Our Mad History: Ten Years On
Published by CAPS Independent Advocacy, 2021

Designed by James Brook

ISBN 978 1 399910 02 6

Soft cover | 235 x 165 mm | 128 pages | Printed by Gomer, Wales, on 150 gsm UPM Offset with a scuff-free laminate cover of 350 gsm Claro Silk 

Oor Mad History is a book I designed for CAPS, an independent advocacy organisation which provides collective advocacy to different groups of people with mental health issues across Lothian. The book celebrates the community history of mad activism and collective advocacy in Lothian, 2010-2020, and follows a book celebrating the organisation’s first ten years, published in 2010, which captured people’s memories and stories from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. This new book shares the memories and experiences of people who have been involved in recent years and looks at what has happened in local collective advocacy and activism from 2010. 

For the design of the book, I collaborated with members of the Oor Mad History collective advocacy group, who steered, through a series of consultation meetings, how the book would look and feel. The group took inspiration from books and book covers they liked, sending me images of covers which I used as a starting point to work up various options for the cover. The initial brief for the cover was to create a celebratory feel, so, based on an idea for the cover by one of the group – a painting that featured bunting – I created a design based on abstracted bunting with a palette of colours sampled from the painting. 

The group felt that the bunting was a little too celebratory for the cover and didn’t reveal the complex issues faced by the group, which are not always positive. The group suggested that an idea of key words and phrases associated with the collective advocacy movement, presented as graffiti on a brick wall, might be more ‘provocative’ and might tie in better with the activist side of collective advocacy and the struggle to have their voices heard. I presented several versions of this idea along with an alternative typographic treatment that created a wall of words – this was the version that the group felt was strongest and we went with this idea for the cover, with the bunting appearing on the inside of the cover and on the title page (below) where the title was accompanied by a sub-title, A celebration of collective advocacy and mad activism in Lothian 2010-2020, to give a context for the bunting.

The book is typeset in various weights and styles of Adelle Sans for the headings, subtitles, page numbers, and other information alongside Freight Text Pro for the body text. The main body of the book consists of interviews with people who have been involved in mental health advocacy over the last ten years but the layout also had to be flexible to accommodate different types of information. The colour palette that I developed for the cover is used throughout the book with a colour for each chapter as well as splashes of colours throughout and enlarged coloured ‘bulletpoints’ to create interest and to break up the text. Many of the images were of fairly low quality and couldn't be printed at a large scale, so I placed them on coloured backgrounds to create a scrapbook feel and to give the images a strong presence despite being relatively small.

The book is printed on an uncoated paper – I had a lot of discussions with the group about paper choices and showed them examples of paper types before arriving at this choice, keeping in mind that an uncoated paper might be more sympathetic to some of the lower quality images. The previous book, charting the first ten years of the organisation was printed on a silk paper with a gloss cover so this new book offers quite a contrast whilst still maintaining a connection with it as it is designed at the same size. 

You can find out more about CAPS here.

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.  
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