James Brook / Design

Discover RSA Newsletter Winter 2019



Discover RSA | Issue 110 | Winter 2019

Designed by James Brook for the Friends of the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, 2019

Booklet | 210 x 148 mm | 16 pages
Printed by Events Armoury, Edinburgh

I originally designed this newsletter in 2016, subsequently designing three further issues before the RSA handed the work to their in-house designer. I was approached again in early 2018 to update the design of the newsletter, which had now finally become a 16 page A5 booklet; a change I had planned in 2016, but never implemented as the Academy had not approved this move while I was doing the design. This is the third edition that I have designed in this new format and style. I wanted to create a clean, rationalised design based on a grid, with a limited palette of colours and with just one typeface in different weights throughout. By keeping most of the typography aligned to the same baseline grid the newsletter looks ordered and rationalised – though due to the large amount of copy on some pages, I sometimes had to be more relaxed about remaining faithful to the grid. Taking visual cues from the design of the RSA Friends membership leaflet that I had designed earlier in 2018, I used the burgundy that I had used in my refresh of the RSA Friends logo as an accent colour alongside an extended palette of greys. I typeset the newsletter in Aktiv Grotesk, a typeface that sits well with the Akzidenz Grotesk that I used on the logo and that is easy to read, even at a small scale.




















Joanna Kessel REVEAL Leaflet




Joanna Kessel REVEAL

Designed by James Brook

12 page leaflet | 105 x 148 mm folded | 630 x 148 mm flat
Printed by Print 24 on 120gsm white offset paper

Here is a leaflet that I designed for the very talented mosaic artist, Joanna Kessel. Joanna has been selected by the Crafts Council to showcase new work within Collect Open 2019 at the Saatchi Gallery, London from 28 February to 3 March 2019. For Collect, Joanna has created REVEAL, new architectural-scale work and sculptural objects, developing Italo-Scots links through mosaic and pursuing her interest in the work of the Venetian architect, Carlo Scarpa, and in the novel ‘Invisible Cities’ by Italo Calvino. The leaflet is intended to showcase some of Joanna’s work in Collect and to give readers an insight in to Joanna’s fascinating working process.

It has been a pleasure to collaborate with Joanna and to hear more about her work.

Click here to visit Joanna’s website.


















It’ll End In Tears



Above: This Mortal Coil It’ll End In Tears, 2018 release
Concept and art direction by Ivo Watts-Russell and Nigel Grierson; Photography by Nigel Grierson; Design by Vaughan Oliver at V23; Design assistance by Ervin Esen


I've just received CD copies of the three reissued albums by This Mortal Coil, the ‘supergroup’ formed in 1983 by the founder of the record label 4AD, Ivo Watts-Russell. This Mortal Coil was a studio project that featured a large rotating cast of supporting artists, many of whom were associated with 4AD, including members of Cocteau Twins, Pixies, and Dead Can Dance, but also featuring non-4AD artists such as Howard Devoto and dance diva Alison Limerick. The project released just three full albums: It’ll End In Tears (1984); Filigree & Shadow (1986); and Blood (1991). The sound quality on these remastered CDs is astonishing: originally released as part of a highly limited boxset back in 2011, these new versions differ by being UHQCDs (Ultimate High Quality Compact Disc) rather than HDCDs (High Definition Compatible Digital). The deluxe CD editions are manufactured by the Ichikudo company in Japan, and are packaged in striking high gloss gatefold paper sleeves which are printed and hand-finished to the a very high standard. The sleeves include an inner sleeve (with plastic bag to protect the CD), a booklet, and an OBI band with information in Japanese. The artwork is quite different to the original vinyl versions: although it uses the same imagery, it has been ‘reimagined’ by by Ivo Watts-Russell and Vaughan Oliver, 4AD’s in-house designer and the subject of a new book (on my Christmas list!) published by Unit Editions.




Above: This Mortal Coil Filigree & Shadow, 2018 release

Concept and art direction by Ivo Watts-Russell and Nigel Grierson; Photography by Nigel Grierson; Design by Vaughan Oliver at V23; Design assistance by Ervin Esen




Above: This Mortal Coil Blood, 2018 release
Concept and art direction by Ivo Watts-Russell and Nigel Grierson; Photography by Nigel Grierson; Design by Vaughan Oliver at V23; Design assistance by Ervin Esen; Colour photography by Claire Lazarus


The original album sleeves were very luxurious with a host of special finishes including spot varnishes and metallic inks – in comparison, the later, standard 4AD CD releases looked very basic: generic printed paper in a jewel case with the CD printed in black only. I only have vinyl copies of Filigree & Shadow and Blood, despite It’ll End In Tears being my favourite TMC album. It’ll End In Tears was a single album unlike the doubles that followed it and its sleeve was less lavish, which may explain why I never bought it (I always was – and still am – a sucker for a well-designed and produced album sleeve). I did have a cassette of the album that someone taped for me so I hunted it out from the big box of tapes that I have kept, but not played for many years. The cassette, with The Teardrop Explodes’ Kilimanjaro on side two, was taped in 1984, when I was in my first year studying painting at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Like all of my cassettes from that time, the tape of It’ll End In Tears has a cover that I created for it, in this instance, using Letraset (Bodoni) and a heavy rough card stock. It obviously owes a big debt to Peter Saville. Heavily influenced by Factory, The Sound Foundation, or ‘TSF’, was an imaginary record label that I invented with my schoolfriend, Mark. All of my cassettes were designed as releases from The Sound Foundation and were given catalogue numbers – this cassette is labelled ‘TSF Product Number 30’. The idea of numbering was something I learned from Factory while the idea of music as ‘product’ was a typical post-punk obsession. I stopped adding to the TSF catalogue when I got my first iMac and was able to quickly burn CDs – I still designed sleeves for the CDs but the obsessive numbering stopped along with the idea of The Sound Foundation.





Looking at this cassette more than 30 years later, I can still see what I was trying to achieve with the design: a high-end finish in homage to the Factory aesthetic but made using lo-fi techniques. I’m amazed at my patience in setting all the type in Letraset and I marvel that I must have wasted so much time making it. I’m a bit embarrassed by my Factory-inspired pretentiousness (some of the other cassettes that I dug out earlier have cringeworthy ‘sleevenotes’ that I wrote) but I have to say that, on the whole, I am quietly impressed with this little piece of DIY design.


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