September 5, 2011

Paper Engineering: 3-D design techniques for a 2-D material, by Natalie Avella [ book review ]


Paper Engineering: 3-D design techniques for a 2-D material (Natalie Avella)
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Paper Engineering | Amazon | Book Depository

I have the tendency to pick up a book from a shelf because of its title and cover. Then, instead of reading the blurb to see what it's about, I flip through and see what (if anything) catches my eye.

A lot of Paper Engineering caught my eye. I thought it was a DIY book because it says "3-D design techniques for a 2-D material". I was so wrong, but I was completely absorbed by the book nonetheless, and I learned a lot from it.

Paper Engineering is filled with plenty of examples of creations crafted from paper - some of them mundane, others fascinating. What makes it stand out from other books on papercrafts is the explanations of the process behind the creations. The book's premise is the possibilities of paper. It shows this by exploring how some graphic designers translated their thoughts and intentions through paper engineering. With their creative use of the material, paper is transformed from just a flat, 2D sheet into a three-dimensional, interactive item that provokes the reader, demands that he/she get involved in and experience the work. The reader "becomes part designer and part performer of the piece", as the book's introduction puts it. "Part performer because the reader's kinetic energy creates the movement that brings the piece to life. Part designer because the reader's imagination and common sense is needed for the design to reach its full potential."

This interactive element isn't so obvious in many works presented here (but I suppose that interpretative aspect is dependant on the individual reader) but the book got me looking at paper as a much more complex material, and at paper products as more than just beautiful creations, however innovatively or commonly they are manipulated into their final forms.

The book examines various traditional graphic design formats like brochures, flyers, books and invitations, and looks at works engineered by folding, cutting, gluing to create pop-ups and different binding methods.

I liked the variety of examples (format, form and shape) and the descriptions accompanying each item - why the designers approached the project they way they did and how they did it. Some of the write-ups are a bit thin but many are detailed and some provide nice backgrounds. For example, in the description of two books bound back to back (referred to in bookbinding as "dos-a-dos" - the French translation of "back to back") and attached by a single cover, the writer explains that this format was popular in the last two centuries for binding related books (like the Old and New Testaments) together.

The book also profiles four paper engineers - British artist Rob Ryan, book designer Ron van der Meer (known for pop-up books), visual artist Kate Farley and book artist Ed Hutchins. And a bonus: a few templates are included at the back of the book so we can attempt to recreate some of the pieces.

If you're looking for a book with lots of examples of cool papercrafting, there are books like
Papercraft: Design and Art With Paper that provide more - and more varied - examples. If you're interested in the design aspect, Paper Engineering is a pretty interesting read. Here are a few pages from the book.

Press day invitation by Multistorey for Simon Carter, from Paper Engineering

works by Kate Farley, from Paper Engineering

Christmas cards by Corina Fletcher for Royal Society of Arts, from Paper Engineering

self-promotional card by Sagmeister Inc. | business cards by Yorgo Tloupas for Intersection, from Paper Engineering

greeting card by Zuan Club for Arjo Wiggins Japan | wedding announcement by Stefan Sagmeister from Paper Engineering

works by Ed Hutchins, from Paper Engineering

Paper engineering: 3-D design techniques for a 2-D material
Author: Natalie Avella
Publisher: RotoVision (Revised edition February 1, 2009)
ISBN: 978-2888930495

buy at Amazon
buy at The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)

You may like my other posts on paper art

:: Jen Stark art
:: anastassia elias / isaac salazar
:: ariana boussard-reifel / ferry staverman / paper donut
:: VIDEOS: paper cut animation films
:: paper cut art: Joe Bagley

[ check out my other book reviews ]
[ check out my other posts on paper crafts ]
[ check out my posts on art ]
[ check out my posts on design ]

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