concept to publication

Category: graphic design Page 1 of 4

Riso Circles

An Exhibit of Riso Printing and Community at San Francisco State University

I attended an exhibit of Riso printing presented at San Francisco State under the auspices of the faculty and students of the Design Gallery class of the department of Visual Communication. And now I want to do Riso printing!

Riso is a kind of marriage of photocopying and silkscreening.
Artistic effects reminiscent of silkscreen can be achieved through the low-cost photomechanical process, in which ink is mixed from separate colored drums.
Riso printers from around the world shared samples of their work, some of which are shown here on the center tables. On the left in this photo is an interactive portion of the exhibit in which visitors can apply colored fingerprints to see the effect of different color overlays. On the right are highlights of student interviews with Riso printers from around the world.
Contributed work can be seen not only on the tables and display stands but also on the far wall.

In the words (almost) of a famous possum (and I would vote for him now), I GO RISO!

Vitruvian Man (detail), by Leonardo da Vinci.

On Aspect Ratios

La condition humaine, 1933, by René Magritte. Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Gift of the Collectors Committee1987.55.1.

La condition humaine, 1933, by René Magritte. Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Gift of the Collectors Committee1987.55.1. The aspect ratio of the work on Magritte’s easel is about 1:1.2.

Most photographic and print publication work involves operating within rectangular frames. The relationship of width to height is the aspect ratio, expressed as, for example, 1:1 for a square, 1:1.5 for a 6 x 9 book, or 1:2  for a sheet that is twice as wide as it is tall. Conventionally, the width is stated first: that 6 x 9 book is in portrait format, whereas a 9 x 6 book would be landscape, bound on the short side, and most inconvenient to read.

A special case is the golden section or golden ratio, a rectangle with the proportion 1:1.618 (between 3/5ths and 5/8ths). In this rectangle the smaller dimension is to the larger as the larger is to the sum. In other words, 1 is to 1.618 as 1.618 is to 2.618. And as 2.618 is to 4.236, and so on. This relationship, which can be extended indefinitely, was known since classical times, and it underlies the Fibonacci Series and the modular architecture of Le Corbusier, among other expressions. Gustav Theodor Fechner, a German scientist, studied people’s responses to rectangular shapes in 1876 and concluded that the golden section is the most pleasing, though his methodology and results have been questioned. But other aspect ratios also have historic and aesthetic associations.

Mailbag: 10 Design Trends

Design trends graphic (detail).

Design trends graphic (detail).

I received an e-mail from Katie Smith of Creative Market calling my attention to their infographic on design trends of the past year. “f you feel this article is a good fit for your audience then please feel free to pass it along with your blog post,” she wrote. As it happens, I do think it is worth sharing. The ten trends are “Flat 2.0; bold, playful typography; whimsical illustrations; the new retro; motion; minimalist logotypes; geometric shapes; print-inspired (analogue printing influenced); abstract Swiss; movies and cartoons.” Has abstract Swiss been trendy for eighty years now?

I’m not a trendy designer myself, but still, it’s worth keeping up with what’s going on. The graphic itself is a good example of  a type of current information design (which I generally like). Note that the graphic is followed by discussion further down the page. Click through the portion of the graphic displayed above or click here for the original post.

Ginger Beer Label

ginger beer label

Since I’m taking a batch of my homemade ginger beer to an event in a few days I slapped up this little label for it. It goes on a recycled orange juice container.

The font is Bau Pro.

For odd-sized labels I use full-sheet Avery labels and trim them down with a paper cutter. (Mine are for my color laser printer, but they also make an ink-jet version.)

I can see I need to top this bottle up a bit!



50 books designed

I realized recently that I’ve designed at least 50 books (those are the ones I can remember). No wonder I feel as tired as Madelaine Kahn in Blazing Saddles. I made a page documenting this dubious achievement. Click the image below to visit it.

50 books designed by tom christensen


River of Ink: the cover

river of ink cover

This is what I’m thinking of for the cover of my new book, a selection of my essays. We’ll see if my publisher likes it.

I’m happy again to also be the book’s designer/typesetter. The image is a photo I took of the Castel San Giogio, an early castle (ca. 1400) in Mantua, Italy. Mantua is built amid lakes rather like my old home town of Madison, Wisconsin.

For the cover I darkened the water, but not so much that it is just a solid color–it still retains reflections, although that is hard to see in this image.

How well do you see color?

color challenge

I proof color professionally in my job as a museum publications specialist, and I feel like I’m pretty good at it. So I was pleased to get the confirmation of a perfect score in this interesting color test. Give it a try!


Pantone Chip Cookies

Kim Neill at tells you how to bake them.

Project Thirty-Three

lp graphic design

Project Thirty-Three aims to connect the dots:

The seemingly infinite number of vintage record jackets that convey their message with simple shapes like the dot never ceases to amaze and amuse me. Project Thirty-Three is my personal collection and shrine to these expressive dots along with their slightly less jovial but equally effective cousins; squares, rectangles and triangles, and the designers that make them come to life on album covers.


via Swiss Miss


Mistakes designers make

Tara at Graphic Design Blog lists seven mistakes beginning designers make. It’s a pretty good list — I see the first item a lot.

  1. Producing two or more design concepts that are very similar
  2. Adding things in rather than taking them away
  3. Concentrating on features rather than benefits
  4. Not targeting the right audience or having enough gravitas
  5. Not presenting the finished design in the best way possible.
  6. Not sketching first
  7. Underselling your design work

Read more at Graphic Design Blog.

“Books” in the age of the IPad

books on an infinite plane on the ipad platform

Craig Mod makes an interesting case for celebrating the (supposed) demise of “disposable books” — he elaborates at some length a simple distinction between books where the content and form are integral and those where they are independent — and welcoming the IPad as a reading platform. Here’s a sample:

We’re losing the dregs of the publishing world: disposable books. The book printed without consideration of form or sustainability or longevity. The book produced to be consumed once and then tossed. The book you bin when you’re moving and you need to clean out the closet.

These are the first books to go. And I say it again, good riddance.

Once we dump this weight we can prune our increasingly obsolete network of distribution. As physicality disappears, so too does the need to fly dead trees around the world.

You already know the potential gains: edgier, riskier books in digital form, born from a lower barrier-to-entry to publish. New modes of storytelling. Less environmental impact. A rise in importance of editors. And, yes — paradoxically — a marked increase in the quality of things that do get printed.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything in that last paragraph were true! Unfortunately, part of this is fiction writing. Check out the NYT bestseller list and see if you can observe “a marked increase in the quality of things that do get printed.”

To me the most interesting part of Mod’s argument is his vision for booklike content that disposes of the metaphor of the page, as shown in the image above (the image is Mod’s). In this vision the content metaphor is not the bound book but the East Asian handscroll, on which stories were rolled out continuously from one end to the other rather than proceeding page by page.

The book is a perfected technology, but why should the electronic platform inherit the binding metaphor?


Link: Books in the Age of the IPad


Rag or justified?

rag or justified? These are preliminary design pages for a new book about the art of Bali. The font is Garamond Premier Pro. The image is a cool piece by I Ketut Ngendon (1903–1948) called Goodbye and Good Luck to Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, 1938 (Batuan, Bali. Ink on paper. Mary Catherine Bateson).

The pages are the same, except that in one spread the main text block is ragged and in the other it is justified. I’m curious which version people prefer.

Sites we like: The Art of American Book Covers

The first post at The Art of American Book Covers, by Richard Minsky, was made on August 26, so this blog is less than a month old. I regret that I don’t remember who directed me to it, but this blog is so rich in knowledge about techniques of book production that it makes me feel like an absolute novice. The blog will apparently focus on fine books of the nineteenth century. The image above is a detail from a book published by L. C. Page, who it seems offered each of their titles in red, white or blue cloth (wow!). Instead of stamping, a white cloth panel was glued onto the red and blue books. Following is a portion of the blog’s commentary related to this detail, but you should check out Minsky’s blog for the full story:

Redesigning Craigslist

Recently Wired magazine asked a group of designerz to reenvision Craigslist. According to Wired, “Visitors arriving at craigslist are confronted by a confusing homepage cluttered with links most people will never click on. Overall, the user interface is in dire need of an organizing principle that guides you to the details you seek while filtering out extraneous information.”

Hanuman Maximon

I have been toying with the idea of starting a little imprint to publish mainly world literature and other titles with international scope. It would be called Hanuman Maximon. (Hanuman is the monkey hero of the Ramayana; Maximon is the cigar-smoking rebel saint of the highland Maya.)

This is a logo for the imprint. I haven’t really decided on the color scheme yet. Any reactions? (Hmmm, maybe the graphics part should be a little smaller.)

Book design battle

Over at Eye blog they’ve pitted Robert Klanten and Matthias Hübner’s Fully Booked against Jan Tschichold’s The Form of the Book in a book design battle.

Find out who wins.

Designing a book on Southeast Asian Art

Over at the Asian Art Museum blog I’ve written a post briefly outlining some of the issues involved in designing Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma, 1775-1950. I oversaw this project; the book was designed by Tag Savage of Wilsted & Taylor.

There are special issues for American designers when working with Southeast Asian subjects. This book demonstrates, I think, how they can be successfully addressed.


15 years of work in 45 seconds

The design firm Pentagram was recently honored for its long-term collaboration with the Public Theater in NYC. The video includes more than 300 pieces.


A designer’s resume

From bulooji’s photostream.


via Fosfor Gadgets


Nation brands

Can we agree the whole branding thing has got out of hand? I wish that branding had never left the cattle corral. These days, instead of selling an actual product you sell the idea of the product. So you spend all your time working not on the product but on the idea of it.

Today even whole countries get brands. Consider these national tourism logos.

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