Book Project: Iris Apfel

Hey everyone!

Wanted to share some photos and details about the process behind my P+S book, one of the most “process intensive” projects I’ve completed thus far. Generally the first ideas I come up with when starting a project are the most outlandish and impractical and are therefore rarely pursued. However, somehow Mark and the rest of my classmates convinced me to tackle one of my first (and craziest) ideas for this project: a book in the shape of Iris Apfel‘s glasses that opens 360 degrees, is made of custom laser-cut plastic, and bound without adhesives (as per our project requirements).

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Here are some initial sketches. Using glasses as the shape of my book not only allowed me to incorporate Iris’ most iconic accessory, it allowed me to have two adjacent inside signatures which, when opened 360 degrees, mimic the shape of Iris’ signature oversize bracelets.

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Iris with her crazy arm party of chunky bracelets.
Iris with her crazy arm party of chunky bracelets.




When I started I didn’t even know if it was physically possible to make this book, so I began by exploring various materials that would allow it to open 360 degrees, would look/feel like real glasses, and didn’t appear “crafty.” Below is an image of my various prototypes in chronological order. You can see I tried everything from bristol board to metal hinges to actual glasses (bought on St. Marks Place, of course).

(From bottom to top) Bristol board, bristol with metal hinge, plastic glasses with metal hinge, cardboard, thin clear plastic I was able to cut myself, more bristol board (used this as my final mockup since I knew at that point I was going to have laser-cut plastic for the final), and finally, laser-cut 1/4″ opaque black plastic!

During the process of figuring out the logistics mentioned above, I was also playing with various renditions of the layout for the book’s content. I decided on a concertina fold and then made up my own random/origami-style fold to make the pages look like 3D bracelets. Not being able to use adhesives was, of course, a sizable challenge to work with while I was figuring out how to produce and print text and imagery onto the origami/concertina folded paper. Once I perfected the size of the folds etc. I input all the measurements into InDesign and placed my content accordingly. Each layout ended up being 3.5″ by 57″ so I printed it on the plotter at University Center.


Prototypes of the inside pages.
Prototypes of the inside pages.
What my final spreads/pages looked like when sent to print, before many hours of folding(above) …and after (below).






This book was a PROCESS, but I learned a lot and am glad that I pushed through the challenges. I think I ended up with something pretty unique!


Photo cred: Hanyan

P.S. If anyone is looking into using plastic, I would highly recommend going to Canal Plastic. They have everything from small 2×2″ plastic squares to 5 ft. cylinders in every color. The custom laser-cut guy who sits at the front desk is AWESOME and if you bring in a vector file of your work they cut it in 15min. I may try the laser-cutter at Parsons for my box project and will let you guys know how it compares to Canal Plastic (or if anyone has tried using it, please comment!).



6 thoughts on “Book Project: Iris Apfel”

  1. Cool book! How did you attach the plastic cover to the book? Did you use the screws like you said in your sketches or did you stitche it? How were you able to hide it from the front?

    Would love to see the actual book!

  2. Iris Apfel! A wonderful subject for your book project.
    And, Canal Plastics, wonderful resource.
    A few of my students used Canal Plastics as well as the Lab10 for laser cutting and sticker art.

    I am also curious on your binding technique?
    Stop by my class on Wednesday at 7:00 Room 504 if you are around.
    I would love to see “Iris’s” book.

    Carmile S. Zaino

  3. Thanks for your comments, Stacey and Carmile!

    I ended up binding the booking using a coptic stitch and had small holes laser-cut into the plastic so I could sew through it as well (as if I were sewing on hardcover front and back pieces). The holes are much less visible in the photos here. If I had the option of using adhesives I could have avoided having holes in the plastic, but had to make it work!

    I’ll likely be around the school printing some things on Wednesday at that time so I will try and stop by if I can!

  4. Just wanted to say this is seriously amazing! I’m taking P+S online, and I’m inspired to step up my game after looking at your project. I wish I could be an on-campus student so that I could see it in the flesh. You did a really great job on this. Congrats from DC! Thanks for the inspiration!

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