System, Chance Book

System, Chance

Carson & Miller

Published by National Galleries of Scotland, 2016

Designed and typeset by James Brook

ISBN 978 1 911054 03 0

Soft cover | 213 x 148 mm | 32 pages
Printed on 160gsm Vision Superior by Allander

From the National Galleries of Scotland website: 'This publication is a record of a relationship between an institutional archive and two artists, working in collaboration. The artists Carson & Miller proposed in 2013 that they might pursue their established practice of play and game-playing in the archives of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and a series of games and play took place during 2014 and 2015 before culminating in the exhibition Archive Games, 11 July – 25 October 2015.

Carson & Miller use play and game-play in their collaborative practice as a tool with which to navigate archives and collections, but also as a means of exploring wider archival notions of memory, keeping and caring. These themes are among those investigated in this book.'

This was a really interesting publication to work on: the design brief was extremely detailed and the artists had very clear ideas about how the book should look and function – the artists had already designed a visual essay for the opening pages as well as a cover that marked the start of the visual essay. The brief suggested that the typography and design of the book might reflect the elements of the visual essay. I spent some time thinking about the brief and the contents of the book and arrived at the idea that the book should be set in Courier – the artists had used a collage that included a typewritten text on the cover and I liked the connotations of the library and of the archive that the typewritten text carried. As the book was full colour, I was able to use a secondary colour for headings, sub-headings and page numbers: red was the natural choice as it is the second colour on a typewriter – there was also a lot of red in the artists' visual essay, appearing on storage boxes from the archive.

I typeset the chapter headings at an angle to give a punky, playful feel and to reflect the slightly anarchic hand-written texts that the artists had written on the walls in the exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art. I also liked the secondary connotation of rubber-stamped due dates in library books. In contrast to the chapter headings I typeset the essays in a far more traditional and refined style – the essays included endnotes, references and quotations so this traditional style seemed to suit and created a nice tension on the page with the more playful headings. The essays were aligned left with a ragged right edge I worked hard to make sure that the line endings were balanced and there were no odd words left hanging.

The artists had indicated where images needed to appear in the essays so, in such a modest publication, it was a bit of a jigsaw that required some juggling to respect their wishes. I wanted the images to be at a reasonable and consistent size throughout the book and placed consistently on the page: this helped create a much greater emphasis and tension when one of the images (at the artists' request) broke this system and appeared at a larger scale and not placed within text. To make the image captions more distinct from the essay text I used Akzidenz Grotesk Light, which also had the advantage of being more compact than Courier so I was able to fit more text in the available spaces. I also used Akzidenz for the colophon, which appeared on the last page: as it needed to appear next to the notes and references of the final essay, this change of typeface made the break more clear – as did a change in column width.

System, Chance book on the National Galleries of Scotland website
Carson & Miller's Archive Games on the University of Salford website




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