Innovative Packaging and Graphics by Stuart Tolley
Thames & Hudson ISSN 9780500517574
Review by Cher Pratley
Collector’s Edition is an informal visual survey that compiles examples of 180 innovative graphic and product designs created for special collectors, limited or deluxe editions across a range of industries.
Written by Stuart Tolley, the founder and director of Transmission, a creative agency and editorial consultancy, Collector’s Edition is intended for an audience with an interest in collectables, packaging or graphic design who are looking for inspiration from some of the most celebrated works across music, book and magazine design.
Collector’s Edition is a beautifully bound and constructed book, with a methodic grid layout and quality photographs displayed on gloss paper with simple black and grey text to complement the wide variety of highly visual work. The front cover design is nicely emulated throughout the book with personalised boarders crafted for each section, continuing to add a consistent design aesthetic throughout.
Organised into four sections – Boxed, Multiples, Hand and Extras – it features a broad range of formats and genres across current and past products and designs with each example individually photographed and accompanied by a brief product description, a reference system for the reader to identify the format, materials and finish used in the design, plus credits for the client, record label, publisher and designer behind the work.
Each section begins with an interview with a leading creative, then delves deeper in to the creative process behind the featured project and give insight in to the artists’ and designers’ creative concepts and practices. This book aims to highlight the link between the creator of the item to the collectors and intended audiences who buy these limited editions items, as much as it is about the beautiful design and production of them.
As mentioned, this is a rather informal exploration of packaging and graphic design. The first sentence of the introduction states that it does not want to be misinterpreted as ‘anti-digital’, which I would not go as far to say that it is, but in my opinion it does have a slight inclination towards more traditional methods of design and product production, as can be noticed in the slightly romanticised view of the ‘pre digital era’. However, this topic is broached in the interviews, with many of the interviewees seeming to be rather unswayed by the developments within digital design, merchandising and production. There is more precedence given to the creative possibilities that print offers, but it is agreed that the future of design and packaging is most exciting with both technologies coexisting to create ‘mould-breaking formats’.
The in depth interviews give a detailed look in to the processes, inspiration and ideas behind the creation of the featured products. Some of these ideas have hidden meanings that would possibly be missed without previous background knowledge of the product, artist or brand. Collector’s Edition lifts the lid on some of these double meanings. For example, Stanley Donwood, best known for his work with Radiohead, created a collector’s edition for a special ‘newspaper’ for The King of Limbs, Radiohead’s eighth studio album. The idea behind the design was that the music would outlive the packaging, in-fact the very point of the packaging was that it would degrade and relay a message, “It mirrors our own decay, the way we become more wrinkly. It’s a collector’s edition you cant collect.” It is this type of hidden message, process and outcome that makes the Collector’s Edition such an interesting read.
Many of the concepts and processes taken to develop the initial ideas for the products follow very open briefs, which allows for substantial creative freedom. This is usually due to relationships between the people involved or through an artist’s reputation. I would not say that these briefs are the model for newly graduated or aspiring artists and designers looking to research their current industry, or at least if they do so, that it is done with a certain degree of understanding.
The Collector’s Edition has a slightly traditionalist feel to it, but this is clearly a view widely shared across this current generation, and one that will surely continue to grow with the increasing interest in vinyl records, Polaroid cameras and luxury collector’s products. In my opinion the Collector’s Edition is not a direct view in to the current market of packaging and design but it is a celebration that provokes an interest in the innovative design of packaging and graphics. Hopefully, this book will be the inspiration for many more such projects to come.
As the title indicates, this book is a collector’s edition of collectors editions, it is a visual gallery of some of the finest works within the industry.