Politics, punk, and perverse optimists sit together on Johanna Burai's Bookshelf

26 September 2018

Johanna Burai is a designer. She’s also an illustrator, a sculptor, and an art director. In short, she’s a modern creative polymath, which is exactly the kind of thing we’re into here at It’s Nice That.

Now studying for a masters in visual communication at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design, we caught up with Johanna earlier this year to discuss recent projects that combine her interest in pop culture and politics. Publications like Silvana, a study of the titular Silvana, a Swedish rapper and activist in anti-racism and LGBTQ rights, and Making Change, a typographically-driven examination of gender equality in film and television, are prime examples of why she’s caught — and sustained — our attention.

Knowing that she knows her way around a good book, we thought it was only right to invite Johanna to take us — and you — on a whistle-stop tour through a quintet of books she returns to time and time again.

Erik Kessels: Failed It! How to Turn Mistakes into Ideas and Other Advice for Successfully Screwing Up

We all know that perfect is boring. I’ve always had big love for imperfect things, and I try to implement imperfection in my work (and progress) as often as I can. One big part of that is practising not being so damn good all the time and not being afraid of doing wrong. It could be hard sometimes because conventional wisdom tells us failure is bad. But we should celebrate failure more, it’s okay, that’s how you get new ideas, grow and move forward with work. That’s why I choose this amazing book by Erik Kessels. For your own good, read it.

Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist

“Good designers (and writers and artists) make trouble.” I remember the first time I picked up this book, I was truly amazed. Finally a white man that works in advertising that cares about the problems in the world, I thought. Some of the pages in this book are food for thought. Tibor Kalman was an art director and artist and he believed that designers should be more involved in understanding how their work matters outside the client’s needs. His idea was to engage the public rather than attend to them passively as consumers. Kalman thought me that if its possible to re-write the brief, do it: “If we approach clients with our own agenda we may be able to change more than just a typeface or annual report”.

Advertising Design in Japan, vol. 21

This is my go to book when I need design inspiration. I can’t remember exactly how I got it but I think I found it at my old college and then I never returned it. So, this is my most precious book of all my books. I’ve always been a big fan of 80’s and early 90’s design in advertising and package design, especially from Japan, because the design back then felt so free, playful and varied.

Ruben Peter: Politics of Design

This book explores the cultural and political context of typography, colours, photography, symbols, and information graphics that we use every day. We as designers and image-makers have a great responsibility when it comes to visual communication, and a big part of that is to be aware of the political meaning and impact of our work. The Politics of Design is a must read for everybody that works in the visual communication field and wants to have a deeper understanding of design.

Oh So Pretty, Punk in Print 1976-80

The Punk subculture during the 70’s was a true do-it-yourself movement, and I am talking about the real meaning of DIY culture which is to look after yourself and those all around you. Create your own future, work to manifest equality, liberty and the kind of society that you want to be a part of. This book has some good examples of the art of resistance.

Hero Header

Share Article

About the Author

Josh Baines

Josh Baines joined It's Nice That from July 2018 to July 2019 as News Editor, covering new high-profile projects, awards announcements, and everything else in between.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.