The art of starting over:

Or why Parsons totally owes me a manicure.

My photo book is actually a collection of “records” acting pages and which are bound by an LP sleeve.

My original intent was to create a full sized 33rd record book—a.k.a  12-inch diameter book. However, confronted with design challenges posed by an off line vinyl sticker printer in the Parson’s Art, Media, and Technology lab, I was forced to resize to a paper size accommodated by sticker paper manufacturers. The design was modified again post-critique and goo-goned to Hell and back in order to make refinements and (hopefully) take advantage of the AMT lab vinyl printer.

unnamed-1At the moment my pages are soaking in a bucket of 1-part water to 2-parts isopropyl alcohol in the hope that someday they won’t smell and feel like orange goo-gone. They soak while I blog and file down the finger stumps I am left with after picking off 18 stickers!

unnamedAs much as I was less than enthusiastic about starting over I did learn a lot about my process as a designer.  I suffer from a tendency to plow ahead without thinking fully about the final product.  Or rather, I know what the ideal final product would be in my head but occasionally fail to think through the steps to get there.  I believe that, having worked out in the ‘real world’ for a number of years before returning to school I have been trained to work to completion, if not perfection–and I am seeing this across all my classes.

Definitely a habit that is…almost broken by this class.

BUT, now that the Parsons AMT lab vinyl printer is back in business,  I am thrilled to refine the project!


A Reminder: The Grolier Club

The Grolier Club

You are missing another NYC gem for those of you that have not visited The Grolier Club on the upper Eastside especially if you are a lover of books, printing, collecting…and more. It is a treat to walk through an exhibit in this Club established in 1884.

Here is a quote from The Grolier Club Constitution that can describe this “to foster the study, collecting, and appreciation of books and works on paper, their art, history, production, and commerce. It shall pursue this mission through the maintenance of a library devoted to all aspects of the book and graphic arts and especially bibliography; through the occasional publication of books designed to illustrate, promote and encourage the book and graphic arts; through exhibitions and educational programs for its members and the general public; and through the maintenance of a Club building for the safekeeping of its property, and otherwise suitable for the purposes of the Club.”

Cover Design from Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Cover Design from Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Here is a list of their exhibitions (now through 2016).

Go to their web site for more information.

Admission: Exhibitions are open to the public free of charge


• Now until February 7, 2016 | One Hundred Books Famous In Children’s Literature


  • December 9, 2015-February 6, 2016  |“The Grolier Club Collects II.” Curated by Eric Holzenberg and Arthur Schwarz
  • February 24-May 14, 2016 | “The Royal Game of the Goose: Four Hundred Years of Printed Board Games.”
  • June 1-July 30, 2016 | “Artists & Others: The Imaginative French Book, 2000-2015.”


  • November 19, 2015-January 16, 2016 | “Illustrated by Lynd Ward,” From the Collection of Robert Dance.
  • January 28-March 12, 2016 | “Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren’t,” from the Collection of Mindell Dubansky.
  • March 24-May 28, 2016 | “‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’,” Miniature Bindings from the Collection of Neale A. and Margaret Albert.

Location & Gallery Hours 

The Grolier Club
47 East 60th Street
New York, New York 10022

Call to Confirm the Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 am-5 pm.

Bookbinding Workshop Process & Experience

Last week our Process and Skills class was in a workshop format, where we all learned the actual process of creating a book. This Bookbinding workshop was run by the experimented Mary Ellen Buxton, who patiently and passionately shared her knowledge on the subject.

Before class, I went to go to Talas in Brooklyn, to get all of my supplies. However, I ended up going and it was closed :/ However, I found another shop about a stones throw from the Graham stop, called “Artist & Craftsman Supply” (761 Metropolitan Ave), that had everything I needed.


The first part of class Ms. Buxton showed us the way to properly detect the direction of the grain in a piece of paper, by gently bending both sides of the paper just slightly enough to detect which side has a harder bounce. She then explained how it is very important to fold along the grain, otherwise the paper (most often when it’s a slightly thicker stock) will end up buckling, or ripping over some time. It is also important to correctly use the bone folder to achieve the cleanest fold possible. When looking for the grain, it is best write in pencil little arrows and numbers to help you remember and ease the process when you are finally ready to trim the paper.

She also emphasized the fact that when composing different books, she often makes cheat sheets, with her notes all over the test booklet, so she can make a bunch of mistakes and create several versions sometimes of a book before producing the perfect final product. This was reassuring to know that she doesn’t always get it right the first time! This is all in part of the process it takes to get the best end result.

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 5.47.34 PM

For this first book, we chose to have the cover paper in a color and the inside in white. I started with various paper at 12×18 and trimmed 4 pieces down to 4”x 18”. I folded the outside sheet in half, along the grain, and the white interior sheets were folded in three parts. One piece of each was taken off and then folded again in half – this part was then used to create the mini pamphlet inside the larger part of the book, where the bigger white pieces were stitched into create a French fold.


When stitching, it was important to use the bulldog clips to hold the book together, so all the pieces stay perfectly in place while putting holes and string through the book. In order to stich, you needed to use an awl (not the one I bought, which was very flimsy, I don’t recommend you get it) to poke three holes, and mark up inside numbers for each hole so you don’t confuse yourself when stitching. Luckily my thread was already coated in wax so it was easy to set up the thread and needle.



We ended up doing a Japanese stiching on the outside of the cover. Unfortunately, at the very end I realized that I had stitched incorrectly, and accidentally left one flap outside the book. However, throughout the workshop I realized that the entire process is a planning, trying and testing  game – if something ends up not working, or going as plan – you find a solution. So, we analyzed my book and found out how I could re-stich in order to make the book work. Success! I will be sure to think of this when creating my next book.

processandskills2 processandskills3

Another thing I thought was really interesting about the class was how we talked about how each book is created in a certain way to reflect its content. It was really great to see some of the complex bindings that Ms. Buxton brought in and hear and see how well they were thought through to reflect the authors message/the meaning and purpose of the book. To be honest, this was not always something that I considered whenever picking up a book, but it is now something that I am definitely going to think of when browsing the stocks and when creating my own books in the future.


(Amy Staropoli)


Earlier this month, I attended the FIT School of Art and Design Designers & Books Fair, which featured over 70 book publishers, book signings, and programs related to a variety of design disciplines: architecture, experience design, fashion, graphic design, interior design, landscape architecture, product and industrial design, and urban design.

In addition to tables set up with publishers, there was programming that spanned the weekend, including speakers such as Milton Glaser, Steven Heller, Irma Boom, Peter Bohlin, Juliet Kinchin, Philip Pearlman, and Gary Hustwit.

One of my favorite pieces was a book about Paul Bunyan which was created using wood block prints.


Another cool piece was a book about air streams—which had a metal cover mimicking the iconic trailer material. The airstream sleeve was, in part, inspiration for my photo essay book project; I plan to create a small LP cover sleeve for my book.


A highlight was checking out a book about the style of David Bowie — signed by Ziggy Stardust himself! Unfortunately, the book was going for $3,500, so it has not been added to my library.


I did splurge on one purchase, Michael Beirut’s How to: Use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, and (every once in a while) change the world.  In addition to being a gorgeous design book the captions and text copy is so clever that I could not turn it down.


Unlike the PS1 art book fair, the FIT fair was quiet due to the weather and it was easy to get a good look at everything and manhandle publishers’ products. I would definitely recommend it for any future Process and Skills students!

Pioneering graphic designer, artist and archivist, Elaine Lustig Cohen…

…is recognized for her body of design work integrating European avant-garde and modernist influences into a distinctly American, mid-century manner of communication. She is a living link between design’s modernist past and its continually changing present. — Steven Heller, Elaine Lustig Cohen: Biography (AIGA Medalist)

I was happy to hear that the designers and graphic design historians Patricia Belen and Greg D’ Onofrio completed a first-rate site devoted to the life and work of Elaine Lustig Cohen.

I was just beginning to start my studies in graphic design at Parsons in 1964. I noticed the catalogues and poster designs that The Jewish Museum were beginning to produce after attending a Jasper Johns’ exhibit. Most of collateral work for the Museum exhibitions were designed by Lustig Cohen at that time.

Here are a few samples of her work that she did between 1957 to 1964.



Book Cover | 1957 : Meridian
Book Cover | 1957 : Meridian
Book Cover | 1961: Meridian Giant
Book Cover | 1961: Meridian Giant
Corporate Directory | 1961: Seagrams
Corporate Directory | 1961: Seagrams
Catalogue |1964: Jewish Museum
Catalogue |1964: Jewish Museum

Spotlight | Jason Booher | Book Cover Designer | AAS Graphic Design Faculty & Alumnus

Parsons AAS Graphic Design Alumnus (’05) and Faculty Jason Booher talked with current student Kiel Guba about how he came to Parsons, how he got his first
job, and his experience as a book cover designer and teacher


After obtaining a degree in English Literature
at Princeton University, Jason pursued his childhood dream of becoming a high school English teacher. His career started by teaching
at Eton College in England (he had to wear
a tuxedo to class!) and then Trenton High School (NJ). While he enjoyed teaching, he felt that something was missing from his life. He
quit and bounced around for a few years living in England and Australia where a friend hired him as a personal chef. Despite Bondi Beach beckoning him each day, Jason continued to paint and draw (something he has desperately tried to fit into his schedule as an undergrad) and attempted to make a graphic novel.

When he returned to the US, he took a continuing education course at Parsons on a whim, and through it found out that graphic design existed everywhere and about the Parsons AAS GD program, which he chose as his path into the design world.
“I never really knew about graphic design, let alone considered it as a career,” he says, “but when I started attending classes, I knew immediately it was what I should have been doing all along. Parsons’ AAS Graphic Design was perfect and intense; it really felt more like an MFA program”.

After graduating, Jason started designing book interiors part-time at Dubé Juggling. This freed him up to shop his portfolio to designers he would want to work for, specifically looking for book cover design work. “By the end of school, I figured out graphic design is about selling something”, Jason says “and I knew I would only be able to design well if I was selling something I believed in—I believe in books”.


02.-Gone-away_angelmakerUltimately he landed a job in the art department at Penguin, and soon after found himself in his dream job designing book covers at Alfred A. Knopf. His wife, Helen Yentus, is also a designer and they collaborate often on projects, although he admits with their current jobs they have less times to work together. Jason is currently the Art Director at Blue Rider Press as well as a part-time History of Graphic Design professor at Parsons.


Jason’s work is evocative without being heavy-handed – his covers have just enough information to draw the reader in without revealing too much. They are beautifully and thoughtfully designed and speak both to his great understanding of literature as well as his talent for design.


Q: How do you come up with a cover design for a book?
A: It’s different every time. Reading the book is important. Sometimes I sketch starting with the title and author. Sometimes I am making thumbnails from the very beginning. Sometimes I have a clear idea immediately of what I want to do and start there. Sometimes I read the book and then wait for months until I start really coming up with something. Most of the time I have some idea that I then work through and throw away and move on from there. But I love the process. I get to fall in love with each book and work to find something visually interesting that connects to it’s soul.


Q: What is your favorite typeface?
A: I don’t have one. Type is contextual. But maybe Futura.
Q: What is some of the best advice you received from a Parsons professor?
A: Something I learned very early in my first graphic design class with Julia Gorton has always stayed with me. In the critique of our first projects she burned into us that your design should not be like everyone else’s; it should be unique within its context. That’s something I try to keep in mind each time I start a new project.
Q: Who is your favorite graphic designer?
A: That’s an easy one—Helen Yentus.


Q: You have been teaching design in the AAS program now almost as long as you have been designing, has that affected how you design?
A: There has been no experience or thing that has effected my design or how I think about design as deeply as teaching the History of Graphic Design. Beyond the exposure to great historical designs and soaking in the relationships that I find within them, I was forced to develop a language of design that moved beyond critiquing contemporary designs (either my students’ work or my work in progress). I had to find a way to speak about or discuss design outside the glossy historical narrative with students, a way to move into designs that weren’t their own. Most examples of this kind of dialogue I have found in books have not been helpful to me, because the language used doesn’t relate to how I think about design. However, Paul Rand’s words from his Conversation with Students have. “Design is relationships.” That’s were I start, and it opens up designs in almost any direction I want to push myself and the students.


Through teaching, as much as designing, I quickly came to believe innovation in formal execution to be as important (or perhaps more important) as conceptual expression in most design. Certainly in book packaging. Looking at formal relationships in historical designs as a way to find a unique visual moments in contemporary designs is what my class is about. And it is what I passively and sometimes actively do in my own work. At the very least, I certainly benefit from an accumulation of discussions of various effective relationships. And because I have had to verbally express why I think things work, I can look at something I am designing and not rely on intuitive instinct as to why any given relationship is or isn’t working. Surely I use intuition when I design. But for some reason being able to talk about the decisions I am making intelligently (as in it is intelligible) with another human designer has given me a way to push things further.


Editing and photography: Katarzyna Gruda

TDC Tonight : The Title Might Change : Book Night with Christopher King, Emily Mahon & Jason Booher (AAS GD Faculty & Alumni)

Thursday, March 12th from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
347 W 36th Street, #603, New York



The-Art-of-Lying-Down-209x300 _Christopher King

Christopher King will describe how to run an entire art department when you’re its only member, along with other lessons learned so far from a life in publishing—both in-house and outhouse. He is a graphic designer and illustrator. Formerly the art director of Melville House, he now operates an independent studio at the Pencil Factory in Brooklyn.




A Philadelphia native, Emily Mahon studied Graphic Design and Spanish at Penn State before making her way to New York. She became an Art Director at Doubleday in 2006. Emily will talk about her process, collaborations, current publishing trends, and inspiration for her recent work.





Jason Booher will reveal the secrets of his design, his failures, his love, and why he left the best design job in publishing. Jason has been designing book covers for 8 years, mostly at Knopf. He is now the art director of Blue Rider Press. He also teaches at Parsons School for Design.

Editor: Katarzyna Gruda