HarrimanSteel are genius (and one of the few design companies who use me for print production, for which — no — there is no direct correlation).
They have created one of the very best examples I can remember of a book that tells its story through its physicality. I like to think I can predicting what something's going to look and feel like when it's produced, so very few projects pleasantly surprise me (though some disappoint). But, I wasn't prepared for seeing — and holding — this for the first time.
The book is for The Nike Foundation's project, Girl Hub, whose aim is to end the cycle of poverty by helping to unlock the potential of adolescent girls in the developing world — the Girl Effect. Currently Girl Hub is operating in London, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Rwanda — the longest running of the Girl Hubs with its very own girl focussed brand, Ni Nyampinga, which is a traditional Rwandan word meaning a proud and beautiful young woman who is respected in her community.
The book is created to showcase the Girl Hub charity's mission and work in Rwanda. Specifically, to engage key people in the Rwandan Education board, the Ministry of Gender department and hopefully president, Paul Kagame himself. The book's extent is 72pp + an 8pp throw-out (the original tip-ins were thrown-out) with a naked-bound spine that features a graphic to the spine. But, it's the covers that steal the show. In a real departure from the norm, after many cover ideas, it was the most wild-and-radical idea that won through.
HarrimanSteel's killer idea was to use the primitive icon they'd used in the book within the physical structure of the cover — to make it from layers of coloured board (as explained by this neat little diagram HS created) each cut-out to reveal the colour below... and with a bit of silk-screen (courtesy of Bob Eight Pop) for the title.
While the idea is exquisitely simple, it's not that easy to execute. The design is complex and detailed and too complicated to die cut (we were only producing a few), so has to be laser-cut. This brings the problem of how to glue up the layers without either a) glue leaking everywhere or b) the small prongs getting snagged and breaking off. So, I called upon my old friend, double-sided sheet adhesive (double-sided tape in sheets rather than rolls) and we did some tests with Trilogy Lasercraft to see if we could apply the adhesive to the board and then cut through all of it without causing a fire or a singed mess. And hey presto, it worked!
The text makes good use of Pureprint's new B2 Indigo press to get to the size (300 x 240mm) and the 8pp throw-out was carefully made from two 4pp bits stuck together at the spine. The naked spine, with its visible binding and graphic was perhaps the trickiest aspect of all (also superbly executed by Pureprint) requiring a very slim artwork that appears on the spine but isn't visible on the inside of the book — an artworking and binding challenge.
However, what I was most intrigued and genuinely surprised by, was how the finished book felt when you picked it up for the first time. Anyone who'd been reading my posts knows my fascination is with the intuitive / physical communication that goes on around print and most of the time, I know how to accurately predict it (God knows, I've been doing it long enough), but I wasn't prepared for this.
When you hold it in your hands, your fingers are wrapped around the back of the book and feel the complex texture of the cut-out graphics — a multi-channel assault on your senses through both your eyes and your fingertips. It feels like no other book; there's this complex pattern that's so rich in texture that you can't quite process it.
As a piece of conceptual communication it's also very interesting. We (and I'm not taking any credit for this, since it's all HarrimanSteel's genius work) wanted to create something that told a distinct story about Nike's Girlhub charity and its work in supporting girls in Africa and throughout the world. Specifically, it's telling a story about the rich vernacular craft language and the reverence for printed objects that's rich in Rwandan culture (where Girlhub are based), but that's not cliched and backward looking (e.g. made of old baked bean cans).
I was keen to hear from HS how their client reacted to it when she saw it. "Blown away" was the response.