Intriguing, that golden dot on the front cover, where for the rest a clever game of tag is played with the words of the title, as if we are passing through a sharp black scrolling news-sheet on a white background. Very effective here is Remco van Bladel’s Natura font, an adaptation of the early version of Paul Renner’s Futura of 1925. Van Bladel explains that he ran it through an algorithm he designed that generates all sorts of variant letterforms (see the cover: the w’s are not all the same, nor are the r’s at front and back, and the lower-case Ls are not all the same height). The intention is to demonstrate the ‘unity in diversity’ of de Vries’s oeuvre.
In any event this cover makes you want to see straight away what awaits you behind it. ‘You can walk right in without knocking,’ the panel observed happily. ‘This is very clever.’ The book offers an overview of de Vries’s recent work, paralleling its presentation at the 2015 Venice Biennale. The thread running through it all is a conversation between de Vries and Jean-Hubert Martin about the works exhibited in the Rietveld Pavilion and at the lagoon. ‘Poetry’, ‘nature’, ‘ecology’, ‘fragrance’ and ‘coincidence’ could all be used as tags for this book.
The consistency of the design decisions is both sustained and clever. The book is not mind-blowing from the start, but reveals its secrets by degrees. Even so, the panel were sometimes doubtful about the images placed too close to the edge. ‘As if it’s crying out: “my jacket’s too tight”.’ The hardback cover is almost cut flush, which reinforces that feeling even more. The play with large and small illustrations heightens the impression yet further, distracting attention and undermining the ‘falsely poetic’. There’s suspense hiding in this book. There’s something else, too: take a look at the beautiful endpapers and let your fingers glide for a moment over the superb paper. Nor is this a book in which compromises have been made: waterless vegetable offset ink has been employed – as a kind of extension of de Vries’s work – to minimize the book’s ecological impact. In short, this is the book at its best. ‘While this design very much has a voice of its own, it doesn’t shout down the work illustrated.’