LA ART BOOK FAIR: 2013 Design Authors Session

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Design Authors and Auteurs: Designers' Books Ascending
with Brian Roettinger, Adam Michaels, and Tanya Rubbak
organized by Susan Thomas, LIU Brooklyn

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  • welcome to our session, Design Authors and Auteurs: Designers Books Ascending. I’m Susan Thomas, a librarian at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. I used to work at Pratt Institute, and I write about independent art & design publications. My introduction will be personal, tracing a line of publications that led me to the three designers here today. I became a librarian out of bibliomania but also out of graphic design. My love of design flowed from my love of music, but design also shaped music. I often judged an album by its cover. I almost always judge a book by its cover!
  • Like many young indie lovers, I spent more of my time record collecting than book collecting because I only liked used books from previous decades. I didn’t care for prevailing book design in the 80’s. I wanted new music and old books—
  • The phrase Design Authorship entered design dialogues in the 1990’s. By then, book design was looking better, and there was published evidence of the designer as author or auteur—for example, Bruce Mau’s work with Zone Books. Although he worked closely with writers and editors to determine materiality and visual framework for each book, Zone books seems his project. Earlier in the 20th Century, many designers wrote, designed, edited and published their own works: manifestos, typographic experiments, and as design scholar Steven McCarthy, has written:, “self- aggrandizing projects, investigations into pure expression, works of utopian idealism, and signifying sub-cultural gestures.” All contribute to the evidence of the designer as author over the last century and into the present one.
  • From a librarian and print fetishist's point of view, the outcome is terrific. Print book design is superlative now—(Really, it has to be to sell books in the digital world.) The number and success of independent publishers—more likely to invest in the book as object– creates opportunity for designers: Here’s a box set of Love & Rockets, published by Fantagraphics. Beyond books, other art and design publications—zines, periodicals, pamphlets, posters-- like those for sale this weekend, abound. The role that designers play is our subject today.
  • Many artists publications are made by designers—or made collaboratively with other cultural creatives. “Authorship” is not just writing. Designers might engage in research, writing, editing, art direction, publishing, performance, or software design. Collaborating or working alone, designers might explore a concept at length, advocate for something, create new knowledge, or give shape to and promote the value of a product. One notion of Design Authorship is an increased level of commitment and responsibility with published content.
  • When I worked at Pratt, I selected independent art publications for the library, especially periodicals, and I started paying more attention to those made by designers.. I bought titles like the now defunct design journal dot dot dot produced by Dexter Sinister. Many such publications seemed to be ignored by other libraries because they weren’t exactly established periodicals; and they weren’t traditional, sculptural artists’ books or zines, either.
  • These are covers of 2 issues of dot dot dot.
  • Designers’ publications have a special appeal for people like me who favor published Artists’ Books—or stackable ephemera-- over sculptural book arts. This is a zine by Brian Roettinger, one of our speakers today.
  • The zine graphically chronicles the history of punk in LA and is an example of design writing, in which image and text rely on each other.
  • I picked up this book at Family Bookshop here in LA, and once again I saw Brian’s name. Brian is an LA-based artist and graphic designer who runs the multi-discipline design studio Hand Held Heart, which started out as a record label. He is perhaps most well known for his designs for art and architecture catalogues and record album covers with No Age, Liars, and more recently Beach House, but his creative practice extends well beyond that. His diverse works bridge the divide between art, music, design and concept. He was named Album designer of the year in 2009 by Rolling Stone.
  • He designed the book Collage Culture and also contributed a chapter of computer-generated collages made using software that he and programmer/artist Chandler McWilliams made. All collages are based on a list of 16 compositional algorithms.
  • This is the box set of Collage Culture, to me, a print fetish object. The technologies in the box reference the past (LP, cassette, badges, author photos), the very place we’re encouraged to break from, but also point to the future (CD with software program).
  • I also purchased the first issue of Public Fiction at Family—PF is a thematic project that takes form in print and space. The first theme was “Church”
  • Tanya Rubbak contributed to that first issue of Public Fiction: here is a scanned section from Tanya’s 2-page spread.Tanya is a multidisciplinary artist and graphic designer based in Los Angeles. She creates work in collaborative settings, focusing on publications and other embodied printed and digital matter that live in the intervening spaces between design, art, performance, and authorship. 
  • C0-founder of Signify, Sanctify, Believe and co-director of Native Strategies, Tanya has presented projects at, and worked with, many spaces and institutions in the Los Angeles area, including Pomona College Museum of Art and Human Resources.
  • Adam Michaels is the co-founder of Project Projects, a New York based design studio producing commissioned work and independent publishing and curatorial projects. PP were finalists in the National Design Awards twice. He is also the series editor and designer of Inventory Books, an imprint published by Princeton Architectural Press.
  • Adam designed and edited The Electric Information Age Book, an Inventory Book he’ll talk about today. I learned about the Inventory Books when I ordered the book Street Value book for my library—a book about the neighborhood I work in.
  • Adam is a member of The Masses, the band that formed to record a supporting album for The Electric Information Age Book. The album is an offshoot of Adam’s design practice, and a somewhat different form of publishing. The project connects with Adam’s earlier years playing in DIY punk bands in Chicago and Minneapolis. The Masses performed in Milan and at the NY Art Book Fair last fall. I was there! This is a book you can dance to!
  • This final image is the scene at dot dot dot, when the group were putting together issue 15 on site, as part of an art exhibition. Dexer Sinister’s new publishing project is Bulletins of the Serving Library. I approve—and I had to get the word “library” in one more time!
  • LA ART BOOK FAIR: 2013 Design Authors Session

    1. 1. LA ART BOOK FAIR: 2013 Design Authors and Auteurs: Designers' Books Ascending with Brian Roettinger, Adam Michaels, and Tanya Rubbak organized by Susan Thomas, LIU Brooklyn Welcome to our session, Design Authors and Auteurs: Designers Books Ascending. I’m Susan Thomas, a librarian at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. I used to work at Pratt Institute, and I write about independent art & design publications. My introduction will be personal, tracing a line of publications that led me to the three designers here today. I became a librarian out of bibliomania but also out of graphic design. My love of design flowed from my love of music, but design also shaped music. I often judged an album by its cover. I almost always judge a book by its cover!
    2. 2. I got in to punk rock, I got in to hardcore: and also the aesthete: Like many young indie lovers, I spent more of my time record collecting than book collecting because I only liked used books from previous decades. I didn’t care for prevailing book design in the 80’s. I wanted new music and old books—
    3. 3. Zone Books Bruce Mau The phrase Design Authorship entered design dialogues in the 1990’s. By then, there was published evidence of the designer as author or auteur—for example, Bruce Mau’s work with Zone Books. Although he worked closely with writers and editors to determine materiality and visual framework for each book, Zone books seems his project. Earlier in the 20th Century, many designers wrote, designed, edited and published their own works: manifestos, typographic experiments, and as design scholar Steven McCarthy, has written:, “self- aggrandizing projects, investigations into pure expression, works of utopian idealism, and signifying sub-cultural gestures.” All contribute to the evidence of the designer as author over the last century and into the present one.
    4. 4. From a librarian and print fetishist’s point of view, the outcome is terrific. Print book design is superlative now— (Perhaps it has to be to sell books in the digital world.) The number and success of independent publishers— more likely to invest in the book as object– creates opportunity for designers: Here’s a box set of Love & Rockets, published by Fantagraphics. Beyond books, other art and design publications—zines, periodicals, pamphlets, posters-- like those for sale this weekend, abound. The role that designers play is our subject today.
    5. 5. Many artists publications are made by designers—or made collaboratively with other creatives. “Authorship” is not just writing. Designers might engage in research, writing, editing, art direction, publishing, performance, or software design. Collaborating or working alone, designers might explore a concept at length, advocate for something, create new knowledge, or give shape to and promote the value of a product. One notion of Design Authorship is an increased level of commitment and responsibility with published content.
    6. 6. When I worked at Pratt Institute, I selected independent art publications for the library, especially periodicals, and I started paying more attention to those either made by designers or featuring outstanding design (Marmalade, GUM, The Pop, for examples). I bought titles like the now defunct design journal Dot Dot Dot produced by Dexter Sinister. Many such publications seemed to be ignored by libraries because they weren’t established periodicals and they weren’t traditional artists’ books or zines, either. They fell more in to the category of artists’ magazines.
    7. 7. Dot Dot Dot covers
    8. 8. Designers’ publications have a special appeal for people who favor published artists’ books over sculptural book arts. This is a zine made on a risograph machine by Brian Roettinger, one of our speakers today. 44 pages / 20 x 25 cm / Two-color Riso <Fluo Pink & Fluo Orange> Edition of 100 / 2011
    9. 9. The zine graphically chronicles the history of punk in LA and is an example of design writing, in which image and text rely on each other.
    10. 10. Collage Culture: Examining the 21st Century’s Identity Crisis I picked up this book at Family Bookshop here in LA, and once again I saw Brian’s name. Brian is an LAbased artist and graphic designer who runs the multi-discipline design studio Hand Held Heart, which started out as a record label. He is perhaps most well known for his designs for art and architecture catalogues and record album covers with No Age, Liars, and more recently Beach House, but his creative practice extends well beyond that. His diverse works bridge the divide between art, music, design and concept. He was named Album designer of the year in 2009 by Rolling Stone.
    11. 11. He designed the book Collage Culture and also contributed a chapter of computergenerated collages made using software that he and programmer/artist Chandler McWilliams made. All collages are based on a list of 16 compositional algorithms.
    12. 12. Collage Culture Box Set This is the limited edition box set of Collage Culture, which is, to me, a print fetish object. The technologies in the box reference the past (LP, cassette, badges, author photos), the very place we’re encouraged to break from, but also point to the future (CD with downloadable software program).
    13. 13. I also purchased the first issue of Public Fiction at Family—PF is a thematic project that takes form in print and space. The first theme was “Church”
    14. 14. Tanya Rubbak contributed to that first issue of Public Fiction: here is a scanned section from Tanya’s 2-page spread. Tanya is a multidisciplinary artist and graphic designer based in Los Angeles. She creates work in collaborative settings, focusing on publications and other embodied printed and digital matter that live in the intervening spaces between design, art, performance, and authorship.
    15. 15. C0-founder of Signify, Sanctify, Believe and co-director of Native Strategies, Tanya has presented projects at, and worked with, many spaces and institutions in the Los Angeles area, including Pomona College Museum of Art and Human Resources.
    16. 16. Adam Michaels is the co-founder of Project Projects, a New York based design studio producing commissioned work and independent publishing and curatorial projects. PP were finalists in the National Design Awards twice. Adam is also the series editor and designer of Inventory Books, an imprint published by Princeton Architectural Press.
    17. 17. Adam designed and edited The Electric Information Age Book, an Inventory Book he’ll talk about today. I learned about the Inventory Books when I ordered the book Street Value book for my library—a book about the neighborhood I work in.
    18. 18. Adam is a member of The Masses, the band that formed to record a supporting album for The Electric Information Age Book. The album is an offshoot of Adam’s design practice, and embodies a different form of publishing. The project connects with Adam’s earlier years playing in DIY punk bands in Chicago and Minneapolis. The Masses performed in Milan and at the NY Art Book Fair last fall. I was there! This is a book you can dance to! The Masses vinyl album: Chipboard sleeve is die-cut, screen printed, and letterpress printed
    19. 19. This final image is the scene at Dot Dot Dot, when the group were putting together issue 15 on site, as part of an art exhibition. Dexer Sinister’s new publishing project is Bulletins of the Serving Library, and that allows me to conclude saying the word “library”!

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