This Sunday, Brooklyn's Beginnings (110 Meserole Ave) hosts a book release for Warp and Weft: Poster Construction by Sonnenzimmer as well as a pop-up shop.
Curious about the new book on poster construction, we asked Chicago designer Zach Dodson (who co-edited the book with featherproof books cohort Jonathan Messinger) what he learned working on the project with "Wabi-Sabi design masters" Sonnenzimmer, AKA Chicago-based studio of Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi. Here's what he told us.
1. How to approach things (and people) thoughtfully. Wabi-Sabi principles: Simplicity and Modesty
Anyone can stumble onto a good design. But how to achieve amazing results consistently? The answer: Process. Long, thoughtful, intentional process. And when it comes to process, the Chicago art and design studio Sonnenzimmer have got it down pat.
When they tapped Jonathan Messinger and I at the small press we run, featherproof books, to lend a hand editing their first ever full length book, we jumped at the chance to take a peak inside their process, and be part of the fun. Also, they were so kind and humble and funny in their approach, how could we say no? They acted thankful that we were working with them every step of the way, though we should have really been then thankful ones. This is a great approach to collaboration.
And the results are amazing. Sonnenzimmer has got a style all its own.
2. How to pay attention to the hiccups, go with the flow, and be patient. Wabi-Sabi principles: Imperfection and Acceptance
What's the Sonnenzimmer process like? In the limb-bound, foil-stamped Warp and Weft, they get down and dirty with some of their best posters, analyzing each in terms of pop culture, art history, and formal composition. If anyone knows how to take advantage of the ‘happy accident’ it’s Sonnenzimmer. The compositional reads are broken out into schematics to show you how each poster is meant to be read, graphically. He's responsible for the stunning look and feel of the entire book. There were hiccups editing and due to some crazy life circumstances I fell off the grid for a few weeks while Jonathan picked up the slack. The road was bumpy at times but without the struggle the book would be completely different.
The book (designed by by Alex Fuller of the hippie cult Post Family) provides a fascinating peak inside Sonnenzimmer's thoughtful poster-making process. They brought the same level of care and attention to the process of creating a book. Typically, we met at their space, they asked questions and debated (sometimes with us, sometimes with each other) every aspect of the book, and how it could get across what it was like to work inside their small art and design studio. We were on a schedule, and passed many rounds of revisions back and forth, pruning, editing, expanding, smoothing the edges, and tightening down the hatches until the book as a whole was a perfectly balanced, well-executed piece of art.
Just like their posters! Some of which subscribe to the Japanese principles of Wabi-Sabi.
3. Just what the hell Wabi-Sabi is.
A mystical, nostalgic Japanese philosophy of beauty, focused around the imperfections created by nature, aging, and accident. It’s the scar on the otherwise perfect face, the stains on a teapot from years of use, and the faded, cracking autumn leaves. You wanna see that philosophy exercised in the wild world of rock posters? Then you should buy and study your own copy of Warp and Weft.
Warp and Weft: Poster Construction by Sonnenzimmer
Book Release and Pop-up Shop
Sunday, Feb 24, 11–4pm
110 Meserole Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Those living in the Washington, D.C. area in the '80s circa the Iran-Contra scandal might remember the bold graphic poster emblazoned with "Meese Is A Pig" popping up around the city. They were hard to miss for commuters and locals alike. The posters appeared overnight and were visible on various public spaces. The graphics were clearly aimed at Reagan cabinet member and advisor Edwin Meese who was enmeshed in Iran/Contra and also the champion of various far-right causes in the administration. The poster campaign got national attention. Soon, the poster's creator, Jeff Nelson (of Dischord Records and Minor Threat fame) was revealed. With respect to Nelson's album sleeve and logo designs (among our favorites ever!), his "Meese Is A Pig" poster remains his masterpiece. Nelson sold T-shirts with the image, which covered his printing costs and the graphics lived on long after the street campaign was over. With Edwin Meese back in the news as the backer a government shutdown and national anti-Obamacare efforts, we're pleased to see "Meese Is A Pig" getting its due.
Detroit boasts a history of legendary axmen—Jack White, Ted Nugent, Robert White, Wayne Kramer and Dennis Coffey to name a few. And now, thanks to the passion project of commercial real estate director and woodworker Mark Wallace, the next great musician on that list may kick out the jams with a guitar made from a chunk of the city itself.
Built in a Corktown workshop, Wallace Detroit Guitars are fashioned from wood salvaged from the city’s recently demolished buildings. Each instrument will be branded with the address of the home that provided the wood, reinforcing the local heritage of the material.
So far, Wallace has created two prototypes that need to be tested, but a recent $8,000 matching grant from the Knight Foundation should allow him to expand production. Eventually, he wants the finished product to include more salvaged material from other local companies, like a strap made out of leftovers auto parts.
“One of the great things about Detroit is the collaboration,” he says. “Everyone wants to work together because they know they’re making the city a better place.”
Wallace's project is currently getting off the ground thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation.
The excellent design blog Thisispaper is now available, wait for it, in paper. We queried editor Zuzzana Gasior on the new print mag.
What is Thisispaper for those unfamiliar?
As Thisispaper we are now running two different, but interweaving projects. Thisispaper Magazine is where we share our inspirations and obsessions from multiple fields of design. Our roots are in the digital world but we find print equally alluring. We started off as an online magazine and continue running it, by we have recently ventured into print and released Thisispaper Magazine Inaugural Issue in paper and ink. Thisispaper Shop is our second, younger brainchild. It’s an online store with hand made products.
Which designers have been selected for the issue, how did you decide who to include?
The full list of featured designers is as follows: Studio Glithero, Faye Toogood, Formafantasma, Phoebe English, Nina Donis, Feilden Fowles Architects; photographers Kanoa Zimmerman and Marcel van der Vlugt; artist Anouk Griffioen.
The selection process was simple. We decided to feature designers whose work we’re impressed by and who have a strong conceptual background behind their work. We were particularly curious to find out about their creative process so we chose the ones that put emphasis on the process, not just the finished product.
Why do you think a print publication was necessary?
As you will quickly discover when you open the magazine, some of the interviews are quite massive, and were intended to be so from the start. We wanted to explore the designers’ creative processes in depth. Such content lives better in a tangible book that online. While surfing the web, people focus on image and have a short attention span and it’s not the best environment to present content that requires a careful reading. Plus we’re really drawn to the beauty of a printed object, the texture of paper, smell of paint and so on.
Thisispaper.com was an ironic name, but now it has a literal meaning.
Good point. Since Thisispaper is an umbrella term for both the site and the magazine, it now means that digital and print can coexist without undermining one another’s position. This is due to the fact that they are good for different things. The content that we feature online is much more image-based, while for print we look for something that requires more time and effort to absorb.
You're based in Warsaw, does that surprise a lot of your readers?
It does come as a surprise sometimes, but mostly to people in Poland. When they see Thisispaper they don’t expect it to be a Warsaw-based endeavor (love the word).
The print publication is a very limited run. Why is that? Do you hope to expand? Is it harder or easier to do a print magazine in Poland?
The print publication is not a limited run. We will print as many copies as there is demand for. 250 is the minimal number that we need to reach in the pre-order period to print the magazine, but there is no maximum limit on how many copies we will print. That said, it’s hard to imagine a situation when Thisispaper is available on every newsstand
Nowadays when distribution mostly happens online, printing a ad-free magazine is a comparable experience in Warsaw and everywhere else. It would probably be harder for us, though, is we were trying to attract sponsors.
Where can one get the print magazine?
Online at thisispapershop.com/product/thisispaper-inaugural-issue or soon at some local stores worldwide.
Do you accept contributions and pitches?
We do. See here for possible ways of working with us: welcome.thisispaper.com
While Swedish students may not have to worry about the same tuition bills as their American counterparts enrolled in private colleges, they do have to contend with a small scale housing crisis. A growing number of students are priced out of conventional apartments. So the architects at Tengbom are testing a housing system at Lund University that would reduce each apartment to just over 100 square feet. The studios have 13 foot ceilings and multiple windows to counteract the small footprint, and use lightly colored sustainable wood as a primary building material. The houses are completely independent from one another, but the plan is to build clusters of about 22 units for a kind of modified communal living. [images via Bertil Hertzberg]