has become one of the most fashionable areas in the world. 

In East London Charles Saumarez Smith—the chief executive of the Royal Academy and East London resident since the early 1980s—charts the area’s dramatic changes, inviting readers to visit its different neighbourhoods, explaining the historical and geographical particulars of each.

The old villages and neighbourhoods that make up East London are shown through photographs taken by Saumarez Smith on his travels, offering up unexpected and fascinating discoveries. 

Pentagram designed the book to give a sense of visual discovery to Saumarez Smith’s writing, which guides the reader around shops, churchyards, parks, pumping stations and cemeteries, up the Regent’s Canal and across Victoria Park. 

“The thing which transformed my blog into a book was the intervention of the team at Pentagram,” said Saumarez Smith. “They understood how to convert a casual medium onto a double-page spread that allows the eye to travel across small photographs and text in a way which is exploratory.”

Saumarez Smith's photography is supplemented with a series of specially commissioned maps, beautifully designed by Segrave Foulkes Publishers, who have worked with authors such as Berry Bros. & Rudd and Hugh Johnson. Each neighbourhood is introduced with a map that labels the landmarks explored, and the back cover of the book features a foldout map which shows the entire area. 

East London—which was named one of the Best Art, Architecture and Cinema Books of 2017 by the Financial Times—is Pentagram’s latest piece of work with Saumarez Smith, following a five year relationship with the Royal Academy that has encompassed a visual identity, poster and installation design and portrait photography.

“It's a beautiful interpretation of how digital and analogue can combine,” said Saumarez Smith.

Harry Pearce
Project team
Alex Brown
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