[Alyson Kuhn] I love goat cheese, so I was ready—maybe even ripe—to love this book, designed at Sasges in Calgary, Alberta. As an appetizer to our interview with one of the book’s designers, Chandra Vermeulen, I’d like to tell you how Jorge Alderete, a judge for Mohawk Show 12, critiqued the book in the show catalog.
Rita Sasges’ personal favorite , the “goatiest” shot in the book. Photo © 2011 Victor Penner.
Alderete said, “This is a book about goats. Why? I’m not sure, but I love the combination between photography and illustration in this quirky piece. The paper is very well chosen, with different paper for different parts of the book. It’s a very interesting and well-thought-out combination. I think it is an amazing piece.”
This book is a very elaborate undertaking, the kind of non-billable project that you might get excited about, then reality strikes and you dial it down.
Chandra Vermeulen: We had known for a long time that we would be doing the book. It was a running joke at studio meetings. Someone would ask, “So, is the goat book done?” And someone else would reply, “Oh, yes, it’s at the printer.” But, eventually, we really did have to do it—and the design came together in one very intense weekend of putting everyone’s contributions together. More than anything, the book was a opportunity for a team of people to collaborate and showcase a passion for design and, well, goats. We had always planned to send it to our clients as a Christmas gift, and it was a big hit.
So, everyone had assignments they’d been working on?
Exactly. The planning, conceptualizing and, of course, goat-cheese-eating “phase” happened over a year and a half. In developing the content of the book, we held numerous brainstorming sessions with staff, colleagues and some of our clients over the 18 months. As a team, we divided and conquered sections of the book, each of us researching goat topics that not only interested us but also played to our strengths.
Tell me about these topics of goaty interest, please.
When we started doing research, we had a brainstorming lunch with goat cheese—and goat placemats for writing down ideas while we were eating. Everyone seemed to have a personal story that somehow involved goats. It’s incredible now to see the variety of information in the book, but what is equally incredible is the interesting information we had to edit out. We could have gone to a multivolume set!
Were recipes always part of the plan?
Absolutely. Shirley Sasges, a.k.a. Chef Shirley, is our studio manager-baker-caterer-organizer-mom. She researched, tested, and tweaked all of the goat cheese recipes. She also played a key role when it came time to get the books out the door to our clients right before Christmas. Some were packaged in crate-like wooden boxes with a selection of goat cheeses from Janice Beaton Fine Cheese here in Calgary. Others were sent with a cutting board and cheese knife in burlap bags. We gift wrapped the rest here in our studio.
Do you have a personal goat connection to something in the book?
I do, though mine wasn’t inspired by an actual goat. I came across a tape recording, made when I was in kindergarten, of me learning to read. It’s my 5-year-old voice reading The Three Billy Goats Gruff, complete with billy goat noises. We put an abridged version of the story in the book, with photographs by Victor. The pages in that section also have a Soft Touch coating. [The coating makes the pages feel velvety; midway through this section appears an Irish saying on a page by itself: “Put silk on a goat and it is still a goat.”]
Japanese-folded pages in the Goat Miscellany section are chartreuse, with magenta-flooded interiors. Vermeulen describes the accent color as “dark chocolate, another Sasges indulgence. In fact, our last studio book before the goat book was dedicated entirely to chocolate!”
What was your thinking behind not printing a title on the book?
This book is meant to be mysterious, quirky and mischievous—like goats. We felt titling the book would be contrary to this. However, as a studio, we always referred to it as “the goat book.” People tend not to be neutral about goat cheese—they either love it or they hate it. The front cover shows positive adjectives describing goat cheese, and on the back cover are negative descriptions. The covers are illustrated by Lauren Tamaki. Although there are clear sections of information in the book, it is still very random and full of surprises.
Your photographer, Victor Penner, certainly seems to have a rapport with goats.
We relied completely on Victor’s eye and goat herding ability. We did not art direct the goats or even attend the photo shoot. Victor and Marlisse ventured out to two goat farms to capture the goats in action. Victor did tell us that the goats loved the camera, and were not shy at all. They would jump up on the highest object possible and fight for the spotlight. At one point chickens started mingling with the goats—we loved the randomness of this.
Photo © 2011 Victor Penner
Victor took hundreds and hundreds of shots. He put some of his favorites in his portfolio even before we had completed the book. Victor has told us that when designers and art directors saw those photos, so many people reacted to them. Everyone was very eager to know about the goats. Victor’s sense is that “goats are so ‘right now.’” It’s not just us. Goats are resonating!
SPECS & CREDITS
Client: Sasges Inc.
Designers: Morgan Curley, Rita Sasges, Tali Schtelzer, Chandra Vermeulen
Design Firm: Sasges Inc.
Illustration: Marco Cibola, Lauren Tamaki
Photography: Victor and Marlisse Penner
Writing: Janice Laurie
Recipes: Shirley Sasges
Production: Jill DaSilva
Printer: Blanchette Press, Vancouver, B.C.
Paper: Mohawk Via Smooth 100% PC Cool White 100 cover/270 gsm and 100 text/148 gsm, and several other fine papers