Boundless Books at the Rhode Island School of Design
For the past several years, the slogan “See Things Differently” has been at the core of how we work and create at Chronicle Books. To continue in this spirit, we are constantly seeking opportunities to collaborate with the creative community. And so, in January, five of us journeyed to Providence to visit Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), soaking in the creative sights and sounds that the campus had to offer. Here are the photos and impressions of the group after an incredibly inspiring week.
We took the time to visit their extensive Special Collections archive. The collection contains every sort of trim, material, binding, and engineering imaginable.
Claudia and Ariel of Special Collections walked us through some of their most treasured pieces.
Pochoir color studies, an art deco technique using stencils
Technical drawings and color schemes of Dazzle Ships in Special Collections
Miniature Books in Special Collections
We also explored the Materials Library, which cataloged everything by its properties (except for that one wall that was completely arranged by color).
We even got a chance to check out the Graphic Design Department’s Printmaking Studio.
Our main objective however, was to work alongside faculty members Daniel Hewett and Ben Shaykin (as well as their amazing support staff) to facilitate an event titled “Boundless Books”, a workshop to re-imagine illustrated publishing. It was a two day creative sprint focused on pushing the boundaries of books and imagining ways to approach publishing differently.
Boundless Books poster designed by Ben Shaykin
Chronicle Books Creative Director Michael Carabetta introducing the session
The RISD + Chronicle Books teams coming together to discuss the workshop
Students brainstorming for their solution for Boundless Books
Here are some reflections from the Chronicle Books team on this experience of going back to school:
Michael Carabetta (Creative Director):
Given the unrelenting schedule and expectations of RISD faculty and students, I was bowled over by the enthusiastic response to our invitation to join in the Boundless Books design sprint. Professor Daniel Hewett, Executive Director of Research at RISD, cut off the signup list at 40 with nearly as many on the waiting list. Impressive for a first time event, over a weekend, and in the midst of RISD’s Wintersession.
We were not disappointed with the insights and concepts the students responded with to our brief. From an intriguing archetypal children’s book where the story unfolds into new dimensions to a full-scale model of a refrigerator to demonstrate one group’s notion of refrigerator as “food archive”, to a floor plan designed to encourage “kitchen choreography”, the thinking knew no bounds.
It was also a coup for us to have ex-Chronicle designer-turned-RISD-professor Ben Shaykin on board to encourage, guide and interpret the multiplicity of concepts presented by the students. Of course, it almost goes without saying that we came away too with a mini-education in how we might expand our thinking when it comes to reimagining “the book.”
Shona Burns (Executive Director, Production):
There is always something more to learn. Spending time with students and faculty who work in allowing ideas to get bigger was energizing. In commerce we often spend much time funneling ideas down, to be practical rather than allowing ideas to grow. This was a great reminder that thinking big is good for the soul—and the idea!
Christina Amini (Editorial Director, Art and Gift Publishing):
A quote from Daniel Hewitt is something I’m thinking about how to bring into my work at Chronicle: “What obstacles can we remove so that you can think bigger?”
Ben Laramie (Senior Industrial Designer, RISD Alum):
When it comes to creative, collaborative, and critical thinking/making, the academic setting of an art and design school is (perhaps) one the greatest places that exists.
Ryan Hayes (Designer, Children’s Publishing):
Focusing on experience and exhausting all possibilities of a solution, before jumping in to make anything, will only strengthen the final product.
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