Interview with Franziska Morlok and Miriam Waszelewski: From Paper to Page
Choosing the right method for folding, stitching, and binding, to match the content of print products isn’t always an easy decision for designers, especially when you don’t have a lot of experience. Should you use thread, glue, wire or another binding system? What paper should you choose? Franziska Morlok and Miriam Waszelewski have come up with answers to these problems in their book, published by Verlag Hermann Schmidt. We spoke to both authors about the process of creating their hefty 420-page reference work replete with highly appealing infographics and photographs.
Franziska Morlok, Miriam Waszelewski
Vom Blatt zum Blättern
Falzen, Heften, Binden für Gestalter
Verlag Hermann Schmidt, Mainz (DE)
420 pages, € 50
When did the idea of “Vom Blatt zum Blättern” [From Paper to Page] emerge? For how long did you actively work on the publication?
We came up with the idea for the project for the very first time at the end of 2011, and then it took us a while to really get going. We did a lot of initial research and then got deeper and deeper into the subject. Where do you begin with something like this? A theme like bookbinding might seem manageable in the first instance: threads, glues, wire ... we never expected it would turn into a 420-page book. “Folding, Stitching, and Binding” entail many complex processes and we really had to work our way through them properly.
We then started writing up concepts, developing our ideas and finally visited the bindery Buchbinderei Burkhardt in Mönchaltdorf in Switzerland. There we had a chance to look at the “Bindorama”, an enormous library full of interesting books and paperbacks that had been produced and bound in very special ways. That was a source of huge inspiration and motivation. There were so many possibilities, and all these beautiful publications only increased the enthusiasm for our idea.
Even though we originally came up with the idea in 2011, we actively worked on the book for about three years. In between, we were busy with other things – we published other books, we taught and we worked in our respective design studios. It wouldn’t have been possible to work exclusively on the book – from time to time we needed some distance in order to come up with the right structure and to discuss our ideas with Mr Schmidt-Friderichs, the publisher at Hermann Schmidt in Mainz.
What was the final trigger for starting to write such a reference book?
We both work as designers and ar directors for magazines and on various projects to do with art, fashion, and corporate identity. In these areas, there used to be and there will again be, quite an emphasis on the quality of print products. For a time, magazines lowered the quality of the paper they used either because of reduced circulation or because it was no longer considered so important. In the meantime, however, you can see that even in this segment people have become more conscious about the need to return to what feels exceptional. After all the feel of the publication you hold in your hand tells you something about the sender.
We were always having conversations about bookbinding and exchanging suggestions and experiences. We realised that binding isn’t always thought of as being part of the design process, and with hindsight, it often creates big disappointments if the end product doesn’t turn out as envisaged.
But more importantly, what drove us was, of course, our love of books and our fascination with how books are conceived and designed. We often design books and have to think carefully about what paper matches the concept, which format is appropriate and what materials readers will get excited about, and about how everything will work in financial terms. When you put it all together and a book is more than just the sum of its pages – that’s a great point to arrive at. Getting there should be fun and that was our reason for creating “Vom Baltt zum Blättern”.
Our circle of colleagues and bookbinders always said there was a gap in the market for such a work – for a publication that provided solid, basic knowledge and also improved communication between bookbinders and designers, while making the processes easier to understand and creating the desire to try something new, and, of course, the desire to make great books.
Tell us something about your training and career paths.
We both studied visual communication. Franziska first studied at the university of art and design HbK Saar, and then at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK Berlin), where also Miriam studied. We met in Berlin. Franziska was a member of the staff and Miriam was a student of visual communication.
We’ve both worked in similar fields, mainly editorial design for many years, but in different design studios. We joined forces for this project because we’ve been swapping ideas on the subject of bookbinding ever since our time together at UdK Berlin. We both felt the need for a comprehensive reference work for designers.
Who do you see as your readership?
We designed the book from the perspective of designers. Designers have to think about concepts, customers, and production. This book is intended as a source of knowledge and inspiration. It is aimed at a readership that includes students on design courses, media designers and people working in publishing or advertising, as well as design studios that deal with the design of books, paperbacks and similar publications on a daily basis.
The book is organised in a way that is visually inspiring, and if you aren’t deeply involved in the subject and are looking for more detailed information on a specific topic, you will find it in the detailed texts full of good tips and tricks. You don’t have to read the book in linear fashion, you can jump about and reach for it whenever you have a new project.
It was really important to us to communicate our ideas as clearly as possible. For this reason we drew up a list of different criteria for inclusion in the text, such as size, impact, durability or costs – things that are of particular interest to designers. We focused on the comparability of binding techniques, different kinds of dust jackets etc. As a reader, the many cross-references help me to understand which techniques I can combine and why. The texts are supplemented with lots of illustrations and photographs, which really help with understanding complex links.
We collaborated with bookbinders on the texts. Mr Burkhardt from the bindery Burkhardt and Mr Kurtz and his colleagues at the bindery Kösel were particularly supportive. The author Markus Zehentbauer then edited our texts to make them readable and clear. This helped to make sure that we didn’t get lost in jargon.
What was your role in the production process of the book?
Once we had a concept, our ideas about how it should look, of course began to grow. On the one hand, our knowledge about bookbinding increased as we worked on the book, but on the other, this process also changed the structure of the content and the number of pages also grew steadily, so the shape of the book changed. We worked very closely with Mr Schmidt-Friderichs and we had a constant ping-pong of ideas. The Hermann Schmidt publishing company has a long tradition of producing high-quality books, and you get a perfect sense of this in their expertise.
One of our early ideas was to have a book block consisting of four different types of binding. We wanted the book to embody examples of how the techniques work. We have some dummies of this idea. It worked quite well on a small scale, but as the content and the number of pages increased, we realised that the book had to be sturdier.
At first you think it’ll be very easy to develop a book on bookbinding, but in the end everything is interdependent, so, if, for example, a book block is sewn with thread and opens well, but is then bound too tightly for a classic brochure, then the end product will no longer open well. In order to explain this better, we have detailed the individual steps of bookbinding and its effects one by one – dust jacket and binding techniques are discussed separately. But we also always include details about the links that connect the different techniques.
What role does photography take in “Vom Blatt zum Blättern”?
Photography is essential for us – we didn’t want the book to become a classic, technology-oriented book. We don’t enjoy looking at such books ourselves. That’s why it was important for us to make books visible as objects in photos. We took a long time looking for a photographer who had a feel and also the patience for this special subject and eventually found him in Matthias Weingärtner. We had several joint photo shootings where we set up scenes with paper, book blocks, and dummies, while trying to maintain a balance between being explanatory and visually exciting. Matthias managed to find a level that we, as designers, find very interesting and which also visualises our enthusiasm for the subject. We only photographed dummies so that we could focus more on print objects and bookbinding, not on graphic design. This was of course very expensive to do because every book had to be produced first, but it was also worth it.
What binding and finishing processes were used for “Vom Blatt zum Blättern”?
The first 30 pages have lay-flat binding, so there is no classic bundle in the middle, but you have continuous pages instead. This technique is common in children’s books. The remaining pages are bound using classic thread stitching.
The cover shows an oversized version of one of our illustrations from the book. Here, the lines of the drawing were embossed and the dot pattern was printed with a UV varnish. This creates a particularly nice effect when you hold the book in your hands. It is nice to see how anyone who holds the book in his hands starts to stroke it. And if a book manages to do that, then it means you’ve got many things right.