Stories for an Uncertain World
Designed by James Brook for Edinburgh Art Festival, 2019

Booklet | 210 x 165 mm | 24 pages plus cover | Printed by Allander, Edinburgh, on Horizon Offset 140 and 250 gsm | Saddle stitched

A 24 page booklet that I designed for the Edinburgh Art Festival 2019 Commissions Programme, Stories for an Uncertain World – the sixth year that I have been invited to design printed material for the programme.

In the context of ‘major geo-political and societal shifts’, the EAF Commissions Programme brought together five artists with new projects that ‘reflect the uncertain times we find ourselves in, poised between the disintegration of an old world order, and taking the initial faltering steps towards an unknown future’. The participating artists were: Nathan Coley, Alfredo Jaar, Rosalind Nashashibi, Sriwhana Spong, and Corin Sworn. 

While working through proposals for the cover of the booklet, I was thinking about ideas of uncertainty, using transparencies and gradients to create type that dissolves, almost to the point of becoming unreadable. The main titles are set in uppercase and centred on the page, echoing traditional book typography and creating a sense of authority that generates a tension with the ethereality of the fading type. A further sense of uncertainty is created by the use of Museo for the titles, a typeface that initially appears rational but that, on closer inspection, carries subtle quirky elements that disrupt this message. Museo was designed by Jos Buivenga – his love for the uppercase letter U inspired this unique set of fonts: “In a daydream I saw the top of both stems bended into semi-slab serifs.” It is these curved slab serifs that give the typeface its idiosyncratic character.

I used colour gradients on the inside and back covers, an effect that I wouldn’t normally use, but that felt appropriate in this context – the sky blue echoes the landscape in the cover photograph, a still from a film by artist Rosalind Nashahibi. For the body text and captions, I used the typeface Aktiv Grotesk, a deliberately low-key choice that sits quietly in contrast with Museo. Imagery from the five artists is placed in sections that broadly correspond to the discussion of their work in the essay written by EAF director Sorcha Carey that forms the main body of the booklet.

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. 

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