The Gentlewoman’s art director, Veronica Ditting gives us a peek at her bookshelf

21 September 2016

Art director and designer Veronica Ditting is well-known for her work on sublime biannual magazine The Gentlewoman, and in the past she has art directed Fantastic Man and COS Magazine – but Veronica’s work extends far beyond the realm of publishing.

Previously based in Amsterdam, Veronica now works out of her London studio. She has worked with many fashion and retail brands including Hermès, Tiffany & Co. and Selfridges, as well as created work for art institutions and creatives like White Cube, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and Lernert & Sander.

Veronica’s work is smart, strong and thoughtful, and she embodies everything she designs with grace and understated glamour. We were eager for the designer to share some of her favourite books from her London bookshelf. Each book has been scanned in with precision, making it one of the beautiful bookshelves we’ve seen. From data organisation to an “absurd” newsprint publication, her voracious appetite for detail highlights why she’s such an expert in her field.

Ben Schott: Schott’s Original Miscellany

This is a book that was recommended to me by my teacher Julia Born while I was working on my graduation project at the Rietveld Academy, back in 2005. My final project focused on different methods of translation and the representation thereof and Julia suggested taking a look at the publication. What started out as a small-scale personal project for photographer Ben Schott became the first in a series of books compiling all kinds of data such as a list of typographical terms, cloud types, Zodiac dates, or simply a recipe for a Bloody Mary.

Being a language fanatic myself, I find the juxtaposition and organisation of ephemeral data highly amusing. It’s a very classic looking little book and I like the fact that it’s not over-designed. Even so many years after it was published, it’s a book I still browse through.

David Bennewith and Joseph Churchward: Churchward International Typefaces

This extraordinary publication is edited and designed by graphic designer David Bennewith and presents an overview of the work of Samoan-born New Zealand-based typographer, Joseph Churchward. Archive material, correspondence, as well as, realised and un-realised designs and typefaces are interspersed with essays about aspects of Churchward’s practice.

David started working on the book during his stay at the Jan van Eyck Academy. It took four years from research to print, and throughout the process Joseph would send David parcels containing an eclectic mix of materials to work with. I love the book for its design but mostly for its editorial approach – the author’s personal engagement and process is clearly visible. A range of different papers are used for the sections such as super thin newsprint and digital photo paper. The sections were actually printed by various printers using different techniques at various stages of the making of the book, which is really uncommon but adds to the personality of the final outcome.

For David, the “design” of the book was tied up in the production; collaborating with different printers was more about narratives of printing processes for him, and each conversation somehow related to a kind of printer or a printing technique that related to the content. I think it’s an extraordinary example showing the ability to explore form and content in a deeper way and how designers use a specific editorial approach.

Designed by Laurent Benner and Jonathan Hares: Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2005 and 2006

The Most Beautiful Swiss Books brings together the selection of titles nominated by the annual competition run by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture. A few years back, designers were commissioned to work on three consecutive catalogues. Laurent Benner and Jonathan Hares worked on the editions between 2004–2006. Sadly, I’m missing the 2004 catalogue they had also worked on, but the 2005 and 2006 editions are among my most beloved books on my shelf.

Both books analyse elements of the selected titles according to their physical features – such as contents pages, papers, typefaces, and printing techniques used. In the 2005 edition, a leaf from every book, printed recto and verso by its actual printer on original stock was bound into the catalogue, as well as blank leafs of the title’s papers and a list of all the typefaces used.

This project truly sounds like a production nightmare in terms of logistics, to me, and I admire how they achieved such a quiet but radical outcome. Good designers tend to have curious minds. A big part of design is about studying, inspecting, structuring, selecting and revealing content instead of just applying a visual style. These books are a beautiful example of what that means.

Bik Van der Pol, Lisette Smits and Will Holder: Past Imperfect, Casco Issue No.9

Past Imperfect is the result of a research project by Dutch artist duo Bik Van der Pol. It examines the radical output of conceptual art in the 1960s and 70s and how progressive ideas from the past are linked to contemporary ones. I like the energetic, spontaneous quality in content and form and especially the straightforwardness of the binding – ten separately stapled booklets were simply glued together.

My huge dislike of coffee-table books is well known in our studio and I love discovering different binding techniques. This is a great example of an alternative technique which actually influences the shape of the whole object. The usage of stock images bearing the watermarked logo on them, the pixelated Google images used throughout, the recycled paper and the slightly odd and particular typesetting all add to the charm of the publication. My copy is really battered by now and generally speaking I actually like seeing signs of wear. Books are supposed to be used instead of sitting in vitrines.

Franco Quadri: Magazzini Criminali 3

Many years ago I found this highly absurd newsprint publication at a book store in Amsterdam. I’m always browsing through vintage book stores for good finds and wish they were more affordable in London. As far as I can work out, this newspaper was published by an experimental theatre production company from Italy in the early 1980s. All long-form pieces are in Italian except for an index in English with reference to health issues, sport activities and beauty topics featured throughout the publication.

Different stock images depicting buildings, fashion images and specifically commissioned shoots are juxtaposed with each other. Most of them relate to the body. I love the confident, no-nonsense design and the depth of the black ink printed on the uncoated paper stock. The odd mix of content is inexplicable but charming.

Hero Header

Share Article

About the Author

Rebecca Fulleylove

Rebecca Fulleylove is a freelance writer and editor specialising in art, design and culture. She is also senior writer at Creative Review, having previously worked at Elephant, Google Arts & Culture, and It’s Nice That.

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.