17th February, 2015 at 6:30pm
John Walters' Reading List
| YCN Shop & Library — £10 / £5 for YCN Members

The Eye Magazine editor visited YCN, introducing six books to have influenced him at different stages of his life.

On the 17th of February, it was our pleasure to invite John Walters — editor and co-owner of the highly reputable quarterly review of graphic design Eye magazine — to personally introduce a selection of six books to YCN’s Lending Library. Previously a musician and record producer, John has written for The Guardian, Port, Boat and London Jazz News. 

The evening began with John introducing the latest issue of Eye Magazine and expressing his great support of our Lending Library; "I'm a great believer in libraries— people didn't have alot of books in the village I came from, and it was unusual to see someone with a really packed study. They are a great device — we should support them more and more." 

John kindly led us through a maze of typographic design tricks, musical history and graphic design. His six selections are introduced below:

John Walters photographed by Spencer Wilton

1. A Humument (Thames & Hudson) by Tom Phillips

“It’s a kind of poetry, but also a visual treat,” John said as he referred to “A Humument” or “a book made from a book” by Tom Phillips. John recalled his fascination at how author Tom Phillips collaged, painted and drew artworks over the pages of the Victorian novel originally named, “The Human Document” in an attempt for Phillips to find a book that he could make last all of his life. “It reads like a kind of strange hallucinatory poetry”, John said of the way that Phillips singles out odd phrases and words to make a “kind of deconstruction” of the original text. “What’s interesting as a lifelong project is that Tom Phillips keeps doing new versions- in a few years he will have done every page in this book twice over but each time it’s a new edition”.

An attentive audience photographed by Spencer Wilton

2. Design Writing Research (Phaidon) by Ellen Lupton and J. Abbott Miller

“A relatively rare, entertainingly designed book full of smart design criticism about graphic design”, John said before describing the details of individual sections which he particularly found insightful such as ‘The History of Punctuation’ which humorously contains no punctuation to prove its point, an essay about Quentin Fury’s book, The Medium is the Massage, and an article on Andy Warhol’s ink pressing illustration techniques that went on to become his trademark. “Design Writing Research is a time-line spanning 200 years of design in the US showing how graphic design has emerged as a response to culture, politics and economics.

John Walters photographed by Spencer Wilton

3. The Cheese Monkeys (Scribner) by Chip Kidd

Known primarily as one of America’s most prolific book cover designers, John presents Chip Kidd’s venture into novel writing through “The Cheese Monkeys”. “It’s a really funny novel about graphic design, but it’s also a coming of age novel about finding yourself.” John says before discussing the typographic tricks that add a further dimension to this novel; “There are quite a few design tricks and gimmicks throughout the novel but they don’t interrupt the flow of the book because of their subtlety”. John went on to talk in detail about the design tricks, notably the lettering on the fore edge of the book that when tipped at one angle reads, ‘DO YOU SEE’ and at another angle reads, ‘GOOD IS DEAD’. He also discussed a subtle but impactful detail of the typeface changing upon the introduction of an influential character.

Photograph by Spencer Wilton

4. The History of Music Production (Oxford University Press) by Richard James Burgess

Written by Johns best friend and the old drummer in his band Landscape, John said, “I love this book because Richard has dug out all these archaic bits of information showing the way that music has progressed.” Going back as far as 500 BC, Burgess starts with Pythagorus; “he taught us about algorithms which we now rely on to make music”. Burgess leads from here through a key and deeply knowledgeable timeline analyzing the impact that recording and technologies have had on music production. John then told us about his personal connection to one of the sections including an image of an early 80’s elecronic drum skin, “similar in appearance to a breadboard” almost an exact replica of the one that John and Burgess had played in the early days of their band.

Photograph by Spencer Wilton

5. The Annotated Alice (Penguin) edited by Martin Gardner

With fond memories of being read Lewis Carol’s “Alice through the looking glass” and “Alice in Wonderland” in childhood by his Grandma, John says he specifically likes the annotated version, as Matt Gardner adds notes not only to the text but to the illustrations to translate some of the Victorian language and jokes. “Gardner teases out mathematical, scientific and philosophical context out of Carols text”. John then points out that there is, “typographic experimentation featured that goes right back to Victorian times”, referring to a mouses tale made up of type and the Jabberwocky poem set back to front, with the front verse appearing last.

Photograph by Spencer Wilton

6. Middlemarch (Penguin) by George Eliot

“The characters make really bad decisions— the pleasure and tension is seeing how they transcend those bad decisions.” John’s final book was recommended to him in his early 20’s at a point when he was mainly reading modern American Literature. Written by George Eliot at a time of great change, Middlemarch is a complex tale of idealism, disillusion, loyalty and frustrated love in an English provincial town set at the time of social unrest in 1832. “You could dismiss this as a soap opera but I like to think of this as a Victorian version of a boxset like ‘Breaking Bad’. It’s full of cliffhangers and observes human frailty, vanity, and thwarted ambition.”

A huge thank you to John for taking the time to visit. YCN Members can now freely borrow John’s book choices from the Lending Library at 72 Rivington Street.

YCN Members get priority places for all YCN events, both those hosted at 72 Rivington Street and externally. Not yet a Member? Find out the plentiful benefits of joining here.

Event Details
  • Location:
    72 Rivington Street,
    London, EC2A 3AY,
    United Kingdom
  • Start:
    17th February, 2015 at 6:30pm
  • End:
    17th February, 2015 at 8:00pm

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