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Type: A Version of the Zirma Book (and lots on process)

February 24, 2010

My Zirma book: a book on the Zirma chapter from Invisible Cities. Not finished, but not bad if I do say so myself for two weeks of work. (I could. not. believe it. And I don’t believe I benefited much from such a rush. But that’s another story.)

All the images are correct; everything is showing as it should be.

There is much to say about Invisible Cities; I’m not sure I’m smart enough or articulate enough to sum it all up here, so I can only recommend you google it. But about Zirma: Zirma is a city that is towards the beginning of the book, a city under the rubric Cities and Signs. It’s a city where it’s not clear if the narrator is noticing characteristics of the city because they are indeed happening constantly all the time (i.e. features of the city) or because that is just what he is noticing. I think two lines are key: “The city is redundant: it repeats itself so that something will stick in the mind”  “Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist.”

At first I thought the central theme here was redundancy; but actually–only in the middle of working on the book!–did the themes truly crystallize in my brain: though redundancy is this catchword in this chapter, it’s about noticing and remembering. What does you notice (esp in an unfamiliar place)? What do you remember?

As I said, this came to me only later, in the middle of the book–but I had already started on the right path. For me the workflow on the book, apart from the weird rush, was really ideal. I got the assignment, I started thinking about it, I thought about it a lot, I made some (bad) experiments, and nothing stuck. I looked at type books and read Tufte and kept rereading the chapter and flipping through the book. And then, one day when I was well fed and happy (this is my new ferverent belief: one must be happy to have creative insight): an idea came to me, and it was good and interesting and relevant so I went with it. It led me forward to work on the book and things fairly naturally developed (i.e. I designed by instinct, rather than mostly thought) and sort of away from the original idea, but that was ok, until I reached a sort of mini-impasse. I thought and thought and realized that what Zirma was about–and that what I had been instinctively pushing towards in my design–was noticing and remembering. And so then I could continue forward, polishing and finessing, coming back into this new underlying theme. So it was a lovely process of active thinking and instinctive designing and each upheld the other. When I could no longer think, I designed; when I could no longer design, I thought. It rarely works out this well.

The funny thing is that one of the original “strong” spread ideas I had–printing things lightly, getting gradually darker, until you accumulate sense and meaning to understand the text–is now the weakest. It’s like Nathan, my nephew, speaking: his “worst” words (the ones least like how adults actually speak) are the ones he first learned. And so one of my weakest points in the book is a remnant of this phase of pre-articulation (to carry forward the metaphor). I have to note, though, that it’s not always like that–the central idea that first came to me and got me was the idea of printing things backwards–and it’s stuck with me and stayed strong as both form and meaning.

Anyways, there are a few things to still be resolved here and a few things of finessing, but overall I’m happy with the result. Rebecca mentioned that the book had a zine quality, which of course for me, is a hit–because sort of everything I make has a zine quality and I am just fighting tooth and nail to get away from that–but I don’t think she meant it badly. I did have a huge trauma in the middle of the book about overdesign/no peace and quiet but that’s another blog post.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. ashwinkulothungun permalink
    February 25, 2010 3:57 pm

    Sweet. I can’t wait to do this assignment…or read the book for that matter. I’m particularly taken by the first and ninth spread. It’s hard to do overlaid figures like that and not have it look too mechanical.

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