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Irma Boom

Boom & Book

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Irma Boom (1960) is a book maker, based in Amsterdam. Irma Boom studied fine art and graphic design at the AKI Art Academy in Enschede. After graduation she worked for five years at the Dutch Government Publishing and Printing Office in The Hague. In 1991 she founded Irma Boom Office, which works nationally and inter­natio­nally in mainly the cultural world. Boom is not only the designer of the books but works also as editor. She has created over 500 books and is known for her artistic autonomy within her field. Her bold experimental approach to her projects often challenges the convention of traditional books in both physical design and printed content. For five years (1990–1996) she worked (editing and concept/design) on the 2136-page book SHV Think Book 1996-1896 commis­sioned by SHV Holdings in Utrecht. The Think Book was published in English and Chinese. Since 1992 Boom has been a senior critic at Yale University in the US and gives lectures and workshops world wide. She has been the recipient of many awards for her book designs and was the youngest ever laureate to receive the prestigious Gutenberg prize for her complete oeuvre. Boom’s books are in the permanent collection of MoMA New York, Art Institute Chicago, Vatican Library, Centre Pompidou in Paris among other institutions. The Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam collects the complete oeuvre and archive of documents in the so called The Living Archive. In 2014 Boom received the Johannes Vermeer Award (the Dutch state prize for the arts) from the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. The jury unanimously awarded Boom for her unparalleled achievements in the field of graphic design. Boom is a honorary Doctor of the Royal College of Art in London for her inexhaustible contribution to the book.

The Survival of the Book or The Renaissance of the Book!

The distribution of information has always been dependent on its changing form. The classic book can’t escape that and is now feeling it acutely. The digital book is decidedly on the rise. But its appearance in the form of flat, digital images need not threaten the three-dimensional book. The new competition even encourages us to explore the intrinsic characteristics of the printed book more intensely. I think we stand on the verge of a new flourishing of the classic book. Perhaps it has even begun already: the Renaissance of the book. For the printed book, preconceived layouts are a thing of the past. The book designer must first become thoroughly familiar with the content before beginning the actual task at hand: conceiving a structure and a form. One can compare designing a book to performing a piece of music: a conductor explores the music and interprets it. The book designer is an editor and director of texts and images. The result of this effort is the freezing of time and information, which is a means of reflection; compare it to a photograph or a painting. An image at a given moment serving as a reference of time and place. The flux inherent in the internet doesn’t allow you that kind of time. The printed book is final and thus unchangeable. Moreover, the extra use of base materials and man-hours (with printing and binding) forces you, to some degree, to make conscious choices. I make books where content and form are closely connected. The content of the material very much determines the design. This makes each book unique: never the result of routine treatment. My books have a physical presence through their dimensions, scale and weight. Their form may be emphatic, but it is always determined by the content. The need for the book’s intimacy – the paper, the smell of ink – is certainly not nostalgia or false sentiment. The printed book is a fundamental and integral part of our tradition and culture, of published and public knowledge and wisdom. The book is dead. Long live the book!