Scarcity, Excess, Failure, Vulnerability, Labor, and Access. These were some of the themes of artist Chelsea Romeo Allen’s work, and also some of the themes I was asked to centralize my design around when creating an artist book for her. Produced in a small edition of four, this artist book fulfilled Chelsea’s thesis graduation requirement for Cranbrook Academy of Art and now lives in the school’s library. Chelsea’s request for this book was simple: how can I design a book that aids her work and writing in sharing its message? To start, I split my design process into three stages: observation, ideation, and execution. In the observation stage, I closely looked through Chelsea’s work and spoke with her to unpack the themes present in it. Much of her work centralizes around labor, inequality, family, humor, and the ethereal and emotional responses to all of these things.
Her work comes from a deeply personal place, so as I moved into the ideation stage I wanted to come up with a book that would honor these themes and the familial narrative driving them. The solution I came up with involved treating the book like a personal narrative by allowing it to move sequentially through the artists family origins, artistic growth, and writing in a way that had a beginning and end. With this focus on time based narrative in place, the execution of design for this book was simple. I incorporated family pictures and other images relative to her upbringing to accompany her art. I then designed the book to be split into sections to mirror the stages of her life, artistic growth, and narrative present in her writing. These sections were given large and emboldened typographic headers that emphasized the themes present in this section of Chelsea’s development.