The artist’s book is an art form that combines material form with content. Because form and content are so intrinsically related, it provides an ideal vehicle for the teaching of design concepts that can then be applied to other fields. All the elements of art-making and meaning-making are there to be considered.
The idea will be presented that the artist’s book can usefully be viewed as a form of poetry. When the artist’s book is conceptualized as a form of poetry, it becomes apparent that, as in poetry, everything counts. Considering the techniques used in the construction of poetry and applying these to design will be shown to be a rewarding strategy. When this route is adopted in the making of the artist’s book, it can result in an especially dense and resonant accumulation of meanings.
The paper will examine some of the techniques of poetry and their applicability for designers. In particular, the construction of symbol and metaphor will be singled out for examination, as well as the adoption of appropriate and expressive formal constraints.
The paper will examine some examples of artist’s books and show how these books solve their particular problems of combining form and meaning in a manner that displays a poetic sensibility and an ability to create metaphoric objects of meaningful density and complexity.
Different components of the artist’s book will be singled out for examination. These will include the following: appropriate and imaginative use of materials, expressive form and shape, concrete poetry and what it can teach us about apt and meaningful layout and page design in relation to the meaning of the text, possibilities for creating expressive and appropriate covers and bindings and viewing the whole as an integrated and meaningful web of appropriately related components.
It will be suggested that the artist’s book may have a unique and useful educative role to play in the furtherance of literacy, with regard to visual, written and other forms of texts.