1. James Rosenquist: A New Original

    May 27, 2020 by Joanna Hilton

  2. Notes from Isolation

    April 22, 2020 by Joanna Hilton

    We have always believed in collaboration, and this has never been truer than it is today. So, it’s doubly delightful to introduce this guest blog by artist and designer Billie Temple. Billie was instrumental in developing our creative response to isolation.

    The Day it all Began

    We sat on our Zoom call, four familiar faces in unfamiliar spaces. Despite having seen each other, sometimes day in and day out, for years we were seeing into one another’s homes for the first time. It was weird, but then again everything about 24 March 2020 was weird. It was very reassuring to see each other. With the world no longer providing the illusion of continuity it was suddenly very clear that it is people that are the real constants. Francis was reliably daft, Jo reassuringly wry and Roger resolutely calm as I nattered away.

    Let’s Keep in Touch

    It couldn’t have been clearer that human connection was an incredibly important ingredient in coping with our new reality of isolation. Jo and I had both been reading and thinking about how creativity, art and beauty are sources of hope in dark times and wondered how we could reach out and share a little joy and inspiration. So, after much prevaricating (talk of printer’s hats, online talks and colouring books aside) we decided sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. ‘Let’s keep in touch like we used to’ declared Francis, and a set of postcards was decided on.

    Hope & Inspiration

    But what to go on them? We wanted them to carry some hope, some levity and also a bit of inspiration if possible – that’s a lot to ask of a wee postcard! After much staring into the middle distance I realised I was staring at the solution – my house is full of books (as a book designer this is no surprise). Books full of wonder and delight, full of images, words and meaning by inspiring people. How did they work, what did they do to survive? The whole world was suddenly living and working like an author, artist or musician now – in lockdown isolation, from home.

    With assent from the other three members of the postcard committee, research was done, inspiring humans selected, quotes were found and I set about illustrating them. Meanwhile Francis got on with making sure they were going to be the best damn postcards you could wish for. He knew he wanted to use Mohawk Superfine but would it be duplexed or triplexed? Steve Morfield at New Ink was alerted to our postcard plot and recruited for printing. He arranged to reopen his factory especially to get this printed for us.

    After some agonising, I delivered the work and Roger set to artworking them. Like a dutiful Padawan I had created all my colours using only CMY (no black); I have learnt well from Jedi Print Master Francis that this is how you get truly vibrant colours when printing in process colour. So, after some pre-production magic had been applied (because we can’t give away ALL Francis’ secrets) they went to print.

    Communication & Conversation

    Francis and Jo had been busy contacting lots of lovely people to ask them if they would like a little pack of postcards to use in lockdown isolation and the responses were very human and wonderful. So we decided to include a blank postcard for you to find your own creative response to isolation – as an outlet for your inner rage, your advice on loneliness or a just a little moment to do a doodle and not check the internet again to see if any online supermarkets had a slot….

    When the postcards arrived in all their colourful glory the assembly line at Hurtwood’s new HQ commenced! Francis and Jo got very busy with envelopes and a fountain pen, stuck on all the stamps and took a sack of joy to the postbox at 10am on Easter Saturday…

    Words: Billie Temple

    Photography: Holly Pickering

  3. Beating ‘Isolation Art Deprivation’.

    April 9, 2020 by Joanna Hilton

    During this difficult lockdown period many brilliant on-line art initiatives have sprung up. It’s a source of joy and pleasure that so many artists are sharing their work and ideas to lift our spirits.

    If, like us, you’ve been missing regular visits to exhibitions there are lots of galleries and museums rising to ‘the isolation challenge’ and taking their work and exhibitions on-line. But of course with so much wonderful work out there it’s even more difficult to choose what to look at.

    Here are five of our favourite on-line art gallery and museum exhibitions and ideas – so far!


    David Hockney

    Released exclusively by the BBC, David Hockney has shared nine of his paintings and an animation. None of the paintings have been seen before and he has shared them to provide a little respite from the difficulties so many of us are experiencing during the COVID-19 crisis.

    You can read the full article and see the paintings here – David Hockney shares exclusive art from Normandy. 

    Robot Tours at Hastings Contemporary

    Hastings Contemporary Art Gallery have begun video tours through the gallery using a video conferencing robot. This pioneering technology allows you to experience the gallery in real-time and promised to be a novel experience!

    Discover more about the gallery  and email the gallery on to join a tour.

    Things Izzy Loves

    If you’re an Instagram fan we recommend following the feed of ‘Things Izzy Loves’ a wonderful collection of images and stories of art curated by Izzy Lauder-Frost. Izzy is an art historian and consultant with a passion for sharing art in a friendly and fun way. A brilliant way to revisit old favourites and discover new artists.

    The Getty Museum Challenge

    If you enjoy a bit of dressing up try the Getty Museum challenge on Twitter. The challenge is to recreate a work of Art using household items. Lots of people have already got very creative with all sorts of interesting erm ‘props’. But, if you need a bit of inspiration read this article by John Crace from his column in the Guardian of how he and his wife re-created a Piero della Francesca.

    Artist Activity Pack by Firstsite Gallery

    And lastly, the beautiful Firstsight gallery in Colchester (known locally as The Golden Banana) have come up with a downloadable activity pack. The pack is mainly aimed at children and young people, but is designed to be used as shared activities. It includes lots of ideas from well known artists, including a ‘nationwide wave’ from Mark Wallinger, and other contributions including Gillian Wearing, Idris Khan, and Antony Gormley to name but a few.

    Download the pack on the Firstsite website here.

  4. World Wide Working

    March 30, 2020 by Joanna Hilton

    As we all come to terms with the ‘new normal’, I find myself somehow busier than ever with calls and video meetings. This time to talk and to plan is exciting but, with the cancellation of so many art events and exhibitions, our upcoming work is being pushed further and further into the future. This change has made me reflect on how much, and yet how little, has actually changed; despite our perception of a huge seismic shift in working practice.


    Virtual working – world wide.

    We’re using this time to catch up and update our website and I decided to write a piece about one of our biggest and most successful books.

    Spider Lake was named ‘Book of the Year’ at the British Book Design & Production Awards just over a year ago. The concept was developed between myself and the client and it was designed by Billie Temple Design following long and (often) enjoyable conversations with everyone involved. A prototype was made and examined and the production was tweaked, new techniques were developed and the book was made and delivered to the client.

    However, throughout all of this, no one actually met up in person.

    How was it done?

    Our client, Eszter Matheson (of lifestyle photographers Eszter& David), is based in Los Angeles and sent a contact form after finding Hurtwood on Google. I called her back using the telephone (remember that?) and we talked and became enthusiastic together. We made the introduction to designer Billie Temple over FaceTime and each time Eszter mentioned a book she loved, Billie reached behind her and pulled it out from her bookcase. A marriage made in Heaven.

    Billie and Eszter spent hours online discussing layouts and techniques before sending Hurtwood the files to develop into artwork. We created prototypes which were sent electronically to Pureprint to be printed and sent onward to our bindery in Shropshire. The prototype came back to London and a video went to California.

    I could go on, but you get the picture!

    The point is that ‘That Book: Spider Lake’ could easily have been made during the current lockdown. We collaborated with clients who became friends and, until we all became tired and emotional together at the award ceremony, we’d barely met.

    At the moment, we can’t leave the house: but is work really so different?

    Words: Francis Atterbury

    See more of the book in our portfolio.

  5. 2019, Our Best Bits.

    December 18, 2019 by Joanna Hilton

    Last year was quite a year for us here at Hurtwood. We’ve worked on some blockbuster books and travelled worldwide viewing and colour matching some tremendous works of art. We’ve checked pages as they roll off the presses, viewed lost artworks, met artists and attended exhibitions, and had many exciting moments seeing the results of our work in situ.

    The design and production team (top photo) have done us proud. These are their five favourite artists books of the many, many wonderful projects we’ve had the pleasure of working on this year.


    Roger’s choice.

    ‘Art & Life: Richard Beer’ (image 2).

    Roger works with us in production as a Senior Artworker. He is talented and experienced in the trade and the addition of book work has been an exciting development for him.

    This book ‘Art & Life’ was very personal to Hurtwood as it documents the life and work of artist and family friend Richard (Dick) Beer. Born in 1928, Dick studied first Stage Design at the Slade before switching to painting and then print making in Paris in the 50s. He died in 2017 without family, but awash with friends. It was those friends, led by Jenifer Opie, who curated and edited this lovely limited edition of the work Dick left behind, ranging from stage sets for the Royal Opera House to book jackets, prints, posters, paintings and sketch books. The book was privately published by Dick’s friends and proved so popular it sold out within a few weeks.

    Roger said: “I loved working on this from day one when Jennifer arrived with a folder full of pictures and the idea of creating a tribute to Richard. Billie [the designer] had come up with a lovely design making the most of the vintage images and prints and really bringing out the fun side of Richard’s life, both in his work and with his friends. We took a great deal of care scanning and restoring the images, enhancing the vintage photos and posters and artworking the finished design. It was a full hands on project, but seeing the first finished book arrive at Hurtwood made me feel proud to be part of a fitting tribute to the life of a gifted artist”.

    Paul’s top project.

    Gilbert & George: There Were Two Young Men’ (image 3, left)

    Paul is our Production Assistant, he is learning the skills of artworking and pre-press production and has a keen eye for colour.

    Produced for Fondation Louis Vuitton, this book accompanied the exhibition in Paris. These early charcoal sketches were being shown for the first time since being stolen in Italy in 1971. Gilbert & George had transparencies of the work and were certain that these were colour accurate, but something felt wrong. The paper looked green. Chatting it over in a pre-production meeting they told us they had ‘aged’ the paper with Potassium Permanganate, but Francis remembered his mother telling him that, during the early days of WWII, she used Potassium Permanganate to dye her legs as if she were wearing stockings! So we thought it was probably red/brown, not green. We insisted on looking at the originals in store in Paris and, with only two weeks to go before the show, discovered we were right. Beautiful paper and finally, accurate colour. Perfect.

    Paul said: For me this was my favourite book as it’s a job where I had been given a specific and significant responsibility – seeing the originals in Paris and matching the colour to the images of the book. The originals had been made with Potassium Permanganate as a method of ageing the paper. The results of this differed from our supplied images, which had more of a green hue; yet the originals were almost brown in colour. Given that the difference was so great, it was imperative that I remember exactly how the originals looked, so I could go back to London and get to work on matching them (I was only allowed to see them the one time in Paris). From there it was over to Milan to work with the printers at Galli Thierry to get things right on the day, which I think we achieved together, very well. The best part of this job was receiving a phone call from Gilbert & George themselves to let us know how immensely happy they were with the book, and particularly how their work looked and felt just how they remembered the originals”.

    Billie’s best book.

    ‘Lucio Fontana: I Teatrini’. (image 3, right).

    Our book designer Billie is also an artist with a background in fine art. Billie designs from her heart with a deep understanding of the artworks and how to present them sympathetically in a book.

    This book was designed as a unique high quality catalogue for Nahmad Projects to accompany their Exhibition of Fontana’s ‘Teatrini’ – an exclusive exhibition of eleven unseen works and five paper studies which were shown earlier this year.

    Billie said: “I wanted to design an object that reflected the exhibited works, the era in which they were created and paid homage Fontana’s ‘Spatial Concepts’. The cover is a physical interpretation of a *Teatrini – using paper, foil blocking and blind debossing to create depth and texture with black edge painting to mimic the way the frames of the Teatrini work. Creating an object that feels ‘total’, a little surreal and like it might have dropped out of the vortex of space. The layout of the book is a modern, minimal interpretation of mid-century modern, using white space to create tension and rhythm and picking out the puncture marks as a motif to create detail and narrative within the text. The puncture marks were also of thematic importance to Nahmad Projects as part of Fontana’s interest in early space exploration”.

    *’Teatrini’ means ‘little theatres’ and describes the last body of work created by Fontana before he died. The paintings are a mix of layers of cutaway canvases, and are aptly named. You can see the paintings here – on the Nahmad Projects site. Read more on the artist from Nahmad Projects|London

    Francis’ Favourite.

    ‘Ghana Freedom’ (image 4)

    The first ever Ghana Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia 2019 was extraordinarily beautiful. The pavilion was a vibrant mix of paintings, photographs, films, sculptures and installation celebrating the history of the country through its many Ghana based artists. We were thrilled to be asked to produce the beautiful catalogue to accompany the exhibition.

    The book was designed in the New York, managed by Adjaye Associates in London, published in Germany and paid for in Ghana. We sit in the middle as usual. We found a great paper for the text (as thick as 170g, but only 120g) and helped the designer create a pagination that made the best and most economical use of colour. But most of all, what a fantastic cover! (see more of it here). It was designed by David Adjaye but the implementation of his concept was all ours. A super black paper (there’s nothing blacker) and the two iridescent metallic inks that move between shades of Gold and Copper – never the same and always distinct and different. Metals that reflect the main exports from Ghana. 

    Francis commented: “Having the idea and making it work. Lovely”.

    Everyone’s choice!

    ‘Humphrey Ocean: Monograph’ (image 5)

    This book was on everyones list of favourites, the whole production team (all three of them!) had a hand in this monograph for the artist Humphrey Ocean RA, and we can honestly say it is one of the most satisfying and beautiful books we’ve worked on. Spanning Humphrey’s work over five decades it is now almost sold out at the Royal Academy in London. We worked with Humphrey and his design team and planned the book from scratch. From recommending the paper it’s printed on through to choosing the bindery to bind it, as well as undertaking all the pre-press and colour reproduction. Following the book on its production journey Francis accompanied Humphrey to check the pages on press while Roger went to check the book being bound and finished at the bindery – the last stop in its epic travels. Humphrey’s use of seemingly simple and similar shades of colour made for an exciting challenge in reproducing the pictures as accurately as is possible. The book shows highlights of Humphrey’s work, from portraits to sculpture, old photographs and sketchbooks. See more here.

    And the last word from Roger: “It was worth every minute to see the smile on Humphrey’s face when he came in to see the finished book”.


    And to top it all our year culminated in another win at the British Book Design & Production awards; this time in the Art & Architectural Monograph category. We may be small, but we are mighty!


    See the winning book and explore more images of all the above books in our portfolio.

  6. The Friends of Hurtwood

    December 10, 2019 by Joanna Hilton

    Collaboration is at the very heart of what we do.

    We are on the eve of an election that could bring potentially momentous change to lives and businesses in the UK. An election that will very likely decrease the influence of Britain within Europe. Because of this we wanted to talk about the people we work with, and for, across the world; not just the EU. People and businesses who have become our friends and with whom we will continue to work whatever happens next.

    Hurtwood and Europe.

    Despite our concerns about the coming election, we can still be hopeful of a future closely aligned with Europe. Because we are, and always will be, European. And while the results this week may bring a political distance between ourselves and the rest of the continent, in the future, successful trade will help narrow that gap.

    Our Manifesto.

    Hurtwood is, was, and always will be a company with a global outlook and we don’t need to leave the EU to prove it. We seek out the best people and businesses to partner with and we are driven by innovation, quality and talent; not location.

    Even if the direction of our country changes, we won’t.

    We already work with colleagues in Eire, France, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom & United States of America and in turn, we export our books to places as varied as Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Finland, Ghana, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom & USA.

    It takes teamwork to make beautiful books. And we want you to know we plan to keep making more of the same, no matter who is in No.10 on Friday morning.

    Words: Paul Atterbury

  7. Hurtwood rebrands!

    May 18, 2019 by Joanna Hilton

    This one’s about an owl, a flying horse, marble you can fold, a Surrey wood and the Fête des Lumières…

    Rebranding a creative business is never easy. Just ask our friends at Carter Wong Design, who held our hands, soothed our brows, and guided us through our first rebrand in a decade. Here’s how it all started…

    Founded as a specialist publisher in 1972 as Hurtwood Press, we’re named after The Hurtwood, a beautiful woodland in the Surrey Hills, close to where we began. Since then we’ve developed and evolved into one of the world’s leading producers of beautiful special edition and one-off books.

    Giving the best advice, choosing the best materials, selecting the best collaborators and creating the best books takes vision, objectivity and a degree of separation. We don’t publish – we know the best publishers. We don’t print – we choose the best printers. We’re not booksellers – we’re book experts. It was time to drop the press and for Hurtwood to go solo.

    If you’re going it alone it pays to look the part. We chose Pegasus as the basis for our new wordmark: partly because its creator Berthold Wolpe was a great friend of our founding father, and partly because it’s classic, calm, reassuring, honest and handsome too. The barn owl symbolises wisdom, foresight and beauty. Chris Wormell carved our new mascot as a woodblock illustration. We chose a barn owl as the latest in a long line of Hurtwood birds because we think she reflects our own personality – quietly confident, visionary, sage. She’s perching on our company start date – we like to think with a firm grip on the numbers but a strong eye on the horizon.

    Books would be impossible without letters, fonts and typefaces. Influential typographer Paul Barnes at Commercial Type guided us towards Lyon and Graphic – hardworking fonts of beauty and a strong reminder of our rich print heritage. Show me don’t tell me – committing our new branding to paper was always going to be a tall order. We looked to marbled endpapers – a traditional bookmakers material – and commissioned our own modern, innovative, screen-printed gallery with swirling iridescent metallic inks to line our envelopes, back our business cards and bookend our own beautiful, promotional books.

    And there’s a new website too – showcasing some of our most beautiful, innovative bespoke books for artists, businesses and individuals across the globe. You’ll find it at

    Our thanks go to Carter Wong Design, Chris Wormell, Paul Barnes and the late, great, Berthold Wolpe. We hope you enjoy our new identity as much as we do – let us know if you’d like to take a look in person.

    Best wishes from Hurtwood.


    (PS – The Fête des Lumières – or Festival of Light – takes place each December in Lyon, France’s Capital of lights.)

  8. Monet, Matisse and Me

    May 17, 2019 by Joanna Hilton

    Working with great works of art is a huge privilege. But doing justice to the original is our biggest challenge.

    In 2016 I visited the exhibition at the Royal Academy in London ‘Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse’ and, apart from being a deeply satisfying experience, it brought to mind again how hugely enjoyable it is to print these great works.

    Re-creating the work of great artists

    I have been very fortunate to work up close and personal with the works of two of the artists from the exhibition, Monet and Matisse.

    A few years ago, having just completed a book of Joan Miró’s masonite pictures for an exhibition at Art Basel we embarked on two new publications for Helly Nahmad Gallery in London. The gallery specialises in classic modern and post-war art and was mounting an exhibition of Monet to be followed by another on Matisse. Both books were to be designed by the highly creative designer Fernando Guttiérrez.

    As is usual with work today, the first proofs were made from the digital files and then compared against the originals and colour corrected.

    First Impressions

    Meeting the original works for the first time is always an exciting and sobering moment. With Monet and Matisse it’s a privilege to be alone in a room with some of the most beautiful and inspiring art ever made with only my notebook and a cup of tea for company. But it’s daunting too because I’m attempting to discern and assess the difference between original and proof and how best to reduce this difference. Also, these are differences not just of colour in an absolute sense, but also of scale. The original painting is usually considerably larger in real life than the printed reproduction and the artist, of course, had any colour they wished at their disposal whereas I am limited to four [we can and do use special inks and non-standard process colours but that’s for a different blog]. We must be able to have confidence in the changes made because from this point we’re on our own. These aren’t the client’s corrections; they’re ours.

    Colour and space

    One of the greatest impressionists alive and still working today  is, of course, Bridget Riley. I made a series of books for Bridget and was lucky enough to be able to talk with her about colour and how we can better reproduce her work in our printing. What became clear is that it’s not really about specific colours but rather the relationships between colours, just as it’s not about placing ink on the paper but rather allowing the light within the work to radiate out.

    Open your Mind to the Picture

    Once you realise this, colour corrections become relatively simple. You will feel the changes you need. Some specifics are necessary but once you have stopped worrying about what you think you can’t do you will know how to change your proof.

    The effect of light, colour and the relationship of colours to each other is demonstrated very clearly in this photo. They are both reproductions of Bridget Riley’s painting Clepsydra (1976) and were both printed by the same company. The one on the left was printed in 2003 and the one on the right in 1978. There are several reasons for the difference but the main one is that the 2003 version forgot about colour ‘differences’ and assumed that the computer must be right and the 1978 version was made by people who knew what they wanted and used their equipment to get it. This is not a ‘lost’ skill (as I hope our books will demonstrate) but you do need to know that it was possible, and that it still is possible. Technology has made it easier in many ways but it’s the people using the technology that’s important, their knowledge, their skill (both taught and innate) and their understanding of colour and its perception. Incidentally, the 2003 book won industry awards for colour reproduction.

    If you want to better understand why one image seems alive and the other not, remember that impressionists don’t make colour with black and then take a look at a standard Photoshop separation. But however it’s done, I know which one gives me the right impression.

    Words: Francis Atterbury

  9. How green are we?

    by Joanna Hilton

    Our books are designed have a big splash. But we’re working hard to reduce the environmental impact of their production.

    The printing industry can be high impact in terms of energy, water and waste. We make careful choices about the manufacturing processes involved in our books, the materials we use and the suppliers and teams with whom we work.

    Binding for Longevity

    We are well known for high quality books produced in both short and long runs. Books bearing the Hurtwood imprint are always made with care and are designed and built to last. We specialise in hardback books, sewn in sections using PVA (water based) glue with a cloth, leather or paper covering. Books made this way are archival (this includes our Tailored range) and if, in a few hundred years, the binding become a little worn or loose, it can be soaked off and the original book blocks (the inner pages) re-bound. Watch this short video, it’s a bit corny, but does demonstrate perfectly.


    We like to work with printers who share our values. We will always place your work with the right printer for the job, and we use a number of European suppliers but, wherever possible we like to work with Pureprint who are a recognised leader in environmental printing and, with their long running record of high quality art printing, they are the perfect partner. We usually print our short run work on an HP Indigo 12000 digital offset press and this allows us to operate with almost zero waste, something that was unthinkable until relatively recently. We can, and do, advise on longer more commercial type projects, but always with our Hurtwood ‘benchmarks of quality’ as a baseline.

    The paper

    All of our Tailored Books along with many other titles we produce, are printed on Mohawk Superfine paper. It is US Library of Congress certified as archival and guaranteed not to fade or discolour for 500 years (or your money back!). Manufactured using windpower it is, in our opinion, the best of its kind for high quality and sustainable print work. As part of their commitment to quality, Mohawk paper is available in both long and short grain. The correct paper grain direction for the pages is crucial.

    A note on recycled papers – there is a great deal of opinion about recycled paper. Provided the pulp is traceable, responsibly produced and the mill certified in its operation, paper made from virgin fibre (not recycled) is a perfectly acceptable material. Trees are one of the best ways to lock carbon from the atmosphere and especially in the early years of life. Most paper forests plant many more trees than they cut down. For us, the biggest waste is a print job that doesn’t work; either through a bad paper choice, bad printing or bad binding. There are are a myriad of papers on the market and we will always advise on what is best for your project.

    Using paper wisely

    Knowing how to use paper efficiently is another critical factor in our work. The flat printed sheets of a book don’t appear at first glance to correspond to the page sequence of the finished book (see diagram). It’s important to understand how to set pages up and impose and fold correctly ensuring minimum waste and optimum layout for our clients designs.

    And what about us?

    From 1994 to 1999 I worked as a Director at Beacon Press (now part of the Pureprint Group), the world’s leading environmental printer. The list of world firsts was impressive; first printer in the world listed in the EMAS register, first printer in the world to be accredited to ISO 14001, first printer to receive the Queen’s Award for Environment (and retained every three years since then). As Sales & Marketing Director, I was involved in how these standards were communicated to stakeholders and spoke regularly at environmental conferences as well as representing the UK industry on an EU Committee trying to find ways to accurately report and harmonise eco-metrics within the industry.

    Our commitment to the wider environment extends to everything we do. We are a Living Wage Employer, supporters of charities such as Sustrans and CleanSpace and we cycle and walk whenever and wherever possible. At Hurtwood, we commit to the highest standards – quality standards and environmental standards; they needn’t be in conflict!

    Words: Francis Atterbury


    Thanks to Phil Carter for the design of the team cycle shirts and Paul Barnes of Commercial Type for the typography advice and ‘artisan’ font.

  10. The Mischievous Mind

    May 16, 2019 by Joanna Hilton

    Graphic Designer Joe Carter on a Hurtwood book that blends sculpture with luxury branding and living with a design legacy.

    Joe, as a young designer, can you tell us a bit about your professional background and your design work?

    I’ve grown up surrounded by Graphic Design — both my parents are in the industry. My father, Phil Carter, and his business partner Phil Wong were a huge inspiration. Then, since graduating from Kingston University about seven years ago, I’ve been very fortunate to work in a wide variety of London’s most renowned studios and agencies with some real heroes of the industry, such as Tony Brook (of Spin) and Paul Belford (I was the first designer to work for his eponymous studio).

    Two years ago, I decided to take my learnings and set up my own studio, with the main aim of utilising every opportunity as a means of consistently creating portfolio-standard work. My practice is based on the formal principals of all good graphic design — great visual ideas combined with the consideration of every possible detail — and applying them to the appropriate media. I’m also obsessed with the processes of production — the way something is made is just as important as the way it looks, and can often influence the outcome of my work.

    The book by Studio Ruuger is about ‘examining the concept of luxury’. Can you give us some background on the content of the book, how the project began, how was it presented to you and what was your brief?

    Studio Ruuger are a small team headed by fashion and product designer Oliver Ruuger. They are recognised for their avant-garde, highly labour-intensive luxury objects, which occupy the borderline between sculpture and product, created through distinctive and skilful modern craftsmanship. They have established themselves as one of the UK’s most exciting new luxury labels, selling in London’s most elite boutiques and even appearing in the forthcoming What is Luxury? exhibition at the V&A Museum.

    I started working with Oliver to develop a new brand identity in 2013. After having initially developed a logo, look and feel, printed stationery and the branding on the products themselves, we needed a means of presenting their wonderful array of work since their inception in 2011 as an additional brand tool. My brief was to find a way to do this that would do their practice justice.

    And what is the intended use of the book?

    The book serves as a sort of high-end portfolio, to thrill both commercial buyers, curators and potential new collaborators.

    How did you interpret the brief?

    Much like the way I handled the rest of their branded materials, I wanted to achieve subtle, attractive detailing combined with the highest production values, and do so using a mixture of traditional and modern techniques, such as marrying digital printing and hand-binding. This seemed particularly appropriate for a studio that also often juxtapose the old and new, such as creating an umbrella handle using a 3D printer and then hand-covering it with natural leather.

    The images are unusual and striking, are you able to explain a little bit about the decisions behind the photo-shoots?

    If I’m perfectly honest, I had very little to do with the content of the images themselves. Oliver has always produced extraordinary work, and I guess I’m the lucky one for being able to work with such great content. But this did mean that it was very important for them to be presented cleanly and as large as possible, and printed at the utmost quality.

    And if that led to any particular design challenges?

    Well I guess this would usually mean weeks of painstaking repro work, especially what with the book being printed digitally, but thankfully the whole process was handled by Hurtwood. The results are sublime.

    What influenced your choice of typography and the use of ligatures?

    It was a combination of two things really. I’d already established the Baskerville typeface as a key component when I developed the Studio Ruuger brand identity in 2013, so it was nice to create some consistency with all of the other printed matter we’d already developed. Add to this one of the font’s greatest features — those remarkable ligatures — and a delicate, almost organic feel to the longer blocks of text was formed. Very much like the unique flourishes in Oliver’s work.

    How did you select the ‘bespoke’ elements of the book, the cloth colour, blocking and endpapers?

    Again, there were a few elements of this which were predetermined by colours and materials we’d used in the past for his stationery, etc. We continued to use a monochrome palette. We’ve only ever blind-debossed the logo, so we continued this on the cover. Also, the Coltskin embossing texture provided by GFSmith’s brilliant Colorplan range (that we used on all the branded stationery) provides a subtle, natural, almost leather-like quality to the endpapers. Considering that most of the studio’s products involve leather in some form, this was an obvious choice. Black cloth and monochrome head and tail bands were the final details that made the book such a luxury object.

    You obviously had strong ideas on the design and look of the book, did you have an opinion on the best way to print and bind the book?

    Having been told about Hurtwood Press and their Tailored Books a few years ago, I’d been keen to find the right project/client combination to give it a whirl. Also, considering that we didn’t have the budget to produce a huge run of books, but still needed the highest production quality, it seemed a perfect fit.

    What made you decide to use Hurtwood’s Books for the production?

    The ability to make something that exuded luxury in every way for an initial run of only three books.

    What was your reaction to the finished book?

    I thought it was, and still is, stunning. We started with such a high benchmark in terms of the finish we required, so there was real pressure to achieve perfection. Having worked with Francis before, I expected no less, but was still blown away when I unwrapped that first copy.

    And was it well received by your client?

    Initially we only printed three copies — a huge benefit of using Hurtwood was that you specialise in short run printing — so I guess it was a pretty good indication of the book’s success when we found ourselves printing another 15 copies a month later. Apparently even the legendary Karl Lagerfeld now has a copy on his desk.

    We’ve plans to make a new edition every couple of years, utilising the same format and production processes. I can’t wait to see the series as a whole one day.

    Words: Joe Carter


    The Mischievous Mind was entered by Hurtwood for the British Book Design & Production Awards and was Highly Commended in the digitally printed category — where print quality, typography and design are looked at closely.