• Visualeditions_8
  • Visualeditions_7
  • Visualeditions_6
  • Visual_editions5
  • Visualeditions_4
  • Visualeditions_3
  • Visualeditions_2
  • Visualeditions_1
  • Visualeditions_9
  • Visualeditions_10
  • Visualeditions_11
Graphic Design

Visual Editions

Posted by Will Hudson,

London-based book publisher, Visual Editions, started early last year by Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen have just launched their first title The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. Sharing a love of books and a (mischievous) desire to do things differently, Visual Editions want to offer a new experience for their readers and writers.

To quote their site, “What we do is make sure we turn all that love and mischief into beautifully, lovingly, wonderfully written and crafted books”. Having seen a copy of their first book last week we knew we had to find out more about one of the most exciting publishing companies to emerge in recent years.

Hi Britt, Visual Editions is all about something you call ‘Visual Writing’, what does that mean?

Visual writing is our starting point. As a term, it’s something we made up, but as an idea, there’s a rich literary heritage of this kind of writing. Here’s how we like to think about it: it’s about writing that uses visuals as a way to help tell a story. Those visuals could be something simple like a crossed out word, or it could be something not so simple like a page with words die-cut out of the page. We think now, more than ever before, people are reading differently. We’re more visually literate than ever before, so we wanted to publish books and experiences that embrace that: where both the visuals and the words on the page feed into one another.

Your first book, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is out now, tell us more about the book…


Tristram Shandy was first published in nine volumes in the late 18th century by Yorkshire-man, Laurence Sterne. The book is completely bonkers: it’s full of digressions, meanderings and is visually rich (with astericks, dashes, illustrations and a marbled page). The sad thing is the book has come out in so many different editions since it was first published, that it’s completely lost its magic and playfulness along the way. So what we wanted to do was to dust it down from its shoddy Dover classics and make the book relevant and contemporary again. We did that by exaggerating some of those visual elements, while also introducing new ones, all the while staying faithful to the book’s original spirit.



The attention to detail in the design and production of it is first class, how have the designers and printers reacted to what you’re trying to do?



We worked closely with the wonderful APFEL who embraced the design of this book with all the care and thoughtfullness it deserved. They were "first class" in bringing new ideas to the book (the folded page for a "shut door", is one of our favourites) without ever being decorative or gimmicky. As for the printers, we ended up working with a Chinese printer, who were great and made the hand-finishings not only possible, but affordable. Our hope is that all of our books will be read (not put behind prestine glass cabinets) and that they are priced in a democratic way.



You don’t have to look very hard to find articles on the death of print and publishing companies having a hard time of it, what makes you think Visual Editions will be any different?


The thing is, we don’t know what the future of publishing is going to be. No one does. But we’ve given this a lot of thought and our answer comes in two (related) parts. First thing is, we think there’s a place for Kindle. Tescos 3 for 2 disposable holiday books should and will live on Kindle. But we also think that for a book to merit being printed, there’s got to be something about that experience that can only live on the page. Our second book, by Jonathan Safran Foer, is completely die-cut. It’s a paperback book on the outside, that when opened, is a sculptural object. A sculptural object that has a story, that you can read. That kind of tactile, sensory experience you just can’t replicate on the screen. The second part of our answer, though, is this. We keep thinking of our books as more than just objects, we think of them as experiences. And every book we publish is a different experience. So it may well be that one of our books in the future will live better on the screen than on the page. Watch this space.

What can we expect from Visual Editions in the future?

After Shandy we have Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer (as mentioned above). Our third book is a book in a box. It’s called Composition No.1 and it was first published in the early sixties. It’s literally loose pages that come in a box, that you can read in any order. We’re also working on another book with Jonathan Safran Foer and a collection of short stories by an emerging writer, Seonaid MacKay. Our ethos is this: as long as the book is a great looking story, in whatever shape or guise, and as long as we (our writers, our designers and even our printers) have fun making them, then we’re up for it.

Visual Editions first title, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne is available to buy through the It’s Nice That shop, for more details please visit www.itsnicethat.com/shop

Wh-300

Posted by Will Hudson

Will founded It’s Nice That in 2007 and is now director of the company. Once one of the main contributors to the site he has stepped back from writing as the business has expanded. He is a regular guest on the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List

    It’s wonderful when graphic design perfectly unites two seemingly disparate concepts – and Commission Studio’s branding for a Lewes-based homeware brand is a quietly brilliant example. The project saw the London studio (which designed our 2013 Annual) create the look and feel for a range of delicate, subtle pieces like candles and soaps with a name that deliberately sounds anything but delicate and subtle – Freight.

  2. Listtttt

    There’s a whole heap of great design studios in Barcelona with which we’re very familiar but it’s always a joy to discover talent we haven’t come across before. Such is the case with P.A.R, a graphic design and art direction studio run by Iris Tarraga and Lucía Castro. The way they talk about their approach eschews any kind of bullshit, as they write on their website: “Our methodology is simple: We listen to our clients, we understand their needs and we solve them. Our style is clear and direct, we take care of the balance and harmony in our designs, we use typography and colour accurately, we believe in functional design.”

  3. List

    We were lucky enough to meet some of the team from Singapore studio Foreign Policy when they popped into It’s Nice That HQ during a recent research trip to London. The same friendly, curious and open-minded approach that led them to drop us a line has also seen them develop The Swap Show, “an exhibition exchange between design studios and creative agencies from cities around the world designed to showcase and celebrate creative work internationally.”

  4. List

    It’s tricky to implement the intricate tricks of an optical illusion in a book cover design without the finished product appearing slightly heavy-handed, but designer Hansje van Halem does it with poise and perfectionism. She’s worked as a freelance graphic designer since graduating from Amsterdam’s Gerrit Rietvield Academie in 2003 (as her About section explains) and her enjoyment of what others might find to be repetitive shines through in the illusory patterns in her portfolio.

  5. List

    As serious art and design journalists, we’re not distracted by mere baubles. But when said bauble takes the form of an online game (think Space Invaders meets graphic design portfolio) then who are we to resist. It’s one of many trinkets to be found on karlssonwilker’s terrific new website, which shows off their work in the best possible light and confirms their status as one of the most accomplished design studios working today.

  6. List-0102-0103-0105-triptych-%c2%a9-david-shaw

    When the Design Museum planned its Women Fashion Power show, which opened last month, it was very much keen to take the “women” component seriously, appointing them to take care of both the exhibition design and graphics for the show. As such, it drafted perhaps one of the most famous women in design’s practices, Zaha Hadid Architects for the exhibition design; with Lucienne Roberts and her team (Dave Shaw and John McGill) at LucienneRoberts+ creating the graphics.

  7. List

    Based in Manheim, Germany, Deutsche & Japaner have a really great sense of what looks good. They have been on the site a couple of times for their stylish graphic design but this work for the Aesthetics Habitat project shows off a bit more of their own personality. The site is described as “a venture all about meeting objects with a personal interpretation, transforming its function and creating narratives” and in essence its curators invite creatives to respond to and reflect on their relationship with a favourite thing of beauty.

  8. List-flyers-for-the-institute-at-sexology.-photography-by-russell-dornan_-design-by-liam-relph-(3)

    London’s Wellcome Collection space always hosts explorations of the things that fascinate us most. It’s covered death, it’s exhaustively explored the human body in all its glory and grotesquery, and now it’s moved on to surely the most fascinating of all – sex, or more precisely, how people have studied it.

  9. List

    Brimming with sophistication and an understanding of what makes great design, Atelier Tout va bien’s portfolio is a glorious way to scroll away the day. The studio is made up of French design duo Anna Chevance and Mathias Reynoird, and it’s the pair’s editorial, poster and book design that really stands out.

  10. List

    The It’s Nice That team recently discussed which discipline we cover on the site would we most like to be brilliant at (it’s the kind of thing we do to wile away the final, dragging hours of these dark winter afternoons). After the appropriate amount of consideration (charts, cost/benefit analysis and the like) I plumped for book cover design and that led me down a little book-design-reminiscence and that led me back to Linda Huang.

  11. List

    Another day, another well-crafted, interesting identity for a topic that isn’t perhaps the most instantly exciting. This time, bringing us issues like “sustainable urban energy planning” and “urban transitions management” (we admit we’re not too sure what this means), is this identity for Sustain, by Filimonas Triantafyllou. Sustain is an academic platform to host discussions between different universities in Europe and Asia about their research into sustainability issues, and it’s refreshing to see Netherlands-based graphic designer Filimonas take such a pared-back, colourful approach to the subject matter. The graphical treatment uses different typographic word-marks for each of the topics being addressed, with each symbol reducing these rather complex issues into a simple motif.

  12. List

    Eschewing the usual white-paged minimalism, Berlin gallery Neumeister Bar-Am boasts a charming identity inspired by all things postage. The gallery is housed in an old Post Office space, and Slovenia-born, Berlin-based designer Neven Cvijanovic of Floor5 chose to look to its former home in designing the identity, using a colour scheme referencing that of the Deutsche Post, working with art director Marek Polewski on the project. The flexible identity system uses icons that recall mail stamps that adapt to each show for use on invites; while other collateral like stationery and business cards are more pared-back. It’s great how the theme is subtle, yet direct – especially in little touches like the yellow tape.

  13. List-dunnamed

    Australian consultancy Sense designed the identity for this year’s Czech & Slovak film festival, which took place in Melbourne and Sydney, creating a look look inspired by the gorgeous hand-printed Czech film posters of the past. The festival was themed around the idea of “resistance”, as a nod to 2014 being the 25th anniversary of the non-violent “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia – a series of peaceful demonstrations against the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia that worked to end 41 years of Communist rule in the country.