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THE BRIEF - Something for nothing

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PART ONE - Generating content

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This report is a reflection on the experience and the work done during the final industry project of the second year at Lcc. We had the chance to collaborate with Nicholas and William of Nous Vous, an illustration and graphic design studio based in London and they guided us during the first part of this project. Although they are mainly an image making studio, with them we developed a collaborative publication and we focused on the book design rather on illustrations. Moreover it was a chance to collaborate with one or more component of the class and generate a publication that included all or only a selection of the work done during the weekly sessions. The outcome you will see was born from the collaboration between me and my classmate and friend Arianna Carboni and this booklet will explore the process that led to the final outcome, all the reasons and choices behind what you see and the difficulties and the solutions we found during our journey.


THE BRIEF - something for nothing

The aim of this project was to produce a collaborative publication and we were free to work independently or to collaborate with one or more members of the class. During the first workshops we were asked to generate content starting from one image or one object (or sound or text) we had to bring at the session. We could bring every kind of thing but they had to be related to the subjects of Work-Play-Art-Craft and from the first production of images we could then borrow and modify our colleagues’ drawings or sketch something completely new. The only compulsory thing was to use as a starting point something that we generate during the sessions. From this body of work we could give the project any direction in terms of content, layout, size and we were free to experiment with different printing techniques and binding. The project was divided into two stages: during the first part we could develop the concept and the content with the support of William and Nicholas from the Nous Vous. They helped us in generating ideas starting from simple things and they shared with us their knowledge on the printing techniques and how to give a coherent and uniform feeling even when different people produce the content. At the end of this stage we had to generate our first experiment and we received the feedback from William and Nicholas. The second part of the project continued with the improvements based on the feedbacks from the industry and the help of sessions with our tutors at Lcc and the production of the final outcome. 4


During the first session we were asked to bring an image and something that was not an image (like an abject or sound) and we started to generate content picking up one of them and elaborate what we had in front of us drawing, adding or linking or writing shorts stories inspired by what we chose. We hanged the results on the wall and we took pictures or photocopied all the work produced in order to continue to add content borrowing other peoples’ stories or drawing and continue what they started. The result was interesting because the changes we made on other peoples’ work lead to completely new directions and intentions and the mixing and layering of two different people generated interesting and unexpected result. At this stage we also opened a group on Facebook where we could share all the illustrations and texts produced with the whole group and we started to form collaborations between two or more people or we could decide to work independently. Personally I collaborated with Arianna by chance, we talked about it and we decided to see if we wanted to go in the same direction. We talked about our preferences of the drawings we saw in class and what captured our attention and we tried to find a point in between. I liked that she was concentrated on the concept and on the meaning rather than only making something nice to see so we finally decided to work together. The illustrations I did so far were a development of a fake thumb and a quote from a text that someone wrote in the first workshop and there was no particular interesting story apart of the one of a vegetarian thumb butcher. Arianna liked them but when she showed to me the text that impressed her the most I decided to abandon all the drawings I did and we agreed to concentrate on the story that Zain Malik wrote in the first session.



The first step was to analyse the full story and write down the main points that should have been developed. During the sessions together me and Arianna, we progressively cut all the superfluous parts of the story that were leading us too far (like the Victorian Era historic period) and we finally came out with a shorter but more coherent story. A music box maker made a box for her daughter Emily for her birthday. But before the gift could be given Emily died from a tragic accident and the box was buried with her. Many years later the box was found by grave robbers which later made its way to an antique shop. The concept of the project now rotated around the music box and the idea of the ‘present’ for a special occasion as a birthday from a father to a daughter. We focused then on the content of the music box and what could be inside and we finally came out with the idea that being a music box maker, the father could have left some songs. We then narrowed down from an entire long song to the choice of quotations extracted from songs that could reflect a wish from a father to a daughter or message and a teaching for her future life.


The second step was to find a format for the music box and how to represent it. The first ideas were around a true box and we sketched some ways to build one where we could put drawings inside but we then came out directly with the choice of a pile of wooden pages where to illustrate the presents the music box maker wanted to give to her daughter. We researched on the various shapes of the music box and how they look like in order to give the publication the same feeling. This research was quite important because we based our developments on the pictures we found in terms of aesthetic and feeling like the paper, the wood and the thickness, visual graphics and typefaces. For the content we researched some songs that contained a sort of teaching and that if the quote was read outside the entire song, could be an instruction or a wish for someone you really care of. The first idea was to have a wooden book were the wooden pages were linked somehow and then hanged on the wall in order to keep the book more as an object rather than a publication you then throw away or forget to have. One side was supposed to be for the text and the illustrations and the other side for a big illustration of a phoenix to represent the rebirth of the dead daughter of the story. We wanted the final shape to be squared once hanged and the phoenix big in the centre. On the other side we wanted to play with different typefaces and lettering and illustrate graphically what the song wanted to transmit. However we struggled with the linking of the pages from a single squared shape to a bigger to hang on the wall so we went for a wooden concertina. During the sessions with our tutor Paul Jackson we discussed together the style of the illustrations and the way they could be translated and reproduced into wood. If painted on top the book was loosing his characteristic of publication and was more an object of art so Paul suggested us to transfer with the acetone if we could not use the screenprint. Finally we planned to have a sort of wrap stripe around the book where we could write the story we started from and that recalled the audience to the stripe used in the music box and gave the overall book more an idea of a music box. At this point of the project by coincidence both me and Arianna we had two big loss in our private life (and was quite ‘ironic’ considering the theme of our collaborative publication) and was quite hard to manage the continuation of the choices for the illustrations, typography and the design of the first outcome we had to produce for the final Nous Vous session so the work appeared a bit disconnected, different and not really cured enough. 7

first outcome and feedbacks

The first outcome was a rough experiment and I had not a lot of time to make all the improvements I wanted to give a more professional look. I chose to use hinges to bind together the wooden pages in order to have a double-sided concertina that worked as a book and that had all the songs and the texts in one side and the phoenix in the other one. The final opened shape was not squared so the drawing of the phoenix was adapted to the length of the final book. Inside I tried to give a continuity and rhythm between pages, texts and images although the result was too confusing. The illustrations were simple and graphic because they had to be transferred with the acetone, but the final result was too light for the colours while the black was transferred perfectly. In Illustrator I draw the same motif of the music box stripe and that was the wrap around the book where was written also the short story that gave birth to the whole project. The final session with Nous Vous was very useful and even though the hard days and the awareness that I could not do more than the final first outcome, I gathered very interesting feedback from both the industry and my colleagues. We were free to comment and make questions about all the publication of our class and discuss together the printing techniques and the concepts behind the final artwork. I saw how people reacted in front of the book and seemed that the narrative was not clear to them even if I noticed they were quite attracted from the wood. Nicholas and William seemed interested to the project and the fact that it was more an art book or an object rather than a publication that could be printed several time. Moreover they liked the concept and the reproduction of the story into a physical and tactile object and from the written feedback we received the overall grade was quite good being only a quick prototype. However they gave us some tips to improve the second final outcome in terms of aesthetic and reproducibility of the publication. They said that the binding had to be improved and the hinges were quite uncomfortable and went to the detriment of the visual appearance and narrative of the book. Everyone seemed to like the acetone technique but in some cases it was too light and some parts were not clear or could not be read perfectly even if it gave to the book a real feeling of something old and buried. Finally they pointed out the paper used for the wrap that was too white and shiny and the feeling didn’t match with the wood and the old box. 8


part two - improvements

The second part of the project continued, like the first concept one, in a real collaborative way. Helping each other digesting the past bad weeks, me and Arianna, we planned together the next choices to take considering the feedbacks received but sticking to the initial idea and concept of the box and the idea of a book as an object. Arianna chose a darker, thicker and more venous wood that suited more the story and the material of the music box and being so thick it could reproduce the exact shape of a squared box with six pages and with the sandpaper we worked the surface and rounded the angles. For the content we used the same songs but we decided to have one page for each song with a side for the illustration and the other for the text. For the illustrations we abandoned the acetone technique because it was to light and we painted directly on the wood with acrylics and the result was much brighter and the wood left an old feeling. Moreover we tried to change the illustrations, make them more consistent and join more our works and style trying to give the impression that were made from the same person even if we worked independently. Chris May suggested us to choose only one or two typefaces for the texts instead of the too playful version of the first outcome and we opted for Impact and Bebas Neue that could be perfectly read especially because we wanted to lasercut them for the final edition. The lasercut session was really interesting because the result our wood produced was completely unexpected and generated like different layers or stripes or levels of deepen. We decided to lasercut also the names of the songs we took the quote from and do it in the side of the squared page, exactly as a CD side. In this way it was probably more clear the intent and the meaning of what the possible audience could read. For the binding we thought that there was no point to have hinges because the pages don’t have necessarily to follow an order and if, for example, in a shell, the pages could stand-alone by themselves independently. Finally we worked a lot on the paper and the final touch of the wrapping stripe. Paul Jackson wanted us to focus and pay more attention on the typeface used and addressed us to a sans serif, more modern like Akzidenz Grotesk rather than the serifed American Typewriter we used. Both Paul and Tara said that with too many different typefaces it could be interpreted as too many different voices and generate confusion even though I motivated the initial choice explaining that we needed another ‘voice’ as an external narrator that writes the story of the box many years later after the found. On the stripe, we then modified the rounded corner and we were suggested to have more modern and squared one and borrow elements from the original stripes as much as we could. Finally we put a matt transparent protection to the final artwork as William an Nicholas suggested us in order to give a more professional and finished look. 10






This project was a great chance to produce something unusual even though being a publication, the choices we made were a bit extreme. However I am quite happy with the final result and he choice of producing a sort of limited edition give the book a kind of authority and more reason to be bought if compared with common repetitive zines and publications. Moreover I was really excited to have the chance to finally attend the workshops with Nous Vous, who I had the chance to contact and interview for the PPD last term and I silently admire since a long time. They were really kind with us, always positive, helpful and ready to support. Moreover I enjoyed this first collaboration with Arianna and even though we had so much pressure from our external personal life, we helped each other and I hope that it can strengthen our friendship. Hopefully we could continue in future to develop and improve this book and maybe try to show it to some, even if rare, publishing houses specialised in this kind of limited copies and handmade books (like one based in S. Francisco I recently found finepress/s/sf-center-for-the-book.html) or as Arianna suggested, it could be developed promoting it through a blog or online.