Architecture and graphic design relations are proving to be something of a theme for me this week. (That’s not really that surprising considering I am an architecture and design editor and writer, I suppose, but still.)
Yesterday I met with an author and a graphic designer to decide how best to layout the author’s latest monograph on a prominent Italian architect. His own experience in this field is vast, but the graphic designer, by contrast – while she has designed a lot of design books – has not done an architecture title before. The meeting was essentially a training session for her – so I took some notes.
This may be quite specialist, but I still thought it was worth sharing.
7 Rules of Showcasing Architecture in Print
1. The iconic shot
The first image of the building in question needs to be chosen carefully. Contrary to what many designers and editors believe the iconic shot does not actually have to show the whole building, or even be the most striking image available. It does, however, need to capture the essence of the building – even if that’s a detail, the designer needs to understand this architecture as if it were a one-liner, a punch line – you need to get the main concept before you can communicate it.
2. The walk through
All subsequent images should be arranged in a way that helps the reader to ‘walk through’ or ‘walk around’ the building – it sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how often it doesn’t happen. The last shot should be as carefully considered as the first – perhaps you end up outside again, perhaps in a courtyard, but think of it as being where the reader will ‘say goodbye’ to the structure.
3. The natural size of drawings
Architects' sketches – if they are to be included – can be both gorgeous and compelling. It is very tempting for a graphic designer to use them very large in a layout, but it’s also important to remember that there is a natural size for architects' sketches, and if you blow them up too large, they will look wrong. Use your instinct here.
4. The grand plan
Likewise, plans and elevations can really help a reader to understand the building, but their use should be carefully considered. For an architect reading the building, roughly 70% of their information will come from the plans – not the photographs. They should be selected and arranged with this in mind. If there is more than one being used they should be presented in a logical order, always at the same scale, and always with the same north point. Again, it sounds logical, but it's amazing how much it is overlooked.
5. The context
Where possible show the context of the building. This can mean showing the surrounding environment in plans and photography, but just as often it means demonstrating how the building is used: if it is an art gallery, it can help to show some of the collection, if it is a public space, show people in it.
6. The all important crop
Architectural photography is a great artform, but one that is often destroyed by a careless art director in print. Crop very carefully – the photograph should draw the viewer into the building and provide a realistic sense of space - loosing the foreground often makes an image loose its impact. Similarly if you have access to photographs that show a tactile element to the building – show it at the appropriate size that makes the reader want to touch it.
7. The rules
The rules are there to be broken, ultimately every layout is different, and every building will need individual treatment, and the most important thing is to find what works in each case.