Criterion Designs

Criterion is a wonderful company  that releases amazing blu-ray and dvd editions of  important films. As they like to say “A continuing series of important classic and contemporary films”. I started collecting them with the “Close Encounters of the Third Kindlaserdisc, around 1992. I also got their LD editions of Robocop, Seven, Brazil, Life of Brian and a few more. It was always expensive to get their discs but you got amazing quality in return: director and d.o.p. approved transfers, interviews, extras. They were the ones that created what we all know now as Special Editions. From LD they went to DVD and then BR discs. The list of their releases is huge (almost 1.000 titles on DVD and BR but more on LD that were never released in the new formats like Akira or 2001: A Space Odyssey) and I wish I had all.

Criterion always had good taste when it came to design their products and in the last few years they started working with some brilliant collaborators: Bill Sienkiewicz, Yuko Shimizu, Kent Williams, Mike AllredDaniel Clowes, Sam Smith, Eric Skillman… The amount of high quality art and design made me wonder when they would release a book showcasing all of it.

Well, 2014 was the year it came out.

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Huge hardcover book, beautifully art directed by Eric Skillman and Sarah Habibi (the regular art directors of the collection) showcasing the art of 150 films and over 100 different artists.  306 pages and god it is heavy.

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Part of the fun of the book is discovering what film will appear next and what kind of materials they show: sketches, rejected art, work with typography, etc, so I won´t spoil that for you,. Every design presented here has some short text where they explain some details about how it was created and the reasons for this or that creative option. Also at the end there is a collection of ALL the LD, DVD and BR covers of the company.

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This book is a dream come true for designers an even though it is a bit expensive (not too much) you get a great art collection in return. As I mentioned before I am also an occasional film poster designer (you can check my company USER T38´s work at IMP Awards,  just a few of them are mine) so to me this book is a treasure and I absolutely recommend it.

PD: Eric Skillman, art director, used to have a blog where he explained from time to time the design process and some of this Criterion designs. Not updated anymore but still a great read: Cozy Lummox.

The Art of Dean Cornwell

Today we have a book about Dean Cornwell, also known as The Dean of Illustrators. Painter and illustrator, he worked in many of the same fields as other famous artists of his time as Norman Rockwell and particularly he excelled at murals.

 

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For some reason there are not so many books as it should be about Cornwell. There is an excellent one called Dean Of Illustrators, by Patricia Janis Broder but it is out of print (I was lucky to get the re-print made in 2000) and not much more to my knowledge.

Enter The Art of Dean Cornwell. This is a limited edition book (1.000 copies) funded by crowd-funding and edited by the Illustrated Press. Unfortunately is already out of print too but still is worthy talking about (even if only to show off). The book comes with a slipcase (it is not to easy to get the book out of it) and it is a 224 pages hardcover book of super high quality content. My copy is signed by the author Daniel Zimmer, number 19 out of 100 signed books.

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After a pretty good introduction about Dean´s life and story (with some great pictures of the man himself and models) we get straight into the art. And what art. I always loved Cornwell but there is so much stuff I had not seen before. We get the whole range of his work: book art, magazine work, mural, paintings, sketches… He was incredibly skilled and with  great knowledge of anatomy so he could tackle practically any subject.

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As I said both of his books are out of print. This is really terrible news and I hope this situation gets fixed as soon as possible.

 

Mika Ninagawa

Ninagawa is a world-famous photographer from Japan. Her photography is quite personal, full of saturated colors, lots of details, elements, sometimes even overloaded. She has worked for the most important magazines in Japan and abroad but I discovered her in the greatest clothes and pictures and pretty girls magazine, the deceased Smart Girls (which also featured the work of Yasumasa Yonehara and  Naito Keisuke)

I always liked her pictures, not so much her movies (she has been a  2 times director as of now, Sakuran and Helter Skelter). I kinda liked the first one (very similar in style to her photography) but I did not like the second at all. Anyway let´s talk about this book. I got it last year at International Nagoya Design Center.

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The book is thick and heavy and comes in a Cardboard slipcase. As you can expect from usual japanese photography book standards, quality of paper, printing and binding is all top-notch. If you are into japanese culture you will find lots of familiar faces: Yayoi Kusama, Kuriyama Chiaki, etc. The imagery is great, with many japanese motifs and elements, and also lots of nature photography: plants, flowers, etc…

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The book, visually,  is incredible rich even if sometimes you will need to rest your eyes. It is quite the visual overload from beginning to the end (and the book is 352 pages)

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The book also has an introduction and conversation with Moriyama Daido (soon to be featured here) and Ninagawa herself. It is actually a great read.

I bought as soon as it came out and it was expensive. I just can´t remember how much I paid for it but it was worth every yen. Now I believe is not so easy to find, probably out of print, but is still around on the interwebs. Published by Rizzoli.

Definitely recommended.