Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments (6) Posted 11.11.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Mark Lamster

Boom Goes Pop


Cover of Book
The book Irma Boom — Biography in Books on Mark Lamster's book shelf

A few months ago I used this space to profess my distaste for fat design monographs, the sort with images that run page after page and have minimal explanatory text. There was a time (the 1990s) when these books seemed interesting, but I now find them, more often than not, to be lazy, self-indulgent and ecologically wasteful.

The latest twist on the “fat book” phenomena comes from the Dutch designer Irma Boom, a pioneer of the format. (Her monograph on the textile artist Sheila Hicks is rightly considered a masterpiece.) In conjunction with a show of her work at the University of Amsterdam, Boom has created for herself a big book that is paradoxically small, a palm-sized phone book of 704-pages. Why make a book that’s roughly two inches tall and half as thick? This is what she told Alice Rawsthorn:

“The book is small because whenever I make a book, I start by making a tiny one. Usually I make five, six or seven for each book, as filters for my ideas and to help me to see the structure clearly. I have hundreds of those small books and am so fond of them. I’ve always wanted to make one for publication, but no one has ever wanted to do it. And I thought, well, this time, I can.”

As a souvenir of the show, if you happened to catch it, the book, Irma Boom — Biography in Books, manages to be charming in a useless kind of way. It’s packaged like a jewel in a white cardboard case, with Boom’s figure in silhouette on the back.

I will admit that I have not read the sparse commentary, inserted “here and there,” according to Boom, in 5.5 point Plantin. I imagine my ophthalmologist would not approve. Perhaps Stuart Little could read it while sitting in one of those miniature Eames chaises that seem to be so collectible. Frankly, I don’t get the point of those either, though at least they’re decorative. I’m afraid this book won’t quite have that kind of shelf life. Boom’s white cardboard case isn’t the kind of thing you want to show off on your living room mantle and the book itself isn’t going to stand up to prolonged exposure.

Bottom line: It’s a gimmick, even if a cute one. Next time, more substance please.

 

Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


Better Homes & Bunkers: The Fallout Shelter for the Nuclear Family


Fairy Tale Architecture: The Library of Babel


Bough Down


Sheila Bridges


From Russia With Doubt



RSS Subscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (6)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Couldn't agree more. Incredibly wasteful gimmick. They definitely need to read the first few chapters of Massimo Vignellis' Canon - Printing A4/A3/A5 utilizing paper and stopping such vagrant wastage. Let's keep 5.5 point size type for *terms and conditions. Idiots.
Matthew Brown
11.11.10 at 07:14

This writer is such a sourpuss.
an
11.11.10 at 11:52

Its interesting to see the ongoing attack against waste applied to something physically diminutive. What a malleable position neo-conservatism is.
Glen
11.12.10 at 07:41

It certainly is easy to be a critic ("I only like books that are 'just right'"). This post seems odd to find on DO.
tatermi
11.12.10 at 02:00

It's more than a gimmick - it's an artifact. Those who are as enormous fans of Boom's work as I am are happy to have this jewel of a memento.

I do wish it were larger for reading purposes, though. A PDF download for owners - that would solve it.
LeMel
11.12.10 at 05:45

Yes, LeMei, I'm with you: what's better than needing to access a 704 page pdf to decipher a miniature book!
plakaboy
11.12.10 at 08:04



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




|
Share This Story



Mark Lamster is the architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News and a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture. A contributing editor to Architectural Review, he is currently at work on his third book, a biography of the late architect Philip Johnson. Follow: @marklamster.
More >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS