Student Project

Custom Editions of Your Favorite Novel

November 26, 2011
Helen Armstrong

Digitizing a text divorces it from a fixed reality. These dematerialized words float in cyberspace waiting for someone—anyone—to assign form. Organizations like Project Gutenberg have made digitized public domain texts freely accessible. Mechanisms like the Expresso Book Machine, courtesy of  NYC’s McNally Jackson bookstore, give users the ability to materialize previously inaccessible out-of-print texts in a matter of minutes.

Miami design students experimented with this new phenomenon in my typography class this semester. Each student chose a favorite classic novel that fell in the public domain, downloaded it from Project Gutenberg and then created his/her own custom edition.

Questions raised by the project were two-fold:

  1. How can designers—or any member of the public for that matter—take advantage of this new text accessibility? What does it mean to publication design when each reader can produce their own custom layout?
  2. What is the future of the book? If the majority of texts move to a digital form, how will physical books be redefined? Will they become treasured artifacts? What unique opportunities do physical materials like paper and ink provide a designer?

Sample Student Work:

crime11 crime21


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, design by Katie Stewart


christmas11 christmas21

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, design by Erik Seyferth


Around11 Around21

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, design by Jarrett Bowling


grimm1 grimm2


Grimm Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm, designed by Sam Childs


Pride1 pride2

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, designed by Colleen Griffiths


alice1 alice2

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, design by Andrea Fiegel


Check out the rest of the projects on Flickr.

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