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The Medusa book was created and conceived to be a companion to the artwork of the same name created by Tin Drum, in collaboration with Sou Fujimoto, which headlined the London Design Festival in 2021 at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Medusa is a mixed reality installation that teases out questions around central concepts of architecture, ruin, nature, climate decay and what it means to be a living organism in the Anthropocene. The challenge was to create an engaging publication that explores these themes in a lyrical and expressive way, that can be enjoyed whether the reader has experienced the piece or not. It also features fascinating conversations between Yoyo Munk (Medusa's director) and Sou Fujimoto (the renowned architect) James Bridle (artist and author of Ways of Being), Veronica Strang (cultural anthropologist and author of Water Beings) and Seirian Sumner (entomologist author of Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps) with an original poetic contribution from Octavia Bright (poet and author of This Ragged Grace).

I collaborated closely with Yoyo Munk and Tin Drum's Alysha Naples to create a highly conceptual design based around a ‘visual ecology of meaning’ built from Yoyo's expansive references and research. Like the glasses used to experience the Medusa installation, the book is a closed space that contains multiple realities. To further expand on this, featured below, is an excerpt from the book's extended colophon (written by Alysha Naples):

"The image sections weave a hidden blueprint of form and texture through the book that function like a visual algorithm – a cyclical, closed loop. Changes in paper and inks create a specific journey of colour and light that mimics the undulations of the Medusa installation. We begin quietly in the dark with metallic ink on black paper, which reverses to silver paper with black ink before bursting into full colour on pale iridescent paper in the middle of the book. The journey then pulls back into black ink on silver paper before finally settling back into the dark of metallic ink on black paper and through a sequence that visually loops you back to the beginning of the book. ​


This book uses light to create multiple realities through semi-opaque papers that re-contextualise and explore numerous meanings along with inks, glosses, and foils. Ideas weave together, creating shifting patterns that manipulate and blend architectures. The tactile rhythm of the shifting paper stocks creates space and invokes the depth of the project, with each paper representing one of many possible realities Medusa encompasses.

Because Medusa began as an exploration of architecture it was important that the book is similarly rooted in complementary architectural processes and values. In an architectural context, material choices affect everything – durability, sustainability, aesthetics, acoustics, budget, et cetera. We wanted to be similarly thoughtful with our selection of materials to ensure that our choices added to the overall experience by creating a closed, cyclical loop in which various papers depict the structural ebb and flow. Each material decision involved a balance of aesthetic beauty, conceptual appropriateness, and environmental sustainability. And finally, the book's exposed spine represents the geological strata in which humans will eventually take their place.

All the papers in the book are thematically relevant. Alga Carta is made from the algae that has invaded the Venice Lagoon and threatens its fragile ecosystem, and is used for the text sections, allowing it to take us ‘into the deeps’ to explore Medusa. This is particularly pertinent to Medusa because deep sea life, specifically siphonophores were a driving inspiration behind the final installation. Tree Free contains no tree pulp and is made of renewable biomass – 75% from fast-growing bamboo and 25% from cotton linters, a form of pre-consumer waste from the textile industry. Tree Free is used for the introduction and end matter – the parts of the books that happen 'outside of the deeps'. Majestic is line of shimmering papers  made to the highest environmental standards. Given that auroras and bioluminescence were among Medusa’s most significant natural inspirations, we wanted to find a paper that would carry a similar magical glow. Golden Star K is a translucent paper stock that is FSC™ certified and free of acids, chlorine, and heavy metals. Its transparency is created through the refinement of fibers in the manufacturing process rather than through the use of transparency enhancers. It is used for all of the overlays, allowing layers of meaning to be unfolded and experienced. Sirio Ultrablack is manufactured without using carbon-black dyes. It is FSC™ certified and free of acids, chlorine, and heavy metals. One of the most striking changes humans have made to our environment is eradicating the mysteries of the night with constant electric illumination. Medusa challenges us to embrace the darkness, so we went to the darkest place we could find.

The choice of typefaces was similarly considered. The first is Harbour, a font designed by Gareth Hague, is the display font. Harbour is a modern recut of a late-medieval/early-renaissance blackletter typeface capable of holding the tensions inherent in Medusa by encompassing geometric and calligraphic forms, Germanic and Latin roots, and old and new sensibilities. Harbour is striking and distinctive without being decorative, somehow managing to be both Brutalist and ornamental, a perfect analog to the Medusa experience. The second is Founders Grotesk, by Kris Sowersby, is the body text. Founders Grotesk is refined in a way that retains the blunt simplicity of a grotesk typeface while simultaneously creating lovely, harmonious blocks of type that are a pleasure to read. An additional bonus here is the serpentine shape of the Sssssses – a callback to our favourite gorgon. The third typeface is Priori Serif by Jonathan Barnbrook and Marcus Leis Allion, which serves as the voice of Medusa as she speaks to us through Octavia Bright’s poetry. Priori Serif has roots in early 20th century British typography, a timeframe that marked the end of Queen Victoria’s reign and felt appropriate given Medusa’s premiere at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The typeface features angular serifs and diagonal quirks, allowing it to hold its integrity while being manipulated into soundwaves and tendril shapes while working with the other typefaces beautifully."

Artist & Author: TIn Drum & Yoyo Munk

Design: Billie Temple / Assistant Design: Agatha Smith

Contributors: James Bridle, Seirian Sumner, Veronica Strang, Sou Fujimoto, Todd Eckert, Alysha Naples

Editorial team: Yoyo Munk, Billie Temple, Alysha Naples, Eliza Scott

Published by Hurtwood Press
Papers: G.F. Smith and Favini

Foils: Foilco

All images courtesy of Hurtwood Press

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