Category Archives: Book Arts

POD (Print on Demand)

Print on demand was developed after the beginning of digital printing because it was not economical to print single copies using traditional printing technology such as letterpress and offset printing. Therefore, POD is a printing process that allows for the production of single copies of a book, as and when an order has been received, allowing for short print runs, low production costs and immediate responses to an audience.

During this uncertain time, POD is an ideal medium to get your work printed and out there. I will show two projects, which explored and challenged the possibilities of POD, both have been produced in the timeframe between 2008 and 2012, which feels like a long time ago but given the circumstances the work still feels relevant and up to date.

You might argue that a POD publication is poor in its physical quality, but if you allow it to be like Johanna Drucker states in her The Century of Artists’ Books, a “self-conscious record of its own production” you are giving it the freedom of being what it is. A book printed without you having influence in its production.

Image of books: Variable Format
Variable Format, 2012

Variable Format is a sample book, a model, a serial system that explores the technological margins of print on demand and how reading is informed by the materiality of the book object. Examining the quality of print reproduction, paper, binding, cover and size, the book has been produced in twelve formats using different options of print on demand. Conceived by Lynn Harris, published by AND and designed by Åbäke with Pierre Pautler. Materials collected from the now closed library of the Byam Shaw School of Art form the content of a publication that is spread through twelve POD platforms. Instead of being resized to fit the various formats, a single layout is cut, so each printed artefact acts as a unique “framing” of the same source

Open spread of the book: Dear Lulu and it's cover
Dear Lulu, 2008

Dear Lulu is a test book which was researched and produced by graphic design students at Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany, during an intensive two-day workshop with London-based designer James Goggin (Practise). The book’s intention is to act as a calibration document for testing colour, pattern, format, texture and typography. Exercises in colour profiling, halftoning, point size, line, geometry, skin tone, colour texture, cropping and print finishing provide useful data for other designers and self-publishers to judge the possibilities and quality of online print-on-demand — specifically, with this edition. The project was afterwards extended to other platforms, such as Blurb and MagCloud.

A book can also be presented as a video trailer, as a single line of text, a performance documented, an essay, a series of stills, or as a downloadable pdf file. The book exists in physical form and in conceptual form. It travels further and quicker as an idea than as an object. Source: ABC

Featured Graduate: Azelia Ng Wei Zhen

Azelia at the Design Block at LCC
Azelia at the Design Block at LCC

Azelia Ng Wei Zhen, is a graphic designer based in Singapore. She studied at London College of Communication BA Hons Graphic and Media Design and graduated in 2018. Azelia now works primarily in the field of graphic design but isn’t defined by it. She finds herself coming back to researching the book as an investigation and explores experimental publishing and artist’s books. In this Featured Grad post, she talks about how she has continued her practice after graduating from LCC and how she is working within the times of COVID 19.

1. Tell us about yourself. Have you always made art?

I do enjoy the art of making things and that to me is making art, which I guess started at a young age as I’ve always been curious about the things around me, especially in form, texture, and tactility. 

I’m a (graphic) designer, the reason for the brackets is the acknowledgment not to be pigeonholed by a single definition but rather one that expands and changes from time to time. The work that I do is print-centric but the principles that drive them are the synergy between craftsmanship, ideation, and the experience that resonates with people.

The image shows a book spread which is Azelia's interpretation of The Machine Stops by E.M Forster
Azelia’s interpretation of The Machine Stops by E.M Forster

2.  How did you get started in bookbinding?

It was one of the assignments on the course to interpret a classic read, The Machine Stops by E.M Forster a short story, which became a revelation of my relationship with the book as I explored book design. In time I was engaged in everything and anything to do with the book medium, from designing to making a book.

Most of all it’s therapeutic and fun. The tangible appearance of the final object once all the pages are folded, put into its sequence and sewn together does oddly fascinate me—as if I could control time and space within the book.

3.  Who are your biggest influences?

Irma Boom (Book Designer) + Tauba Auerbach (Artist and Book Artist) + Rahel Zoller (Book Artist + Bookmaker) = Respectable women in the realms of books. When it comes to their approach in the way they do things or the conceived idea, these ladies never fail to bring a pleasant surprise. Through their work, I understand that good + thought-provoking work does not happen by chance, they are the result of careful thought and meticulous attention to detail.

Essentially, the experience that people encounter in context to the subject matter is what influences the work I do. Designing for the senses requires intricate detail and the book medium embodies lots of potentials which is probably why I’m so interested in it—the paper; its weight, colour, opacity, texture; the typeface and how the final design floats on white space. Also, don’t get me to start on the reading experience or the binding. 

The image shows Azelia's desk
Azelia’s desk, working from home.

4.  Where do you make work now that you’ve graduated?

At the moment it’s my little nest, my bedroom, and makeshift studio, where I engage my hands in making, working and playing. With the current situation of COVID-19, I think many people are working from home and it has since become the new norm, possibly a post-COVID-19 condition. 

My workspace is organized with everything essential reachable at arm’s length (also the space I have isn’t very big as well) and mainly three areas – the digital, craft and library sections. In the digital section, I have the main desk, a glass table, to do daily work with the computer, Wacom, stationeries, important documents and underneath it is an A3 printer, which I use to do test prints of the mockups that I’m making.  

On my left is the craft area, a flat cabinet, used as a table with a cutting mat on top and it’s where I keep the necessary tools involved in tangible experiments—binding tools, adhesives, paint, paper, brush and etc… This is where I do my experiments + mockups, making and creating in the physical form. Lastly, I’ve got a personal library, with books of my interest and books collected during my travels in different countries. 

In a workspace, it is important to organise it to one’s workflow, and for me, I needed additional space, like a workshop area, where I focus on physical experiments without the need to clean up or shift things around just to do day to day things.

5.  Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would you to yourself if you could travel back in time?

Firstly, do not rely just on computers to realize your project but rather utilise the many facilities in LCC to its fullest potential – BookArts, Letterpress, Screenprinting or the 3D workshops. As a designer, it is important to know the process required in the production of the work into its physical format. It better informs one’s practice by the understanding of variables in materiality and print production which can alter/ affect the final piece, to design with those variables in mind and to challenge them.

Lastly, always talk to the technicians, they are charming and one of the most interesting bunch within the school compound (tutors? not as much). Every technician has something different to offer, be it their life experiences or the comfort and advice they bring in the stressful period of submissions. They are also like spies living double lives, having things lined up outside of their day job—some are established artists.

6.  Where can we see more of your work?  

Since graduation, I’ve worked on commercial work in local design studios in Singapore, and outside of work I’ve participated in exhibitions and have organized a ‘Book Talk: Behind the Book’ at National Design Centre but at moment I’m preparing to open a tiny online shop, The Other Studio, turning my bedroom into a studio to create and make things.

The image shows Azelia moderating the 'Book Talk: Behind the Book' at National Design Centre
Azelia moderating the ‘Book Talk: Behind the Book’ at National Design Centre


Alternative Bookbinding Tools

Want to do some bookbinding but don’t have any tools to hand. Here are some alternatives: Instead of a bonefolder you can use the handle of a blunt butter knife or any wooden/plastic cooking spoons. Instead of a pricker use a regular needle and a wine cork as a handle. Instead of bookbinding thread use tooth floss (it’s already waxed) and instead of a bookbinding needle just use a regular sewing needle.

Bookbinding tools, bonefolder, pricker, thread and needles

Try it out with a simple Three-hole Pamphlet Binding:

Paper and alternative bookbinding tools

1. Use between 4 to 8 sheets of A4 paper for your section and a heavier paper/card (roughly 250-300gsm) for your cover.

2. Start by folding each sheet of paper in half, keep the corners aligned and use the handle of the butter knife/wooden/plastic spoon to create a sharp fold.

3. Stack the sheets of paper inside each other and put the cover sheet onto the outside.

Folded sheets of paper and alternative bonefolder

4. Use the needle and the cork as pricker to pierce 3 holes, with equal distance, from the inside to the outside of your book.

Alternative pricker in use

5. Cut a length of the tooth floss roughly twice as long as your spine and feed it through the needle. Start sewing through the center hole to your right or left.

Alternative thread, tooth floss

6. Skip the centre hole and continue to the hole on the other side.

7. Now finish sewing by coming through the centre hole again.

8. To tie a knot, make sure that both ends of the thread are on opposite sides of the central thread. Tighten the thread taut and make a knot on top of the central thread. Trim your book once it is sewn.

Follow step-by-step guide here.

Or watch Simon Goode’s three-hole pamphlet binding. He explains how to properly cut the book afterwards

Bookbinding: Three Hole Pamphlet binding explained by Simon Goode