I am a graphic designer, living in Edinburgh, specialising in typography, book design, and identities for the visual arts sector, working in close collaboration with artists, galleries, museums and arts organisations.
I have extensive knowledge of contemporary arts publishing. I am experienced in facilitating artists’ ideas within the format of the book, translating ideas into form and articulating the decisions that inform the design process.
I have worked on diverse exhibition projects with museums and galleries: designing exhibition graphics and labels, as well as marketing and other printed material including posters, invitations, and leaflets.
I am able to organise information visually, and have an eye for clear, effective and timeless design. I am experienced at liaising with printers, managing all aspects of print production.
I have an MA in Graphic Design from the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London and a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London.
I have worked with a wide range of clients including:
The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh
The Bill Scott Estate
Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh
Edinburgh Art Festival
The British Council, London
Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh
Book Works, London
National Museums Scotland
Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh
The Swedenborg Society, London
National Galleries Scotland
Golden Hare, Edinburgh
Glasgow School of Art
I have worked on publications with artists including Moyna Flannigan, Merlin James, Phyllida Barlow, Ruth Ewan, Tracey Emin, Sharon Kivland, Kate Davis, Robert Williams, Andrea Roe, Ross Ryan, Ewan McClure, Giuseppe Mistretta, and Anne Bevan.
I have built friendly and productive working relationships with my clients and many of them return to work with me again and again. See below for a selection of testimonials from people I have worked with.
Angelica Goodden: James designed my book The Marvellous Miss Macbeths absolutely beautifully — in fact nothing I’ve published has ever looked this good. He let me say exactly what I wanted about cover image and general layout plus typographical detail, and where he disagreed with my views he gently (and rightly) persuaded me that his were slightly better. I’ve never had as much input into the look of a publication, and am absolutely delighted as well as deeply impressed by the result.
Anne de Charmant, Artistic Director & Curator, Meadow Arts: Working with James on our first publication was an incredibly stress-free and rewarding experience. He immediately understood what type of publication we wanted and he gently steered us towards the finish line with a very special blend of calm and purpose. His careful planning of the work-load and attention to detail bought out the best in all involved. At all time we felt we were in the safest of hands.
Tommy Zyw, Director, The Scottish Gallery: I have had the pleasure to work on several exhibition catalogues with James Brook. James understands the individual requirements of the artist, gallery and audience. He has an in-depth knowledge of design and printing. This he combines with creative flair and a practical and hardworking approach.
Moyna Flannigan: Making a book, especially one about your own work, can be a stressful experience, but not if you’re working with James. He is in complete command of what he’s doing. He designed and produced my artist’s book MATTER on time and on budget using an excellent printer, and, at the same time, was thoughtful and respectful of my work and how I wanted to see it on the page.
Kate Grenyer, Exhibitions Curator, Dovecot Studios: James has always been great to work with, he gets to the heart of a project very quickly and responds to briefs with intelligence, experience and imagination. When working with James on the publication for Archie Brennan: Tapestry Goes Pop! (2021), I found his experience of print stock and binding, and his knowledge of different print firms was invaluable expertise that you don’t find in many designers. He takes your work as seriously as you do and uses his experience and eye for detail to make sure the result is the best it can be within the budgets and time available.
Jeanie Scott, The Bill Scott Estate: It was a real pleasure to work with James on a monograph on the work of the late sculptor Bill Scott. James was engaged and enthusiastic from the start, he responded to the brief with great care and sensitivity and offered just the right amount of guidance and support in terms of the book’s design, feel and production. Creating a publication during lockdown brought all sorts of challenges – James’ patience, experience and skill meant we were able to negotiate all sorts of hurdles together to deliver, on time, a book that beautifully presents the artist’s work, allowing it to breathe on the page and speak for itself. Above all James is a generous collaborator – he is genuinely interested in working with you to achieve the best design outcome. I can’t recommend him highly enough.
Oor Mad History collective advocacy group: Our group worked well with James. He took on board our colours, designs and ideas for the book. We wanted the theme to be a celebration of the 30-year anniversary of CAPS Independent Advocacy and James came up with designs based on our thoughts and ideas. We were super-impressed with his portfolio and knew he would do us proud. He has taken the idea of a graffiti wall and run with it and has also included a wonderful bunting design on the inside covers. He has included lots of colourful photos as part of the book design. All in all, he has done a fabulous job of making our book look amazing.
Holly Yeoman, Community Engagement Manager, Edinburgh Art Festival: I have been working with James since 2020 to develop Edinburgh Art Festival’s DIY Art – home creativity kit series, which through their strong identity, visual appeal and easy-to-use format, designed by James, have supported us to introduce artist’s practice and process to audiences, helping us to maintain and grow our audience through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. I always look forward to working with James.
Merlin James: James Brook is a terrific book designer and a pleasure to work with. I have been involved with three publications with him, of different kinds, one with a major international publisher. He’s rigorous but intuitive, flexible and versatile. He always listens closely to the client’s ideas and prioritises them. Nothing is too much trouble. He understands and communicates well with printers. I look forward to collaborating with him in future.
Sir Mark Jones, Publisher, Golden Hare: A gifted designer with an intuitive feeling for the individual character of each project and a strong practical approach to getting the right result at the right price – working with James Brook is a real pleasure.
Sorcha Carey, Director, Edinburgh Art Festival: We have worked with James Brook on a number of different festival design projects since 2014, ranging from substantial exhibition catalogues, smaller interpretation booklets and leaflets, through to devising bespoke identities for discrete projects and initiatives. He has a wealth of knowledge of typography, graphic design, print and book production, is incredibly thoughtful and considered in his approach, and always responds to a brief with creativity and rigour in equal measure. I can’t recommend him highly enough.
Gavin Everall, Co-Director, Book Works: James has a long history of involvement with Book Works, as a former valued colleague and friend, but this was the first time we had worked with him as a freelance designer. And it was a complete pleasure to work with someone who really understands artists, artists’ books, and the role of a designer in the publication process. Not only is he meticulous in his approach and delivery, but it was also a pleasure to be reminded of what fun he is to work with.
Andrew Mummery: It was a pleasure to work with James on the Carol Rhodes monograph. His design proposals were sensitive to the brief and to the artist’s work and his knowledge of the practical and technical aspects of the printing process were also enormously helpful. I was impressed by his attention to detail and the time that he took to arrive at an understanding of Carol’s work and the issues involved with its reproduction and presentation. The final form of the monograph benefited substantially from his input and involvement.
Sophia Hao, Curator, Cooper Gallery: We have worked with James on several major projects in Cooper Gallery’s programme. James always responded to the design brief with an appropriate flair and rigour which resulted in stunning designs with a strong attention to detail. What impressed me most is how brilliantly James’ artistic background and well-versed knowledge of contemporary art contributes to his exquisite and intelligent interpretation of the conceptual focus of the artwork and the curatorial intention of the organisation. James is a pleasure to work with, extremely professional and importantly always sticks to deadlines. He is also very patient and always endeavours to find the best solution. I cannot recommend him highly enough.
Ruth Ewan: Working with James on the artist’s pamphlet Sympathetic Magick was brilliant. He engaged with the concept of the project and really took on board my ideas for the publication as well as sensitively bringing his own suggestions to the fore. His patience and attention to detail was much appreciated by everyone involved. I hope we can work together again in the future.
Kate Davis: It was a total pleasure working with James on my publication Eight Blocks or a Field. I really appreciated James’ exceptional design expertise and thoughtful and supportive approach to the project.
Robert Williams, Professor of Fine Art, University of Cumbria Institute of the Arts: I have had the privilege of collaborating with the fantastic designer and artist James Brook on two major book-based publications: Cumbrian Alchemy (2013) and Calvariae Disjecta (2017). Both these books owe their success to James’ brilliant vision. Cumbrian Alchemy combines text and image to produce a work that underpinned our vision for a complex project that ranged between ideas of nuclearity, folklore and culture. Of course, for the next project, there was no question that James would be the designer for Calvarie Disjecta: The many hauntings of Burton Agnes Hall, another book work that needed an astonishing level of collaboration and sensitivity in balancing text, image and concept. Working with James is a dream, he generously gives of his advice and his ideas in a working relationship that is truly collaborative, and it is for such reasons that rather than being the anonymous ‘designer’ for these works, we acknowledge his proper role as part of the collaborative endeavour that makes art. I am truly grateful to have worked with James, and will do so again in a heartbeat.
I am always happy to discuss potential projects: if you would like a chat, please click here or use the Contact button. I look forward to hearing from you!
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