Designing Books: Practice and Theory


Hochuli, Jost & Kinross, Robin

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Artikelnr: 5662 Kategorier: , ,


Hyphen Press, London. 1996. First edition. 168 pages. Small 4to (26 x 17,5 cm). Cloth with dust jacket, spine a little bit faded, otherwise in great condition. 240 two-colour pictures. An introduction by Robin Kinross outlines Hochul’s work and its significance.

A vastly experienced Swiss book-designer explains his trade with plentiful illustrations of designed books. Two complementary components are added: an essay by Hochuli on some dogmas of typography, and arguing for an attitude of critical openness of mind and reproduction of books designed by Hochuli himself, with analytical captions by Kinross.

Jost Hochuli is a graphic designer and typographer working in St Gallen, East Switzerland. Brought up in the orthodoxy of modernist ‘Swiss typography’, his work shows a gradual diversification away from that single-track approach. This book is a fruit of thirty years of experience in the field in which he has come to specialize: book design.

The text of a lecture by Hochuli, ‘Book design as a school of thought’, then provides the ‘theory’ part of the book. The theme is symmetry as an inherent component of any book, with the spine as the axis of bilateral symmetry. Any book designer has to deal with this fundamental. Theories of asymmetry in book design, as propagated since the ‘new typography’ of the 1920s and 1930s, have to be judged in this light. Hochuli argues for an open approach that will use whatever configuration – symmetrical or asymmetrical – is appropriate.

The second and central component of the book is ‘Designing books’. This was published first in 1990 by Agfa Compugraphic (and, as a trade publication, received only limited circulation). It is given here in revised form. Hochuli’s method in this essay is to isolate fundamental and constituent parts of books and the processes of making them: specialist terminology, format, page proportions, choice of typeface, categories of book (reference, illustrated, extended reading, poetry, etc) recurring design problems such as title page, contents pages, bibliographies paper, binding, jacket, and ‘total design’. Each of these topics is concisely considered, in no more than a page or so of text, illustrated with diagrams and appropriate examples, precisely described in captions. These illustrations, showing spreads from many books, constitute an anthology of book design.

The third and final section shows books designed by Hochuli himself, chronologically arranged, with extended captions by Kinross.

The book, designed by Hochuli and made in Switzerland to the highest standards, embodies its own arguments.


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