Design, Editorial

Is Shakespeare Relevant?

When I was a wide-eyed student at UC Berkeley in the late 90s, moving ever closer to obtaining a BA in English, I certainly thought so. It helps when you take a class taught by (now) professor emeritus Stephen Booth, who contextualized Shakespeare’s unique genius and made his words leap off the page.

Soon after graduation, however, I became convinced that Shakespeare would never again be a central part of my life—at least my working life. I wasn’t on the path to becoming a teacher (sorry, President Obama) or a literary historian. You can imagine my delight, then, when I discovered that a Shakespeare book was on our Spring 2012 list! No, we haven’t unearthed an unpublished manuscript. Instead, we’re applying the Chronicle touch to some of the bard’s most famous and touching love sonnets.

There are plenty of books that collect Shakespeare’s love sonnets, but they’re either text-only, illustrated with traditional 16th Century etchings and woodcuts, or filled with really saccharine images. We set out to create something different, something youthful and modern but still pretty. Our brilliant design director immediately thought of Caitlin Keegan, who lives and works in Brooklyn and contributed to our own Exquisite Book.

Caitlin was thrilled to work on the book—maybe, like me, she harkened back to those idyllic school days?—and came to us with early illustration work that was simply stunning. She took our broad art direction and really ran with it, creating imagery that is as delightful as it is colorful. In some cases she cues from metaphors in a sonnet (lions from time’s sharp claws) while in others she weaves bold patterns that obliquely reference the text. The total effect is mesmerizing.

We’re excited about how the book has evolved, and I’m tickled that I was finally able to find a way to slip some Shakespeare into my work. A project like this makes editorial work feel so rewarding!

Matt Robinson
Art + Design

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