A Physical Object

September 6, 2012

So, what is this thing going to look like?

The Atlas of Design is meant to be a showcase of beautiful and inspiring work, and we realized early on that this meant we had to make sure the physical book, itself, lived up to its contents. We believe that high-quality cartography should be printed with high-quality materials. We want to honor our contributors by giving their work the best presentation we can. We want to make sure everyone who buys this book receives something that feels good to hold, that has a substance and weight to it. Something worth owning.

This will be a library-quality book. It’s being offset-printed on 80 lb satin stock. Everything will be hardcover bound and smyth sewn. Since the binding is sewn, rather than cheaply glued, it will lay fairly flat, and it’s sturdy enough to last a very long time. The final product will be 8.5″ x 11″, 88 pages. Everything is being done by American Printing, in Madison, WI.

The related question to all this is: why make a printed book in the first place? We could publish in digital media, instead.

Perhaps we are merely anachronistic, but we believe in the experience of holding a physical object in your hands. One that was purpose-made. A web browser, an e-book reader, a PDF viewer — these are all empty vessels. They load in digital content, then quickly dump it out of memory and replace everything with the next file. But this book is being constructed solely to deliver these maps to you. That this is a single-purpose object speaks to the significance of its contents. And, as we discuss in the opening of the book, form is integral to function. The medium is part of the experience, and the printed book makes that experience more satisfying to the senses than the instantly-resizable, searchable, no-thumbing-through-pages, weightless, unscented, one-size-fits-all digital reader. We don’t want these maps to be ephemeral. We want them to live in your house.