Sonneteer

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Sonneteer


Description: Publication design, and featured chapter in Sonneteer,
a collaborative artist book

Client: Front Forty Press
Year: 2003-2007


Sonneteer was conceived in 2003 by photographer and Front Forty Press founder Doug Fogelson. The concept was simple: a book of visual sonnets – each based on a theme in the built environment – infrastructure, fences, roads, sprawl, decay… Edits of Doug’s photographic images were furnished to a hand-picked group of nine designers. As the youngest member of the group, I was fortunate to be included.

Each designer was asked to create a graphic meditation on an assigned theme in a series of seven spreads analogous to the structure of a sonnet – fourteen lines in iambic pentameter.  The first challenge of the project was communicating the structural analogue to designers, many of whom hadn’t read Shakespeare since college. Mockups, design templates, and sample sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning were given to designers. The project became immersive.

Four years later, Front Forty had produced several editions, but Sonneteer – the original concept book – remained unpublished. Doug approached me to see if I could contribute to production on the finished volume. As I began work assembling Quark and Illustrator spreads into an InDesign document, I spoke of the project to friends and colleagues once again. People seemed puzzled just as the designers had been. The spreads were beautiful, but without context the concept wasn’t making a strong connection. After some discussion, Doug and I composed distinct introductory statements. The sonnet itself needed to be presented textually. I chose Keats’ “On the Sonnet” to give readers a firsthand understanding of the literary form. Around the same time, I had begun collaborating with Jeremiah Barber and his partner Ingrid Rojas – an MFA Creative Writing student at Columbia college. Ingrid agreed to contribute an additional piece on the built environment that would draw readers into the world Doug’s pictures spoke of.

With the addition of these pages, Sonneteer gained necessary context. Space had been created for active consideration of the concept. It became a complete design piece – one that helped magnify the purpose and process behind each designer’s contribution. 

 

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