Designer Andrea Stranger observes that “most designers have a book fetish.”
She came by hers honestly: while a student at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, she worked “less than part time” at the venerable Alexander Book Company. This past fall, her former employer there emailed to alert her to the contest we were holding to design the Murty Classical Library of India. Stranger took up the challenge, and you can see more of her elegant winning design over at the MCLI site.
Stranger, who has done design work for clients as diverse as Kate Spade, financial services companies, and internet startups, has a broad interest in design—she says, “I’ll take pretty much any project you throw at me”—and relishes the creativity required to work in different arenas. Her primary objective is identifying a client’s needs.
In the case of the MCLI, which will present up-to-date English translations of classical works in languages ranging from Bengali and Kannada and Marathi to Persian, Sanskrit, Telugu, and Urdu, with the text in the appropriate regional script provided on the facing page, Stranger realized that the most important criteria were flexibility—MCLI required a design that could adequately represent diverse texts—and a look that honored both Western and Indian traditions.
She started by doing research on Indian visual culture, and shared some images from those and other inspirations with us to talk about how the design developed.
Stranger saw the galley pictured at right while working at the Alexander Book Company. She was so struck by the text-driven cover that she read the book, and hung onto the galley, which she dug out from her parents’ basement for this photo. She says, “The simplicity of the design and materials stuck with me—and influenced the type-driven approach of the Murty design.”
Stranger says, “I looked at a lot of Indian architecture and found inspiration in the recurring shapes, color and intense use of pattern.” She passed along the image at right as an example.
When Stranger began researching Indian cultures for the project, she noticed that “the elephant is everywhere,” and realized that powerful cross-cultural associations with the animal, a symbol of wisdom, longevity, and strength in the West, made it “a worthy subject for logo exploration.”
“Textiles, like architecture, offered a lot of fodder for color usage and patterning.”
“The Kannada language,” she told us, “served as inspiration for a concept that did not move forward, but the letterforms (like all Indian languages) reinforced the idea of an organic beauty that seemed present in every aspect of my research of Indian design.”
You can see elements of each of these images in Stranger’s final design:
At the MCLI website you can view a slideshow of additional images of the design, and also read thoughts on Stranger’s work from MCLI General Editor Sheldon Pollock, design contest judges such as Peter Mendelsund, and Rohan Narayana Murty, whose endowment gift to Harvard funded the library’s creation.
We’re looking forward to seeing Stranger’s design in print on the first volumes of the Murty Classical Library of India in 2013, and we’re extremely grateful to her and to all of the other talented designers who submitted their work to the contest.