What are the key ideas that shaped its design?
I’d like to say that a book’s design is always in response to the very essence of its content but, of course, it's not: it's influenced by the mixed-bag of inherited imagery, the pre-determined format, the components of an identity to accommodate, an elected printer or a material you have to print on. With this project, however, we were commissioned to look after every element up to the delivered book.
This allowed for the design decisions to concentrate on content and structure, and I hope that Creating with Shapes is a true expression of the process it describes. The principles of Usha’s process are simple, starting with the cutting of a basic shape in fabric, but by contrast the results can be very complex, so it was relevant to make something that on one hand was very simple but, on the other, very rich. In a way, that set a tone for contrast, and the decision to make photography black and white and to reduce the colour palette throughout was a device that reflected the fact that Usha’s process could offer something multifaceted. Monochrome can somehow be both basic and complex, formal and informal, workmanlike and sophisticated, old and new, calm and theatrical. Although based in fashion, the book is a reference manual that I hope will have longevity. The devices we used were deliberate in being timeless.
The book is structured into chapters for seven shapes: a square, circle, triangle, rectangle, circle, oval and hexagon, followed a section of ‘Play’. As the starting shape gets more complex, the results become more dramatic, and there is a device within the photography — a gradient that runs from white to black through the book — that supports this simple narrative. It is the biggest idea in the book. As with a lot of the books we are involved in, there is a modesty to the design that allows the content to lead. In this case it felt more appropriate than ever, since there an intrinsic modesty to Usha and the process she has evolved. Imagery and texts aside, our job was one of making a succession of small, appropriate decisions that added up to a bigger sum.