Founded in 2014 by artist-curator James Brady, Gaia Project is an intimate, independent publishing and curatorial initiative operating at the intersection of art and ecology. It exists to make creative and critical writing in this pioneering field widely accessible(01).
Minute Works share a passion for meaningful books, beautiful design, communication, culture and the environment. So understandably we were enthusiastic when James invited us to craft Gaia Project’s first solo-publication, an anthology of essays entitled Elemental.
Before turning our attention to the book’s template design and typography, we set out to create a new marque that would work to unite future Gaia Project published artists’ monographs, theoretical anthologies and exhibition catalogues.
A good marque will communicate a set of values. To establish those most important to James’ practice, we turned to his past artworks for inspiration. carbon/sink, a place-specific organic peat drawing created at North Haven pier, on the remote Fair Isle, captured our imagination(02).
James describes the piece as:
A contemplation on the ecology of the carbon cycle, and human intervention within it’s system: the symbiotic links between the entropy of organic matter, moorland as a carbon sink, fossil fuels, carbon dioxide emission, greenhouse effect atmospheric warming, sea level rise, erosion, loss of land, and the creation of islands.
carbon/sink is an example of a symbiotic space where art might become ecology, and concurrently ecology might become art. The work is ephemeral. We wanted to design an marque that could be symbolic of this conversion.
The Fibonacci sequence came to mind. Occurring in biological settings in two sequential Fibonacci numbers(03), it’s said to appear in the flowering of many plants, the permutation of leaves on a stem, and the spirals seen in shells, storms and galaxies.
It acts as a blueprint for aesthetic harmony. Consequently you’ll find ‘perfect’ examples of the harmonious relationship shared by art and ecology hidden within the composition of many well-known creative masterpieces(04). The Fibonacci sequence is so well-suited to an exploration of the subject, we chose to utilise it as a basis for Gaia Project’s marque.
In addition to an initial concept we designed three further permutations. The process resulted in the creation of four marque variations that can be presented side-by-side to communicate an entropy narrative: low entropy state, disorder, reorder, and high entropy state.
Each symbol embraces simplicity to ensure good legibility at a small scale. The set acts a single ‘responsive’ Gaia Project identity that can change form to suit the varying width of bound books.
With the Fibonacci sequence still in mind we returned to our book design project. Jan Tschichold’s brilliant graphic design practice teaches that 2:3 is best page ratio(05). This ratio appears within the Fibonacci sequence and results in a template that is harmonious and proportional to the page. The template we built for Elemental follows this convention.
We considered a number of typeface options and then conscientiously selected St Croce for cover and section titles. The font is inspired by stone-carved letterforms that have been partially eroded over time. Rather than reverse engineering the wear, St Croce folds the deterioration into the font’s design(06). In this sense every letter is characteristic of the process of entropy.
The materials used throughout Elemental are environmentally sound. Starting with the book’s inner text pages and working all the way out to the dust jacket, we’ve carefully incorporated 100% post-consumer recycled paper and vegetable-oil based inks.
Interconnected cultural, ecological, economic, and social global crises have now emerged as a poignant and critically relevant presence across the arts and cultural sectors. It is therefore timely and necessary that Gaia Project, and Elemental, have finally arrived!
Elemental is available to purchase via Cornerhouse Publications.
01. Cornerhouse Publications. (n.d.) Gaia Project. Available: www.cornerhousepublications.org/catalogue/publishers/gaia-project Last accessed 13/04/16
02. Cape Farewell. (2013) Carbon Cycle. Available: www.capefarewell.com/2013expedition/2013/10/22/carbon-cycle Last accessed 13/04/16
03. Wikipedia. (n.d.) Fibonacci number. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_number Last accessed 13/04/16
04. Wikipedia. (n.d.) List of works designed with the Golden Ratio. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_designed_with_the_golden_ratio Last accessed 13/04/16
05. Retinart. (n.d.) The Secret Law of Page Harmony. Available: retinart.net/graphic-design/secret-law-of-page-harmony Last accessed 13/04/16
06. Samarskaya, K. (2015) St Croce. Available: typographica.org/typeface-reviews/st-croce Last accessed 13/04/16
carbon/sink photography by Jennifer Wilcox.