We trundled over to the Royal Festival Hall last night to catch the D&AD lecture by the wonderful book designer Irma Boom.
She was introduced by Simon Waterfall, the new D&AD president, who seems like a charming chap, and who described his guest speaker as "mad as a box of snakes".
Irma kicked off the lecture by reading out a list of words that describe her work. She started with a lot of words that began with the letter A, and you could almost hear the collective thoughts of the audience as they realised where it was leading: "Hmm. A list or words beginning with 'A'. Oh! She's moved on to words beginning with 'B'. This could take a while, but probably she's just doing an ABC of book design. Oh... no... it is in fact the entire alphabet."
500 or so words later, it felt like it was going to be a long, long lecture.
But not a bit of it. Irma Boom is utterly fascinating, and her work is quite simply stunning. She used a sort of live-action overhead projector thing (a document camera), which meant that as she flipped through her books, we could see them on the projection screen.
She talked us through her career book by book, in great and fascinating detail, so much so that she ran out of time, despite being given an extra half hour. We would have happily listened for another hour.
Her book design seems to embody a sort of (at times literally) rough-edged sensuality, as well as a real sense of luxury, whether that be in her use of materials, or the sheer extent of her books - the book she created for Dutch conglomerate SHV ran to 2136 pages.
Check out more about her in the following links:
Design Museum: a good biography
Tyotheque: interview from Abitare, discussing the SHV book and the Otto Treumann monograph
Eye magazine: review of The Book as sculpture, created to commemorate her winning The Gutenburg Prize
Irmaboom.nl: her personal website, but currently under construction
(Image: SHV, courtesy of the Design Museum site.)