Evolution at the Academy

[Alyson Kuhn] The California Academy of Sciences has recently published an elegant and informative little book about evolution. The photographs are superb, and the text, contributed by several scientists at the academy, is both personal and powerful. The spread presenting the introduction features a great shot of a vintage London edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, setting the stage perfectly for the mini case studies that follow.

Evolution at the Academy also beautifully exemplifies the evolution of “green” paper and printing. The book is printed on Mohawk Synergy White 100% PCW, whose “DNA” includes FSC certification, windpower manufacturing and 100% postconsumer recycled fiber. Several spreads feature deep black backgrounds, which dramatically set off the specimens. At the book’s launch party, I asked Jeff Towner of Paragraphics Fine Printing how their presspeople felt about the black solids in particular and the paper in general. He enthused, “The black densities are in excess of 240%! You’d be hard pressed to get that saturation even with black paper. And the paper ran beautifully — this was our second job on Synergy.” Paragraphics ran the job with UV inks — which Jeff reminded me are VOC-free — CMYK plus spot Black, with what Jeff refers to as a “special coating” throughout.

I asked Rhonda Rubinstein, creative director at the Academy, what her vision was for this book. She reflected, “My intent for the book was to make it abundantly clear that evolution is not just a theory — in the scientific use of that term — but, rather, the only way to explain why the natural world is the way it is. Evolution is the lens through which you can see and understand why all animals and plants look and act the way they do. We learned firsthand from talking with the scientists and viewing their collections, and then created and  juxtaposed exquisite photographs with scientific facts. I wanted to make a visually compelling argument for evolution in a showcase that also brings attention to the remarkable research done at the California Academy of Sciences.”

Brief captions do a great job of putting the images in their evolutionary context. Seen here (from top to bottom): a butterfly (Kallima inachus) that “looks like a dead leaf when resting, but displays bright colors upon opening its wings”; a leaf insect whose group (Phyllinae) “have been camouflaging themselves as leaves for at least 47 million years”; a moth and an orchid that seem to be floating on the sea of time. This exquisite example of adaptation showcases the Madagascar star orchid (and “its remarkably long nectar spur”) and the Darwin hawkmoth (with its equally long pollinating tongue).

This little book is a beautiful objet and an admirable précis about a complex and (somehow) still-controversial subject. The book is available at www.calacademy.org, and I hope a large audience will enjoy its glorious photos and thoughtful text, including a double-page double-layered infographic about VISTA.

Alyson Kuhn notes that the final large photo in the book shows the academy’s Bizarre and Ancient Life exhibit. As it happens, the new exhibit halls were designed by Adam Brodsley and Eric Heiman of Volume, who are currently working on an upcoming Mohawk promotion — stay tuned!

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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by Bari Zaki on 01.17.10 at 2:45 pm

    Just bought a copy…Thank you (again) Madame AK!

  2. Posted by blogs.rediff.com on 11.6.13 at 8:24 pm

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    I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to fix this problem.
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