Infiltrating Contexts: An Experiment in Total Book Design

By Alan James Robertson.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Infiltrating contexts: an experiment in total book design The little book ‘Infiltration’ attempts to re–model the same sort of contextual disjuncture – but within a typo|graphic context – that the group exhibition of the same name delivered – as art–installation – on the floors of the Whanganui Regional Museum throughout the latter six months of 2003. Published in an edition of 150, in late 2004 with a $5852.22 grant from Unitec New Zealand’s Design School Research Committee the 170x125x20mm book served nominally as an exhibition catalogue. It was, however, conceived from the outset as a case–bound book, primarily because text/s constituted an integral component of each artist’s installation. As such, their sculptural/made artefacts were presented inside traditional museum cabinets, each accompanied by detailed (fictional) descriptions of the history or narrative purportedly behind the display. Translating these ‘infiltrations’ into the context of a publication demanded both the structural conventions of book–design, binding and typography, and yet simultaneously, their subversion. And since the exhibition experience was defined in terms of deception instantiated within a normally unambiguous museum setting, it seemed appropriate to re–contextualise that experience within the constraints – ‘disguise’? – of what seemed, at first sight, to be ‘serious’ book. In practice, this meant concealing all colour in the book ‘behind’ black and white close–folded pages of typographic texts.The design project then, investigated book–centred concerns such as editing–by–design, low–cost production, binding and ‘perforation–enabled’ reader interaction. As interesting, however, as these considerations became for developing the ‘totality’ of contextual concepts at play, was the opportunity to introduce a variety of ‘macrotypographic’ formats, and in particular selective deployment of a specific grid system to facilitate a technique of ‘asymmetrical associative juxtapositioning’ by which normally linear texts might be visually re–configured, indeed deconstructed, to extend and in some instances re–generate meanings.

Keywords: Book Design, Typographic Design, Typography, Context, Layout, Rhetoric, Authorship, Exhibition Catalogues, Infiltration, Contextual Disjuncture, Macrotypography, Asymmetrical Associative Juxtapositioning

International Journal of the Book, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.61-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.207MB).

Alan James Robertson

Senior Lecturer, The Design School, Unitec New Zealand, Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Since 1990 Alan Robertson has taught graphic design at Unitec New Zealand. Prior to that he practised and taught in the UK. His article ‘Designing the Real World’ was published in Looking Closer Five in 2006. And his paper ‘Interpreting the Rhetoric of Contextual Instrumentality’ was published the same year in ‘Working Papers in Art and Design’, the online journal of the Research into Practice conference series in the UK.


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