work blog about search

Irma Boom, amazing book designer


We trundled over to the Royal Festival Hall last night to catch the D&AD lecture by the wonderful book designer Irma Boom.

She was introduced by Simon Waterfall, the new D&AD president, who seems like a charming chap, and who described his guest speaker as "mad as a box of snakes".

Irma kicked off the lecture by reading out a list of words that describe her work. She started with a lot of words that began with the letter A, and you could almost hear the collective thoughts of the audience as they realised where it was leading: "Hmm. A list or words beginning with 'A'. Oh! She's moved on to words beginning with 'B'. This could take a while, but probably she's just doing an ABC of book design. Oh... no... it is in fact the entire alphabet."

500 or so words later, it felt like it was going to be a long, long lecture.

But not a bit of it. Irma Boom is utterly fascinating, and her work is quite simply stunning. She used a sort of live-action overhead projector thing (a document camera), which meant that as she flipped through her books, we could see them on the projection screen.

She talked us through her career book by book, in great and fascinating detail, so much so that she ran out of time, despite being given an extra half hour. We would have happily listened for another hour.

Her book design seems to embody a sort of (at times literally) rough-edged sensuality, as well as a real sense of luxury, whether that be in her use of materials, or the sheer extent of her books - the book she created for Dutch conglomerate SHV ran to 2136 pages.

Check out more about her in the following links:

Design Museum: a good biography
Tyotheque: interview from Abitare, discussing the SHV book and the Otto Treumann monograph
Eye magazine: review of The Book as sculpture, created to commemorate her winning The Gutenburg Prize her personal website, but currently under construction

(Image: SHV, courtesy of the Design Museum site.)

posted: 19 September 2007
categories: Books | Events | Graphics
recommended reading

Ace Jet 170
One of the finest individual design blogs (it’s been going as long as we have!) from Irish designer Richard Weston. Covering found type, print and stuff.

Casual Optimist
If you want to know what’s happening in the world of book cover design, keep an eye on this excellent blog by Dan Wagstaff.

Creative Review
Covering design and advertising, CR has been running since 1981, under the editorship of Patrick Burgoyne since 1999. Essential reading.

Daniel Gray
Dan writes a column in Creative Review, and this is his consistently entertaining blog about design and suchlike.

Eye Magazine
The best graphic design magazine out there, from editor John L. Walters and art director Simon Esterson.

Flat File
A fantastic collection of online publications based on pieces from the Herb Lubalin Study Centre.

Grafik is the brilliant online magazine about all things graphic design, from writers Caroline Roberts and Angharad Lewis.

Justin’s Amazing World
Justin Hobson, of Fenner Paper, is a bona fide expert on paper & print, and a charming chap to boot. His blog features in-depth analysis of the projects he’s worked on, including a few of our own.
One of the oldest blogs on the web. And one of the best.

Lecture in Progress
An invaluable collection of wisdom from a range of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers et al. From the team that brought you It’s Nice That.

Spitalfields Life
The anonymous Gentle Author of this wonderful blog has promised to write 10,000 stories about the life & culture of Spitalfields in east London, writing one story each and every day.

St Bride Library
The St Bride Library houses one of the world’s finest collection of books (& related objects) about printing and design. It also hosts unmissable design talks and events.

Styling and Salvage
Rupert Blanchard is a mate of ours, and makes great furniture. This blog covers his projects, interests, and life in Margate.
Brooklyn-based designer Khoi Vinh has been writing insightfully about design, technology and culture since the turn of the millennium.

The Ride Journal
A glorious mix of the very best writing and illustration about all types of cycling. On an indefinite break now, but you can download past issues for free.