The past couple of years have been defined by long-overdue calls for racial reckoning. Thus, I was especially moved when Aperture asked Rational Beauty to work with photographs culled from Dr. Kenneth Montague’s Wedge Collection on a book celebrating African diasporic culture. The book is a revelatory exploration of Black identity with more than a hundred works by Black artists from Canada, the Caribbean, Great Britain, the United States, South America, and the African continent.
Among our favorite creative decisions was using the Martin typeface from Vocal Type as the display font. I appreciated its spirit and irregularities within the letterforms, but it’s the backstory that was compelling: the font took inspiration from typography on the protester’s posters carried during the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike.
Using a photo album as a metaphor for the cover design was a natural and expressive way to present the various artists. A blind emboss window surrounds each photograph adding tactility. The salon-style presentation enables the viewer to experience the collection at a glance—capturing black people as fully engaged human beings in their world.
Punctuating the shifts in content—Community, Identity, and Power—each of the chapter-opening spreads is flooded with pale-yellow ink with chapter titles and introductions, assisting the reader in pausing and contemplating the next chapter’s curation. In addition, the design system utilizes multiple page “types” to handle the variety of photographic formats and visual points-of-views. This approach allowed the salon-style layouts to flow from the cover to the interior pages on various scales.
Preface: Teju Cole
Introduction: Mark Sealy
Interview: Liz Ikiriko
With texts by Isolde Brielmaier, Sandrine Colard, Letticia Cosbert Miller, Julie Crooks, Daisy Desrosiers, Liz Ikiriko, O’Neil Lawrence, Kenneth Montague, Ugochukwu-Smooth
C. Nzewi, Teka Selman, Zoé Whitley, Deborah Willis
Editor: Denise Wolff
Editorial Assistant: Lanah Swindle
Designers: Jeanette Abbink, Mike Abbink
Production Director: Minjee Cho
Production Manager: Andrea Chlad
Senior Text Editor: Susan Ciccotti
Copy Editor: Elena Goukassian
Proofreader: Claire Voon
Number of pages: 184
Number of images: 142
Publication date: 2021-11-30
Measurements: 9.6 x 11.4 x 11.4 inches