Artifice talks to our books!

May 31, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

Artifice posted an interesting blurb about our books a few weeks ago. You can see the entire post here. Basically the question is raised: does high-design detract from or overshadow the work encompassed/portrayed by that design. It’s pretty awesome that the GL is mentioned as an example of what she’s thinking on and talking about. In their words:

Because highly designed is “in.” It’s part of what makes the “celebrity culture” of indie presses run. How many times have you bought a book based on the cover design on a website?

Tim Jones-Yelvington (an Issue #1 contributor who has become a good friend) and I were recently at Quimby’s, a local indie bookstore, picking up books published by Green Lantern Press.

They make me want them. All of them. They flip the consumer switch in me, which doesn’t want fancy jewelry to show off, but rather understated little jewel-books. Is that bad? It is true that I first said about them, “I love Green Lantern Press; their books are so gorgeous” rather than “I love Green Lantern Press; the authors they publish are so good.”

Is this a problem? Are presses and magazines that focus on highly designed layouts giving people the carrot in order to try and convince them to like the stick, too? I don’t know: as soon as I sat down with a couple of Green Lantern’s books, I revised my thinking. “I love Green Lantern Press; their books are so gorgeous and the authors they publish are so good.”

Then I found this response also pretty interesting. You can read the entire post by going here.

Secondly, too much focus on design is just annoying — not from the perspective of the press, the journal, the designers. They should absolutely devote resources to design. From the perspective of the reader. The point of design is not just to look good; it’s at least as much about usability. A really beautiful spoon is not necessarily a well-designed spoon unless it’s merely an art object; if you’re actually supposed to eat soup with it, good design implies that it’s pleasurable to use, that it gets the job done in an elegant way. And I feel like some journals, both print and online, put so much effort into looking hot, into trying to impress readers with the design itself rather than the content, that it’s actually difficult to focus on or even physically read the stories. (Or, if it’s an online magazine, it’s difficult to navigate the pages.) A sign of good design is that the object is so functional you don’t think about the object too much; it just does what it does and does it well. You can focus on the process at hand, in this case reading.

It’s also weird how in Small Press Land, there’s an insane amount of focus on who put a book out. If you say you have a book or just read a book, someone always asks immediately who put it out. What press is it on? This reminds me of junior high, when every compliment on an article of clothing or piece of jewelry was followed up with “Where did you get it?” or “What brand is that?” I remember being really embarrassed in seventh grade when someone noticed that my knock-off Birks were fake. Too much spooging over design feels like a kind of snobbery (duh, fancy design usually costs significantly more) and superficiality. When you’re talking about a new album you love, only the ultimate music snob asks what label it’s on.

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