From the Design Desk: The Art of Collage

One of my favorite grade school activities was writing stories. Had I been required to begin with only a sheet of paper and a pencil, the story would never have been imagined. But my genius teacher knew that every story needs a spark to get it started and so provided the ignition: a box filled with index cards, and on each card, a photo and a phrase. The two were always unrelated—that is, until the student made his or her own connection (the spark). And suddenly, just like that, the story was on fire.

This is how I perceive collage when at its best: seemingly disparate elements layered and arranged to tell a story. The very nature of the materials used (found photos, flea market ephemera) offers a portal into other worlds and the additional elements and colors bring narratives of their own to complete the composition. The viewer’s own perception of the collage is the final layer of the story.

Below, a sampling of contemporary collage artists and designers whose work I admire.

Clockwise from top left: Float; April Showers; Space; Equestrian; and Cream.

Beth Hoeckel is a Baltimore native whose work has graced such publications as Rookie Mag, Bust, and GOOD. Many of Beth’s images evoke a sense of expectation, of being present at the precise moment when something big is about to unfold. Her compositions, palette, and thoughtful integration of elements provide glimpses of the familiar arranged in powerfully unfamiliar—and often unsettling—ways.

Clockwise from top left: two wall illustrations for the Urban Golf Club in London; poster for the Museu de Arte Moderna; illustration for The New York Times; and illustration created for Pocko.

Eduardo Recife is a Brazilian designer, artist, type designer, and illustrator whose work has been featured around the world. His playful yet complex (and sometimes irreverent) layering of images and type create candy-colored arenas in which even the most serious of subjects is upended and the everyday is given new life. Eduardo’s personal work can be found at Misprinted Type.

Clockwise from top: for Inc. Magazine; two from the Everything is Beautiful series; and Eye of the Storm.

Hayley Warnham is a U.K. illustrator and artist who juxtaposes found material against graphic and bold uses of color. Though the compositions gravitate toward minimal, the impact is far from simplistic.

Left to right: The Journey Is the Destination; Safari As a Way of Life.

Lastly, Dan Eldon was a photojournalist who was killed at the age of twenty-two while on assignment in Somalia. He lived an amazing amount in a short number of years and chronicled his life in volumes of personal journals filled with detailed collages. I picked up the original edition of The Journey Is the Destination long before I began working at Chronicle and the story of Dan’s life amazes me to this day.

Jennifer Tolo Pierce
Design Director

Jennifer Tolo Pierce

Jennifer Tolo Pierce is a Design Director at Chronicle Books with a love of all things words and images, particularly as they intersect in the realm of lifestyle and children’s publishing.
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