Nancy Rouemy, Principal of We Live Type Ltd, was approached by Robin Bronk, the CEO of The Creative Coalition, the leading non-profit advocacy organization for the arts and entertainment community, and commissioned to design a coffee table book to be shot by celebrity photographer Jeff Vespa.
The Art of Discovery would showcase one-hundred Hollywood portraits, each accompanied by a key inspirational moment or an intimate story that pinpoints a career or life discovery. The book’s photos are stunning and the format is handsome, especially its typographic scheme. I asked Nancy how the book came about.
How did this project come to be?
Immediately after accepting what a I thought was solely a design assignment, I proposed the book title, The Art of Discovery; proposed a new publisher for the book; made cold calls and pitched the book to hi-end prospective publishers — without an agent — within an unrealistic time frame; helped convince Renaissance Hotels, the project sponsor, to fund the significant cost increase needed to secure a premier publisher; designed ‘‘dummy’’ spreads to help land the publisher and entice the stars to participate in the book; honed the interview question for the celebrities; collected pose inspirations daily and developed concepts for various shoots; flew to Utah, art directed and interviewed the talent at The Sundance Film Festival; art directed the photo shoots in LA via the Internet from New York; edited thousands of shots and marked up the selects for color correction.
Every day, Jeff juggled the players: actors, agents, publicists, lawyers, stylists, makeup artists, groomers, set assistants and retouchers. Not to mention, props needed to be rented, releases needed to be signed and interviews needed to be recorded. Robin edited the transcribed manuscripts, managed negotiations, and oversaw the project-at-large, keeping all lines of communication flowing. It was a tireless collaborative effort, spanning over five months, a project that typically takes two years to complete according to Rizzoli.
Oh yeah, I had to design 215 pages, the case, and the book jacket — in between it all!
What triggered your typographic scheme?
In order to maintain visual interest for one hundred spreads, I wanted to pick a genre that could provide several display fonts that held together and could promote the book’s theme: discovery. I chose stencil fonts. The spaces between the lines and forms in the characters allow the eye to experience “entry points,” to meander in and around the words themselves.
On some level, the reader has to puzzle out the forms — and “discover” the words. More than ever, stencil fonts have moved beyond the industrial application or Le Corbusier’s architectural stamp and have become the modern didot of luxury. I wanted the book to feel modern and luxurious (I didn’t want to rely on luscious script fonts) — stencil fonts became the perfect fit.
Did you select type based on the statements or your own response to them?
First, I selected an elegant serif text family that had an accompanying sans family (Trivia Serif Family & Trivia Sans Family). I wanted the variety, yet I wanted the continuity in character structure, especially since I was using so many fonts in the book.
For display purposes, I alternated between the selected stencil fonts: Sensaway Pro, Bery Script, Bery Tuscan, Sevigne St, Vanitas Stencil, Ogaki Std, Diversa (and a few custom letters drawn by me). I chose a specific font in response to what was most fitting to illustrate the word or phrase I enlarged for visual draw and emphasis.
At times I chose a font to reflect a detail in the photograph. The hardest job was to maintain elegant typographic restraint so that the text supported the images and did not compete with the images; my goal was to create a typographic tapestry weaving throughout the book.
2014 Typography & Lettering AwardsEnter your typography or handlettered work in the 2014 Typography & Lettering Awards. Typographic and typeface will be judged by Paul Shaw and Jessica Hische will judge the handlettered work. Winners will receive several prizes, including a subscription to Print magazine and a year-long membership to HOW U and HOW U Video.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →