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Work / Publication

Jefferson Hack and Ferdinando Verderi map out the future of radical publishing

When founder of Dazed, AnOther, Another man and Nowness announces a new book, you would expect something that would challenge publishing conventions. Jefferson Hack’s new publication, We Can’t Do This Alone: Jefferson Hack The System doesn’t disappoint. With contributions from the likes of Tilda Swinton, Bjork, Douglas Coupland and Rankin, each copy of the 5,000 print run will have a unique, numbered cover created in collaboration with Kodak.

The book, designed and edited by New York-based creative director Ferdinando Verderi, has over 300 pages arranged around a seven section manifesto (of sorts) about the future of publishing. Each section frames a number of experiments, exhibitions, films and interviews commissioned or conducted by Hack over the course of his career. Below, Ferdinando shares his thoughts on creating the book and design process and we share some of the covers that have been created for the publication.

“Jefferson and I started talking about this book more than two years ago, in late 2013. One particular challenge instantly became interesting to us both: Jefferson is an extremely forward thinking creator, a pioneer always projected into the future, while any retrospective project is by definition focused on the past.  

This was the paradox we needed to solve, reason why we envisioned a project that would subvert the main dynamics of a typical monographic retrospective: we started by thinking of a book that, unlike other retrospective projects, would not feel like the end of long process, but like the beginning of a new one; instead of focusing on providing answers to never before answered questions, we focused on raising question that don’t yet have an answer; instead of thinking about a book that celebrates the past of on person, we though of one that envisions the future of a community yet to be formed.

The book started as an exploration of these dichotomies. Every aspect of it, including the title, the design, the posters’ slogans, the way the book is organised and edited, are all expressions of this very single-minded search. Finally, the 5,000 different covers, featuring the spreads from the book un-carefully merged onto each other, challenge the very content of the book itself, as well as the notion of visual control, by letting a machine irreverently clash all the content onto itself.

This book does not want to hero the past, but wants to use the past as a canvas on which to envision a future. There is no reverence towards the archive. There is a sense of future re-organising the past as he wishes it to be: this idea has informed my design.The archival content is broken up into chapters by series of uncomfortably challenging bold and sharp questions which introduce each of them.

Jefferson is a very sophisticated thinker, yet always radical. His creativity is very non linear yet very organised. I was drawn to ideas that would visualise this sense of elegant disruption. I wanted the archival context to feel extremely rigorous, scientifically organised, impersonal and precise, and the new content, as the posters, the outro manifesto and the covers to feel unruled, hand crafted and raw, incoherent.

The constant is that every part of the book is subjected to a vertical flow: two side bars and one wide break in the gutter impose themselves onto every spread, constraining all the content under the rigid rules of this deliberate structure. The side notes become an important informative archive element, while the gutter irreverently breaks every archival opener forcing us to see it as new. This tries to communicate that the book in itself, not the content, is the work: it’s not about the archive, but about its message.  

Jefferson had this idea very early on: he wanted us to create a moment of true collaboration through these posters.  The words in these slogans are a manifesto in themselves, and they represent the sense of ‘punk positivism’ using Jefferson’s words, that infuses the book content and its spirit. These are quotes that Jefferson wrote during the years but that feel as actual now as ever before, and speak to a new generation this book is made for.

Turning them into artworks was a very intense process, as we imposed ourselves no rules for it. No coherence in any sense of beauty, no coherence in any sense of storytelling. Each poster is a world in its own, and as such, some were truly immediate and some went through many iterations and ideas. The inspirations were different, but definitely a constant idea was to stay true to this lack of rules and to start from a blank canvas every time. Obviously the sentiment of the sentence inspires the design, but overall, a sense of ‘machine-error’ and ‘hand-made’ imperfection became our language throughout. The design both celebrates and question the quotes themselves, bringing them to life while challenging their meaning in a visual way."

Jefferson Hack The System: We Can’t Do This Alone is published by Rizzoli

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Ferdinando Verderi: We Can’t Do This Alone: Jefferson Hack The System

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