At the latest D&AD forum last week, this time on self-publishing, there was lots of lovely work to be seen, but less in the way of ideas or inspiration as to why it might be worth taking the plunge and doing it yourself. Both Damon Murray of Fuel and Jonathan Ellery of Browns made printing your own books sound like something that, while worth doing, was difficult, time-consuming and ill-paying.
At heart, the graphic design book as object is probably the closest that the discipline comes to ‘art’, broadly defined – an authorial voice making some sort of intervention in the world around them. Often beautiful, it seemed that the strongest books have some sort of point to make rather than just being a collection of pretty work, graphic authorship, in Rick Poynor’s phrase, rather than just mere monographs. As Ellery said, “[the book] should have a disproportionate amount of quality... the art of building it is important, to make it an object.”
As Murray also pointed out, self-published books aren’t just about the aesthetic – they can be a “great way to build brands in a non-brand way, and gain recognition for it.”
You don’t have to be a designer, by the way, to participate: Eric Kessels of KesselsKramer has apparently published 45 books.