For 14 years Charlotte Strick was a book jacket designer at Faber & Faber and literary publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. After editor Lorin Stein insisted she come and work with him at The Paris Review, Charlotte completely redesigned the look of the magazine and was then made art editor. If that wasn’t enough, the designer is also principal of Brooklyn-based studio Strick&Williams, which she set up with Claire Williams Martinez in 2014.
Charlotte is one of those rare gems who writes about design almost as much as she practices it, having been published by The Paris Review, The Atlantic and The Huffington Post. With so much experience and knowledge, we were eager for Charlotte to give just a glimpse at her bookshelf, and here she’s selects five of her most-treasured books. An appearance from our Royal Majesty, a yearbook from the 70s and an anthology of New York poets all feature in Charlotte’s multifarious bookshelf.
Neil Ferrier: The Queen Elizabeth Coronation Book
This was one of the many books from my mother’s childhood that she brought with her from England when she moved to the States to marry my American father. As a child this book always seemed to me like a window into the mysterious and potentially glamorous, regal life I imagined for myself had I grown up in England. It’s also one of the first books I can remember seeing with colorised photography – I’ve always loved the oversaturated, not-quite-realness of travel postcards and portraits in this style. It still smells strongly of my granny’s house and the mothballs it was once packed in. The binding is an appropriately royal blue with matte gold stamping, and its endpapers are printed with the official coat of arms of the British monarchy, the lion and unicorn crest. The colour around the edges has faded a little and there’s some faint staining, but the vividness and an unintentional almost pop art quality of the photographs remains.
Nightingale-Bamford School 1979 Yearbook
This was my first yearbook, and I was utterly obsessed with it. I spent so much time as a little kid paging through this book and wondering what I might look like by age eighteen – I’m amused to find that I’m still familiar with the face of every single senior girl! I was a kindergartener in 1979 and this book cover may well be the first all-type design that I appreciated for its ability to deliver a memorable message without the need for supporting images. The tongue-in-cheek predictions for each graduates’ future read like a charming time capsule of a time long gone with “Male Equivalents” for the girls like “the Fonz” and “Yul Brynner” and “Probable Occupations” like “Gong Show contestant” or “Fotomat salesperson.” The period-perfect typography, the colour palette (tan on brown!), and the grand, wistful sentiment perfectly sized-up the mood of New York City at the end of the oft called “Me” era. I still treasure this brown-on-brown book and my short time at that posh, all-girls school.
Calvin Tomkins: Off the Wall
I first read this book back in college as a studio art major, and I’m now reading it again for the third time. I seem to be averaging once a decade—and I can’t think of another book I’ve done this with. Off the Wall was revelatory for me as a young art student, besotted with the early works of Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg was fearless with his materials, and I do my best to channel him, trying to dig deep with my own work and not get bogged down by the constraints of the computer. Assemblage works like Bed (1955) and his Red Paintings of the same period are to my mind sheer genius.
Tompkins’ description of Rauschenberg’s rise to fame and the art-world-intrigue are richly described. Throughout the book are scraps of old notes of mine, scrawled in the margins in pencil, and probably made in preparation for an exam. One of the most inspiring lines that I highlighted was “[John] Cage agreed with Gertrude Stein’s notion that all original art was irritating at first, though he tended to believe that when something that he did became generally acceptable, it was time to take the next step.”
Tauba Auerbach: How To Spell An Alphabet
I was first introduced to Auerbach’s work by Lauren Cornell of New York’s New Museum through the art portfolio we included in Issue 194 of The Paris Review magazine. Auerbach trained as a sign painter in San Francisco, and she continues to explore letterforms in her artwork. She works in varied mediums – painting, photography and music – and offers us much to be inspired by, especially if you’re a graphic designer.
In How To Spell An Alphabet, Auerbach explores linguistic systems, lettering and calligraphy, the analogue and the digital, through abstraction and colour. It’s a gorgeous book designed as a collaboration between the artist and the design studio, Work In Progress. I wish I owned every piece in this book, but I’d settle for The Whole Alphabet, From the Center Out, Digital, V on page 22, pretty please.
Edited by Ron Padgett and Shapiro: An Anthology of New York Poets
Years ago I spotted this book on the shelf of a colleague of mine at the publishing house, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where I worked as an in-house jacket designer for 14 years. The cover just glows, it’s so fresh and inviting. I knew I had to own it, and I finally tracked it down in a used bookshop. The illustrations were all done by Joe Brainard (a writer and artist and another artistic muse of mine), who was a part of the second wave of mid-century New York School poets. Brainard’s naïve illustrations appear throughout the book and on the case binding. One poem I especially love by the late, great Frank O’Hara, is Why I’m not a Painter.
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