Monday, August 29, 2011

Under Cover: a letterpress storybook

Letter-pressed work has a way—by it very tactility—of making the reader aware of the process of it's production.

In this limited edition book, Jacque Lynn pulls the reader further into the story by "breaking the third wall" and having the main character in the book interact with the reader—trying to escape the pages... Flipping the pages of the book causes an interaction between reader and character furthering the story line.

A limited letterpress edition {100} of Jacque Lynn’s charming children’s book, Under Cover. The story stems from the idea of a character literally coming to life.

32 pages, printed on Mohawk Superfine, 70lb paper
4″×5″ pamphlet stitched
Fabriano paper cover, Grey

Novelty elements and paper mechanics are employed to introduce a tiny boy who lives inside the book and is constantly trying to escape the page boundaries.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tree of Codes

Tree of Codes a newly released book by Jonathan Safran Foer, is a fantastic example of how the book is made can shape how a reader perceives the content. In this book the author has designed cutaways removeing words and parts of pages to reveal words and pages beneath. The main theme of the book is the story of “an enormous last day of life”. But with different die-cut on every page, the story is shaped and reshaped each time a reader turns the page. New relationships and juxtapositions between pages encourage new interpretations by the reader.

For more information, and a short video explanation from the author go to:

This approach to book writing and creation also reminds me of artist Brian Dettmer.

Instead of creating literature, Dettmer carves one page at a time from out-of-date books, re-purposing and reinterpreting them. Amazingly, he doesn't add anything to the books (with the exception of glue and binding materials) but only cuts away. By taking away material, these are books transformed into sculpture.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Intricate beauty by design: Marian Bantjes on

Intricate beauty by design:
Marian Bantjes on

I know many have seen this video already but I love what Marian Bantjes has to say about individuality in design work— specifically a personal approach to her own design work.

Traditional-mainstream design has been compared to a "Crystal Goblet"... allowing the message of the writer to come through a clear design. From this perspective, the designer's personality, interpretations, and style should not be visible to the reader.

Ergodic Design processes make this impossible—and for a reason.

The designer has something to add to a work, resonance, joy, understanding, added connections, interest, or a "sense of wonder" or even an ability to "evoke curiosity". Ergodic design has the capability of bringing a "world of wonder" to Adult Literature.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy

This book recently published by VISUAL EDITIONS is a clever production of Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

The book is purportedly about the life of Shandy—but it is really a big joke about such books. For example the story of his birth doesn't even appear until part three! He is often lost in tangents and side stories... the whole thing is a bit of a critique on the literature of its time.

They—the fine folks at visual editions—refer to the this book being an example of Visual Writing and define visual writing as, "writing that uses visual elements as an integral part of the writing itself. Visual elements can come in all shapes and guises: they could be crossed out words, or photographs, or die-cuts, or blank pages, or better yet something we haven’t seen. The main
thing is that the visuals aren’t gimmicky, decorative or extraneous, they are key to the story they are telling. And without them, that story would be something altogether different."

This also seems to describe Ergodic book design, except I would add that Ergodic book design also involves an expectation of active participation—beyond simple turning of the pages and reading*—from the reader.

This edition of Tristram Shandy was designed by A Practice for Everyday Life

I greatly look forward to reading this book!

Published 21 September 2010
ISBN 978-0-9565692-0-2
Paperback, 688 pages

*There's a great place for that "extranoematic" word again! HA! Bringing back dead language old school style! Word. =)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

House of Leaves

House of Leaves is a postmodern horror book that was designed by it's author—Mark Z. Danielewski. It is often described as being "Ergodic Literature" because the author designed the layout as a part of the experience of reading the book.

How the reader reads the book affects how the book is perceived—but lets have a look, because well it's just better to see:

Both the book jacket and the book cover contain elements described in the book itself—and like a highlights magazine contain hidden messages in the images.

There are whole parallel stories lines given in footnotes and editors notes. The footnote sections can go on for pages... causing the reader to choose which story line to follow for the given time and forcing them to backtrack and retrace steps to pick up on the former story again.

The book contain notes within the notes adding complexity to complexity—as well as containing references to other literary works—many of which don't exist... some of the sections are presented sideways, upside down emanating from the corner of the page or even in mirror image... by designing the layout of the book this way the author has forced the reader to interact with the physicality of the text-turning and rotating the book to read it and even holding it in front of a mirror.

in some sections of the text the feeling of anxiety is increased by making the area so small that holds the text that it only takes a fraction to read the snippet contained on each page—coupled with the small size of the text. Now picture the reader—holding the book close to read, flipping through the book at a fast clip. Compound that by the story line where the protagonist is being pursued through a narrow tunnel by a dark foreboding figure... Makes your blood pressure go up just thinking about it.

The design of a book acts as the intermediary between author and reader—in most cases going unseen—playing a roll only to make the text not only legible but also readable. However, in the case of ergodic design the designers "voice" is seen in the choices they make when laying the text out.

House of Leaves is ofter cited as an example of ergodic literature because of the way that the design and story interact with the reader. But what is the difference between ergodic Literature and ergodic design?

Ergodic Literature is when a book's story is originally intended to have these interactive elements and is planned by the author as a part of the reading experience. It is the planned result from the beginning of the creative process. A book that was from its inception planned to have elemental interaction.

Ergodic Design is the process where a designer (it may or may not be the author) works with the content of the text and interprets or colors the text as an actor might color or interpret a part on stage or screen.

Ergodic Design can also describe the resulting work.

Additions are sometimes made, information presented in a compelling and sometimes challenging way—but what makes it ergodic in its design is that the way in which the material is present, and the processes that presentation forces on the reader, changes and effects the way that the material is perceived as opposed to if the same text had been present in a more expected or straightforward manner...

Monday, February 14, 2011


1999 marked the 50th anniversary of the printing of George Orwell's 1984. Secker & Warburg marked the event by publishing a wonderfully lush printing of the classic text.

Illustrations communicate the dark foreboding tone of the novel opposed to actual scenes. (The Illustrations are reproductions of silk screened collages by Alex Williamson)

The design of the actual book itself—done by Robbie Mahoney—is I believe, a moving example of Ergodic Design. The sensation of being watched, of annoyingly obtrusive blaring announcements, and of shifts in tone are communicated through clever sometimes subtle shifts in the design.

A brilliant stroke to have the "two minutes hate" in red against yellow background, communicates the harsh invasiveness of the blaring announcements.

Boxes appear on each page mark section changes and reveal that "big brother" is always there... and on the spine of the book the words "is watching" is embossed under the book jacket—just as a reminder.

Clear varnish text on the endpapers remind the reader that "war is peace", "freedom is slavery", and "ignorance is strength"...

And then there is this subtle change in the weight of the font that communicates the change in the scene—of hope turning to despair...

I wonder if visual elements, like these, might make a book more accessible to some contemporary readers, who might not otherwise be interested in reading classic literature.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Analog Hyperlinks in a Print Book...

I had played around before with the idea of links in books—like cross references and foot notes—but this project is so amazingly over the top! Actual threads run through the book! The content is a model of a dream about dreaming... using the format to explore different dream theories.

This Woman SEWED Hyperlinks into her book—my mind reels...

go to Maria Fischer's—Visuelle Kommunikation @
for more images and a description of the content!

Friday, February 11, 2011


I'm Kat Fon. I'm a design educator, and a designer.

I love books. I love to read, hold, touch, design, smell... well you get the idea... I love books. It stems from an interest in typography and design geek-ery. It is also born of a love for the written word and spinning a good yarn—I was born in Texas, and Texans know how to lay out a narrative. It's all about *how* the story is told—the content is the payoff–not just the end of a story.

This can be the case with interpretative and interactive design of a print book.

This Blog is all about how a story, or rather a narrative, winds its way to it's final destination—not being overly concerned with the destination itself. It is a collection of things that explore this idea.