The Most Beautiful Book in the World
March 20, 2007 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Irma Boom designs some of the largest, brightest, most colorful, and interesting looking books in print today. In this 2001 interview, Irma talks about her unique work. This Friday she'll be awarded the gold medal at the Leipzig Book Fair for this, "The Most Beautiful Book in the World."
posted by inconsequentialist (13 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
wow. great post
posted by farishta at 6:14 PM on March 20, 2007

Well, dubbing anything "Most Adjective Noun in the World" is asking for trouble. Her work is surely attractive, but it just looks like a stack of very nice advertising layouts to me. I've owned books that were so beautiful that I've kept them under my pillow even if I wasn't going to fall asleep reading them, but they've never been colorful, or glossy, or big. It just seems so fundamentally weird that you'd subject anything as personal and sentimental as a book to a beauty contest.

Interesting stuff, though. Thanks.
posted by phooky at 6:18 PM on March 20, 2007

Why would it have taken the Japanese manufacturer fourteen years to make the paper she wanted? Or did I miss it?
posted by IndigoJones at 6:26 PM on March 20, 2007

Yeah, this is a good post but Irma Boom strikes me as being a better self-promoter than bookmaker. Books don't have to be in fluorescent, garish colors or gigantic or shiny to be beautiful. In fact, those things may well be active detriments.
posted by Justinian at 6:29 PM on March 20, 2007

I admire her skill, certainly, but the whole books-as-art-objects thing has always left me cold. I like reading, and anyone who leaves off page numbers in an attempt to make people browse nonsequentially isn't really caring about readers.

Heretical though it may be, I just don't care about paper textures, binding scents, or fancy color processes, even in a design book. In fact, those things are also hostile to readers in that it becomes difficult to read or re-read without damaging all those delicate die cuts and tissue-thin overlays. Not to mention that gigantic coffee-table books are heavy as hell; how do you read them? You bend over a table and squint at them, you hold them in your lap uncomfortably, you try to hold them up but it makes your wrists ache. You would need a lectern to see them properly, almost.
posted by emjaybee at 6:33 PM on March 20, 2007

Nice post. I have False Flat and it's a lovely book.
posted by dobbs at 6:48 PM on March 20, 2007

These are books for people who don't read. Or maybe for things that aren't worth reading.

Maybe they'd add a little extra as catalogs of certain kinds of art exhibits or shows, but even then they'd be difficult to actually use. They're interesting if you don't think of them as books, though.
posted by dilettante at 6:48 PM on March 20, 2007

emjaybee, I love reading too, and decry the use of unreadable sans serif fonts, bad type justification, etc... Basically all the stuff that made early WIRED such a headache that I'm still pissed off about it. However, book arts should be appreciated for the art rather than the book aspect. I think in a sense the use of books as an art form is just symbolic rather than functional. There is definitely a beauty in paper crafted for a distinctive look, use of materials like leather or coir, and hand crafted bindings. I'm hoping that what people learn from book arts will be examined for readability and usability before it makes its way into mass market publishing though. Although I think most mass published books can not be improved upon functionally (with some glaring exceptions), there is room for improvement in specialty books. Cookbooks for example could be printed on plastic for water and stain resistance.Anyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay area who loves book arts should check out the book arts jam at Foothill college.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:52 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I had separate paragraphs in preview :(.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:53 PM on March 20, 2007

great post, thanks. my best friend is a book fetishist and her birthday is coming up, and you've given me the perfect gift. it's too bad the accompanying comments section is such a bummer.
posted by radiosig at 7:14 PM on March 20, 2007

Books strike me as terribly unwieldy art objects, though; you have to manipulate them so much to see everything, and paper is such a fragile medium, that it seems like it would be difficult to appreciate them as much as, say, a painting that you could view without worrying about damaging it.

hell, maybe I'm just particularly clumsy...

I do love a good layout, but the best way to view one is unbound, flattened, and framed, most of the time.
posted by emjaybee at 7:19 PM on March 20, 2007

Thanks BC - I'm going to check that jam out.

And I concur - these aren't books that are just books and need page numbers, these are sculptures and paintings and books all mixed together. Rather nicely too. I dig 'em.

Funny to read people getting their undies bunched about it though. The vast majority of booksfocus solely on reading and printed text, what's the harm of a few books that try to do something else?

I'm all for critiquing them on their quality as art and I agree that usability (as in how they are held or displayed) is relevant. But not page numbers.

Come on, these aren't novels - the point is not to read them from cover to cover. Nor even to necessarily read them at all. They're for looking at and touching and hefting and feeling the texture on your fingers.
posted by django_z at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2007

Strangely enough I think there is a more beautiful book on Mefi's front page at the moment.

But thanks for this.
posted by peacay at 9:55 PM on March 20, 2007

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