An avid book collector and prolific image maker, Joel is an Art Director at Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia. Along with initiating and developing various publications for UO (amongst many other things), Evey’s side practice consists of various print and small run publication projects.
I noticed you recently contributed to a publication that I’m familiar with called O FLUXO. Can you tell me how you became a part of the project and what the premise was for your submission?
O FLUXO started as a blog that documented fringe trends in internet art. Nuno Patricio, who runs O FLUXO, approached me about contributing to a printed version of his concept, the intersection of internet-centric creation and printed ephemera. The brief was extremely open, so I made a piece that I thought was appropriate based on the concept and viewing context of the publication. I explored the idea of utopia vs. reality; the discord between an internet-based existence, and a physically-based political and socio-economic landscape. A sort of “Jamrock” if you will.
What is the first book you can remember?
That would be The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. My parents were both elementary school teachers, so we had lots of wonderful children’s books. I remember being so taken by the illustrations. The other book I loved was my parents first edition copy of Where the Wild Things Are… and I loved it so much, I took my favorite crayons and decided I could make some “improvements” when I was 4 years old. Completely ruined it. hahaha They weren’t very happy. Nice crayon drawings though, I think they still have it.
What is the last book you read?
Ha, well, I guess being a product of the internet age, I’m a constant multi-tasker… so I’ve been simultaneously reading / re-reading Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord, Design as Art by Bruno Munari (classic), and a book called The Song of the Birds by Anthony de Mello that a friend lent me. I’ll read a bit of one, put it down, read a bit of another.. etc
If I remember correctly you buy and collect a lot of books. How do you decide what you will purchase and how do the books you own play a roll in your own practice?
Books like Design as Art I buy for the content, but I also buy books for a variety of other reasons. Maybe they catch my eye, something about them strikes me in a significant way. Maybe it’s the concept, or the formal quality of the book. Something pulls me in, and I can’t put it down. Beware though, this will lead to a house full of piles of books if you aren’t careful. Although it can also lead to some interesting juxtapositions. Right now I am looking at a stack with a copy of Beauty and the Book sitting on top of a zine that is only pictures of food collages from bodegas. This makes things interesting for sure. I would say these types of combinations definitely influence my work, like the way we view things on tumblr, lots of juxtaposition of form and content. That said, over consumption of visual form, or even ideas in general can lead to a devaluation of them. I guess it’s important to have balance in anything.
What are a few book/zine/publication projects you have done recently?
I’ve done a book of Symbols for Medium Rare, Rasmus Svensson and I did a book of experimental photography for Bodega Press, and most recently Joe Gilmore and I self-published a book about things that were produced by hand for our combined show at Catch-Up in Leeds. I really enjoy the freedom that small run publishing provides. As far as upcoming, I have a few projects that are a little nebulous right now which I can’t touch at the moment, I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
What makes a book valuable?
Books are valuable for many reasons, in a near history point of view, books were the absolute source of how information was disseminated. Now the value of a book can based on factors outside of usefulness, be it formal quality of the book as an object, or the imagery that makes up the book. Dieter Roth’s cheese books for example, extremely valuable. I think books will only to continue to polarize in value thanks to the internet. In short, as we consume more and more digitally, books will become more of a niche object, relegated to the realm of the collector and the art historian. It’s projects like Google Books, for instance, that challenge the need for a physically printed book. Personally, I place value on the tactility of the design object, so I would say that’s what creates value for me.
Do you have any book-related rituals?
For the most part, not really, I just kinda stack them wherever I can find space! I think the only one I may have is with photography books. I look at it once, and then close it for a while. Then after some time I will come back to it and try to see how it may speak to me differently after some distance.
Can you tell a cautionary tale related to the design or production of a book?
Make sure your book board is thick enough when you’re having a book hard bound, warped books are no fun. that’s a lame answer, everyone knows that? ha.
Describe an impossible book that you’d like to make (if you could do the impossible).
Micro LED pages combined with holographic projection. Every page would be interactive and rendered in real time. Pages could either interact with your physical space, or act as a window to another dimensional experience. This technology isn’t far off either. It just needs time to develop into something light and flexible, instead of the tablet based devices that are so prevalent now.
A while back you and a couple of co-workers (Matt Owen and Namik Schwarz) developed a zine for Urban Outfitters called WTVR. Could you talk about the ideas behind it, how content was generated, what the distribution method was, etc. Also how many issues are there at this point?
WTVR lasted 4 issues before the idea was repurposed. It was designed as a way of recontextualizing content from the Urban blog to bring exposure of that content to a wider audience. The zine was given away free in store. The design of that publication was in reference to the “amateur” methods in DIY and Punk zines of the 1980’s. Most of the content was centered around music, so that genre of design tropes seemed to fit.
You said the idea was repurposed—what is it now?
It was folded back into the blog, the idea was interesting, but after a while it didn’t make sense for how quickly the blog was moving in relation to the printed piece.
Are you working on any publications for UO at the moment that you would like to be shared on the blog?
The last publication I did for Urban was a hardcover book we did in collaboration with artist Sam Falls. As for current projects, right now only our Catalog offerings. Our most recent was shot by Tyron Lebon. As far as other publications go, right now we are in internal discussions about the saturation we can achieve with a printed book vs having a mobile or tablet based offering. We’ve done a few online only catalog recently, we’re watching them closely to see how people respond. It’s a timely discussion I suppose…
Do books start to look like their designers? Do designers look like their books?
Books start to look like their designers brains. Talk to someone who designs wild books about their ideas or their process, I feel like you would see a strong correlation pretty quickly.
Pick five books that would be buddies.
I picked five books that share the theme of curated content, as well as all having black and white covers, which was accidental I swear!
1. Extended Caption published by Dexter Sinister
2. A Wikipedia Reader published by ASDF
3. Manystuff #2 published by Manystuff
4. Post Internet Survival Guide published by Revolver Books
5. The Institute of Social Hypocrisy — The Sound of Downloading Makes Me Want to Upload published by Lauren Monchar