Friday 20 November 2015
L’hommage: Paola Antonelli > Irma Boom

PAWhy is Irma Boom’s work relevant for the MoMA collection?
Quite simply, her work epitomizes the very best in design – graphic, book, or otherwise. It manifests itself in books, apparently, but every single book is a memorable explanatory/celebratory object for which being a book is just a pretext for existing. Even in very complex projects like her SHV Think Book Irma is both elegant and economic with her design choices. And she has pioneered and been successful in a field – design at large – that, even now, is still struggling for gender parity.

What is your relation to Irma Boom work? Do you have personal favorites among her work?
I have many favorites among Irma’s work, and we have most of her work in MoMA’s collection. I just took a look at our database at the museum just now in order to reminisce, and it made me so happy to see the bold, experimental covers of Irma’s books (we have about 100 of them) staring back at me like old acquaintances. For example, we are proud to have her masterful tome for Sheila Hicks’s exhibition that happened at the Bard Graduate Center here in New York in 2006 (Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor). The book has the most gorgeous, tactile rough-cut deckle edges, and a pure, white cover that is quite sublime.

Perhaps my particular favorite, though, is a very personal one: the design of the catalogue for a really seminal exhibition for me at MoMA, Design and the Elastic Mind in 2008. It was great to have a chance to work together. In the acknowledgements for the catalogue I thanked Irma for her “hyper-elastic mind” and called her out as “one of the most inventive and perceptive designers in the world, able to straddle space and time to produce an amazing visual synthesis of ideas.” I think I said it pretty well in 2008, so I’m going to let it stand!

Tell us about your first meeting with Irma Boom.
It feels like I have known Irma forever – when you asked me this question I tried to cast my mind back to our very first meeting, and I simply cannot. So my answer must be “forever,” which is a very happy thought.

Photo: Marton Perlaki for The Aston Martin Magazine


Posted by: 17:56


Categories: L'Hommage

Friday 20 November 2015
L’hommage: Olafur Eliasson > Irma Boom

Olafur Eliasson headshot_webTell us about your first meeting with Irma Boom?
Hans Ulrich Obrist first introduced me to her. »We urgently need Irma to design the catalogue for the Fondation Louis Vuitton show«, he wrote. She came to my studio, in Berlin. We talked about the show and when she came back to the second meeting, she brought with her a mock-up for the catalogue that included changes that reflected exactly what we had been working on for the exhibition, even though she could not have known what we had changed – it was a magical connection.

What was your relation to Irma Boom work’s before this project?
I had heard about her work and about her how she works on books as objects, focusing on the book in terms of its performativity. The doing is in the book, rather than the book presenting something that has been done.

What part of Irma Boom’s work do you find most relevant today?
She takes the content she works with very seriously. She looks at what the artworks do and brings that doing into the book, and that constitutes the core of the book. Irma is daring, non-compromising in a charming and convincing way. Although it is often a cliché to say that someone is passionate about what they do, I believe it is entirely accurate to say that Irma is truly passionate about following a design idea from beginning to end in the face of whatever challenges that may arise.

How was the process behind the catalogue and your cooperation?
Irma is a great thinker and it was inspiring to see how she thinks through design. I can’t wait to do another book with her.

Photo found here.

Posted by: 17:55

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Categories: L'Hommage

Sunday 10 February 2013
Guest blogger: Julia Meer

Julia Meer

Julia Meer is both a designer and design historian, which is why she both designed and – together with Gerda Breuer – edited the book Women in Graphic Design 1890–2012. After more than two years of research, picking authors, and choosing which designers to write a short biography on and whose images to show, here is how she remembers the time.

Women in Graphic Design

Julia Meer is both a designer and design historian, which is why she both designed and – together with Gerda Breuer – edited the book Women in Graphic Design 1890–2012. After more than two years of research, picking authors, and choosing which designers to write a short biography on and whose images to show, here is how she remembers the time:

Working on the publication of Women in Graphic Design 1890–2012 was very special, both with regards to content and the emotional side. There were, for example, the reactions when we told people what we were currently working on. There seems to be a widespread insecurity when it comes to this particular topic: everyone assures you how interesting the topic is, and it subsequently gets lost in platitudes. Not so when it comes to people who were already dealing with these matters. We experienced great enthusiasm and support – so it was very easy to get information and material. At least when it came to the currently active designers.

It becomes much more difficult when you go back to the time before 1970. It becomes hard to get in contact with the designers. Even more difficult is the time before World War II, when it becomes extremely hard to find work samples. And when it comes to the years before 1900, you are happy if you at least find a name. But that isn’t much. Then you know there have been women working as graphic designers, but you don’t know anything about their education, life, clients and ideals. That’s why we realized quite early that the »traditional« method of research, that focuses on the designers and their work, wouldn’t be enough. It was necessary to ask structural questions like: Why were there this many women active in which fields? When and why do designers become visible? Were there ambitions to change working conditions? And so on.


WomenGraphic_0017For me it was very fascinating to »re-read« the history of graphic design and understand history, even more than before, as something that is written, that is constructed. I think our book is a good foundation for this re-reading, but the task of re-writing history is still pending. Hopefully we helped to widen perspective, and encourage women and men to ask critical questions. I guess, when it comes to that, the fact that Gerda Breuer and I were socialized in different generations enriched the research.

It makes it obvious to the reader that there is a history of feminism as well, that merges with the history of graphic design. There were, and are, a lot of different ideas and approaches, which makes the discussion very vivid and productive. These different positions also reflect in the interviews, which were probably the most memorable part of our work. Therefore, I very much look forward to your Hall of Femmes Talk series.

It is both impressive and calming to meet successful women and hear them talk about their work and themselves. I think young designers especially need to get a concrete/palpable example of a ›successful women‹. Otherwise they only have an abstract and often vague idea of what is necessary to become successful. And that image is often debilitating and causes pressure and doubts about whether one is capable of all that oneself. If you then meet Irma Boom or Julia Hoffmann and realize that they have not planned and organized every single minute and aspect of their lives and are a massive paragon of ambition, that helps you to get a better perspective. They still work because they love their work.

Summarizing all that: we really hope the book not only gives impulse to design historians, but is also inspiring and motivating for designers.


Julia Meer has worked at the institute for art and design studies at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal since 2008. In addition to pursuing the completion of her dissertation on typography in the 1920s, she works as a freelance designer and organizes lecture series, most recently on the architecture of the 1950s. She has served as editor of the magazine ff. since 2006.

Find the book here and Julia’s web page here.



Posted by: 22:03

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Categories: Guest blogger