Thursday, March 8, 2007

Book: The Darkening Garden by John Clute (2006)

The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror, by John Clute, was Payseur & Schmidt's second big release, right after MeccaMettle. John Clute gives us an incredibly indepth and intelligent exploration of the fundamental motifs of modern horror literature with his always-entertaining verbal dexterity.

I acted as art director and designer for this project. Since the work was non-fiction and scholarly, I wanted to make sure that the end product would be as hip and desirable to all audiences, and not just get stuck in with all those other mostly-boring scholarly genre works. Especially because Clute is such an entertaining and, really, important, writer.

I decided that it would be extremely exciting to cajole and persuade 30 different illustrators to create images for each of the motifs discussed in the volume. I came up with the initial list, which was for the most part artists within either the rock poster, alternative comics, or "low-brow" art communities (only one true genre illustrator - Jason Van Hollander - contributed to the project). I sent out the ask to each of the illustrators and it was first come, first served. The illustrators picked whichever motif they wanted. There were only a handful of artists that declined, and I found more than enough talented illustrators to fill in. Each illustrator received the text for the specific motif that was chosen, and a final illustration size - that was it. What they came up with was entirely their own choice.

In any case, I was pretty amazed actually how well the illustrations turned out. For the most part, I think they are all excellent. So much so, in fact, that I decided to create a seperate boxed postcard set of all the images called Postcards of Doom.

I wanted to keep the interior design as clear and spare as possible, especially since the book was an encyclopedia of sorts, and contains tons of information, references to other works, and many situations where I needed to come up with a clear and ordered typographical solution to achieve clarity in the design. Below are some spreads:

Jason Van Hollander created the cover illustration. The cover, spine, and back cover imagery was pressed directly into the casebound cover in a grey ink. It works nice with the black cloth.

I wanted to have a screen printed sash to surround the book. I asked Adam Grano, who's an excellent illustrator and a designer at Fantagraphics, to come up with an idea in 3 colors, to which I could add the title info typographically. He created this excellent cute and horrific scene, which contrasts nicely with the black of the book.

Below is the Postcards of Doom boxset, featuring every illustration in The Darkening Garden.