A Look from Frankfurt am Main
by Uta Schneider
for the International Frankfurt Book Fair, the previous issue of the
magazine, Dailė2002/1 introduced book arts as its focal theme.
The fair offered plenty of opportunity to explore world tendencies in
book arts and to evaluate Lithuanian achievement in the field, also,
to build contacts with the organizers of the most beautiful book contests
in different countries.
Uta Schneider, the managing director of the German Book Art Foundation
and curator of the contest "The Best German Book Designs"
has kindly agreed to answer our questions.
In 19791985 U. Schneider studied visual communication at the Hochschule
für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main (University for Art and Design)
and since 1986 she has been working in applied graphic arts and book
design. She also is an established book artist and exhibition curator.
Her work is featured by exhibitions in Germany and abroad. In 19882000
she received awards of the Book Art Foundation. Since 1995 she teaches
parttime art of the book and typography at different universities and
art schools.Since 2001 she is managing director of the Stiftung Buchkunst
(Book Art Foundation) Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig.
What main tendencies
can you see in the evolution of the book?
Leaving aside the content and focusing on the visual form of books
their artistic form and materiality, we can notice that the number of
paperbacks has been increasing, while "classical" clothbound
books are becoming increasingly rare, primarily due to lower production
cost of the former. Though besides the tendency to publish more for
less (at the cost of design and printing quality), some publishers aspire
to form their "brand style". Such a style is determined by
the content, originality of the book cover and selection of printing
materials with the stress on artistic effect (achieved through harmonious
proportions of the cover, flyleaf and the title page.)
What is changing
in book arts in general?
One prominent direction is difficult to define, as most tendencies reflecting
the spirit of time leave no lasting footprint in book arts. We have
to admit that modern technologies and software have largely contributed
to "visual explosion" in book design. Computer has revolutionized
the visual aesthetics and we have already got used to the novelty, yet
book design is just one of the factors. Different trends in book design
would usually bring the book artist to the fore, and there is also an
on-going, heated discussion between book artists and designers.
Yet the evolution of the book shows us that the radical technological
changes failed to reshape the book so critically. Technical improvements
have not altered the nature of the book (it is sufficient to compare
manuscript letters, books printed in Gutenberg style and the contemporary
desk-top laid out product).
There is one obvious novelty though: with the establishment of other
information media, the ratio of textual and visual content in the book
However, no generalization can be made, as there is one set of requirements
for the shape of reference and academic books and other expectations
related with fiction or illustrated books.
What are the
novelties in the book structure?
Orchestrating all the elements in the book: the first effect of the
exterior of the book, the impression of opening the front cover, the
colours of the flyleaf and the rhythm of turning the pages until the
theme is revealed, is like dramaturgy. For instance, in a photography
album, the viewer is "introduced" into the book before he
has read the title; the content is captured in visual form. Examples
of such free interpretation of book design, seemingly "effortless"
ideas are becoming more numerous.
Is there a threat
for traditional book being shaded by digital publications and books?
What is the ratio of computer book and traditional book in Germany?
Today there is less fear we might loose the book. I think that traditional
book will carry on and reinforce its positions in many respects. On
the other hand, it means that fewer books will be printed, as the same
content which formerly could exist only in the book, today can be stored
on other information carriers. Initial rivals, book and digital technologies
have turned partners. That means co- existence of books, CDs and the
The nature of books will be gradually altered by digital technologies.
Certain types of information will disappear from the books, especially
from academic literature. Book will change, but due to its materiality,
it will grow in value. Book is material, it is made of paper, one can
take it, turn its pages. It has weight, smell, individual form. It is
three-dimensional and exists not only in virtual reality.
Digital book has not been proliferating as rapidly as it was expected.
More over, our generation "has grown together" with the book
and it is not easy to start reading on the screen.
Then, no book depends on electric, battery of any other power source
I can read it whenever and wherever I wish.
The number of
illustrated fiction books and books for children has shrunk. Is this
tendency obvious in Germany? Is there a need to illustrate fiction and
In the former German Democratic Republic book illustration tradition
was exceptionally natured. Yet the Unification brought a radical change.
To date very few publishing companies in Germany care for publishing
"illustrated" books. Yet the attitude towards books for children
is different. Art institutions still teach book illustrators, and it
is obvious on childrens books market. Books for children should
be illustrated, as illustrations have less of "time signature"
than photographs and stimulate childrens fantasy more powerfully.
Book illustration is a very old tradition and hopefully it gets perpertuated.
It will be changing with fashion. Unique sell-expression of an illustrator
is key integrate part of an illustrated book; in a book, drawing, photography
and collage happily co-exist.
What is your
impression of the Lithuanian books on the stand of the Bookart International?
The exhibition of the "Bookart International" in Frankfurt
am Main featured books from thirty two countries. The countries, who
organize a contest of the art of the book, send to Frankfurt am Main
their books which were awarded or selected by a jury at home. This way,
books of different cultures and diverse languages are accumulated in
Frankfurt am Main. Naturally, each culture has its own tradition, and
the aesthetics of different countries varies a lot. These differences
are largely determined by letters and symbols used in the language,
which create their own visual aesthetics. The typescript with numerous
accents is more dynamic by its nature than the one dominated by small
letters. Each time optical balance of the lines will be different.
Diacritical marks used in the Lithuanian language have a huge impact
on the character of Lithuanian books (referring to text). Therefore
the typographical optical effect is totally other than, for instance,
in English books. Compared to other countries, Lithuanian books are
of a more discreet design and dominated by subdued colours. There is
not much experiment. This says nothing of the quality of the books,
and I do not think that bright colours and diversity is necessarily
a positive aspect. It is also a reflection of the taste of the selection
board who selected the books.
Seeing the Lithuanian books on display of the Bookart International,
I became interested in seeing more Lithuania book production. This year
I have received this opportunity.
Thank you very
much for your answers.
The editorial staff appreciates the help of Giedrė Kadžiulytė,
who mediated in organizing the conversation.