[Tom Biederbeck] Proteus is a figure from mythology who could change into any form. Design: Paper, a new book by the design firm Public School, is a demonstration of the protean nature of paper — in the guises of identity, print and packaging, cards and invitations, and art and craft.
Subtitled “A seductive collection of alluring paper designs,” Design: Paper presents works of a global group of artists, many new to me. The collection of business cards, for example, is curated with insight and worthy of attention by itself. This book presents a fresh selection of paper expressions in the early 21st century — a challenging time for the medium. It’s a reminder that print’s potential isn’t fading … but it is becoming more nuanced. I asked Public School’s Cody Haltom about creating the book.
What did you learn in the course of researching the work?
Though we already knew this to some degree, it was great to see the versatility of paper from such a large sampling. From high-end identity and packaging to homemade invitations, each of these pieces shows the impact paper can have on a project. Hopefully this book hints at the importance of paper selection as a component of a design project.
Another really rewarding part of the process was selecting the studios to do the essays in the book. Each of them, given free rein, covered completely different directions. These studios have all been a source of inspiration to us, and it was great to get to reach out and learn from them.
Full-spread layouts scattered throughout the book are mini case studies that investigate examples in greater detail. Here, a two-part illustration for Scientific American by Owen Gildersleeve (U.K.). He also contributed one of the essays in the book.
Did you find there were common elements in the projects that made the final cut?
A common thread from our end is a sense that these designers put an emphasis on the tactile experience of their projects, and they let this influence their decisions early on — as opposed to making it an afterthought. Also, though this doesn’t just reference paper, a sense of restraint with regard to design is something that was also fairly consistent.
It was important for us to produce a source book showcasing work that isn’t too American in style. Much of the work in this book shows a restraint that seems more common outside of the U.S. One reason we included this work is our own interest in this type of thoughtful design.
What does the book have to say about the future of print?
Hopefully the more restricted use of print today has a positive effect. There is less trash being printed, and more consideration and exploration for the times when print material is an option.
I also think print will become an even more important outlet for self-initiated projects. This is happening in our studio. We’ve been working on a number of projects that will be self-funded, where we spare no expense with regard to material choices. It seems like limiting the opportunities in commercial work will push some designers to make their own opportunities.
Public School is an Austin, Tex., creative collective of designers, illustrators and photographers. They’ve created work for clients such as GOOD, LIVESTRONG, Nike, The New York Times Magazine, Condé Nast and Chronicle Books.
Top image: Identity for Pino, an interior decoration shop, by Bond Creative Agency (Finland). All images are courtesy of Rockport Publishers.