Quand j'étais petite

So sweet: L'Étagère du bas has published a French edition of When I Was Small. It was nice of the publisher to send over a package, She even used very cute tape for the address! If only I could mail myself back to Paris. Too bad I'm not small...


And yes, I'm back up on my Instagram @robinmitchellcranfield . I am kind of rusty, but I'm catching up!


the weather

(This happened in February on twitter, but I'm behind on my studio housekeeping.) I was reading a story in LA Review of Books about Lisa Robertson and was surprised and happy to see the cover of the book The Weather referenced: 

'From the three floating blue circles in a white box on a sky-blue cover, signaling a Canadian pastoral poetry I had never before encountered, to the mix of conventionally paced lyric poems contrasting the justified prose blocks, it was, as she would say, a “sweet new style.”'

The Weather was one of my first design projects. Last year Paper Hound listed The Weather on its list of favourite local book design, and recently, New Star got in touch with me, and I'm working on some new covers for them. So it came back from the early 2000s (You can see on the back cover, it's for Steedman Design)! It's nice to be working on books again, after a bit of a break. 


A few years later, I laid out Lisa's book The Office of Soft Architecture, designed by Tae Won Yu for Clearcut Press. The illustration appeared in that book, and it was nice because I got to choose a Toyo colour and it was printed on a soft white bamboo paper, which was a good surface for it, and a nice contrast to the gloss coated version. I'm happy with both of them, which is a good feeling (that you don't always get as a designer to be honest). Also, Lisa, who is a very great person, came by my studio one time right after Windy had been rejected for something or other, and she gave me a very good book rejection pep talk. You need those pep talks when you're starting out.

And that's all about The Weather!

Max Bill & Jan Tschichold

I love Max Bill and I love Jan Tschichold. Generally, when I'm reading about historical debates between various Modernist avant-garde factions, if I'm honest, I'm often just rolling my eyes a little. Probably completely unfairly, I imagine them passionately arguing about the importance of the horizontal plane versus the diagonal over red wine while their wives are keeping an eye on dinner and the kids and sorting the socks. Yet, at the same time, it's such a privilege to take their ideas for granted. There's nothing I create that doesn't reference, borrow or build upon 20th century design.

Now, when it comes to the Swiss avant garde, I let them all off the hook. I am amazed every time at how beautifully the Swiss School analyzes type and space. Ernst Keller was successful in making "Swiss" a seal of quality, because when I see imitations on the internet, and there are a lot, there is a missing...something. Whatever sublime quality is evident when any object is crafted by a master.

I imagine the Swiss kept their passionate arguments very short, took notes, had a quick glass of water, and then hopped back to it at their desks (this is unsupported). So when I hear that Jan Tschichold, my favourite writer on the subject of typography and Max Bill, possibly my favourite Swiss School man got into it over the asymmetric (Bill) versus the symmetric (Tschichold), I am genuinely interested. The fight took place in the "Schweizer Graphiste Miteilungen" periodical on type in 1946. Jan Tschichold replied to a series of spreads published by Bill in the April issue with a layout of "Hafis", set classically, symmetrically, with a woodcut by Hans Arp in the June issue. He titled his reply "Belief and Reality". The pull that every designer feels, between the personal, the universal the theoretical and the practical, it's all in here.

Jost Hochuli and Robin Kinross, who detail the argument in "Designing Books", note that Bill supported his beliefs with catalogues and architectural layouts, while Tschichold, who had taken over at Penguin, supported his ideas with literary layouts. I think this points to the way in which what we design influences us. I rarely meet a book designer who is absolutist in their ideas and generally as a group we are pretty low key. As design positions go, it's a pretty humble one: most of the time your job is to keep your design underneath the material you're communicating.

Jan Tschichold

Jan Tschichold

Max Bill with his son, Jakob on

Max Bill with his son, Jakob on