6 rules for stunning book design

It's one thing to lay your design skills out for scrutiny from a client – but when that client is a world-famous creativity festival celebrating its 15th year in business, and your audience is a 3,000-strong army of designers and artists from around the world, it can be tough not to feel the pressure.

That's precisely the situation Spanish design studio Vasava found itself in last year, when the founders of OFFF Bareclona approached the team to design a stunning print publication to mark its 15th anniversary. There was only one rule: the final book had to be unconventional and unexpected.

Earlier today, Vasava teamed up with Adobe to launch the first afternoon of OFFF 2015 with a dash of magic. Addressing a packed crowd, the team took to the stage to transform the tactile publications held in the hands of the audience into an intense audiovisual experience, fusing animation and strobe-light set design with music composed exclusively for the occasion.

We caught up with Vasava founder Bruno Sellés to take a closer look at the stunning print publication and find out how the studio approached the project. Here are Sellés' six commandments for approaching a challenging new design project…

01. Go beyond the brief

We've been working for OFFF and on Héctor Ayuso's projects for many years. OFFF is a dream client for us: they trust us and gave us complete freedom to render the project in our own way.

The project is a 15th anniversary book of OFFF. It's a milestone in the festival's history – the consolidation of it as one of the most important creativity events worldwide, and proof that you can grow in figures while keeping your independence and risk-taking attitude.

It was really clear to all of us that we didn't wish to make a "celebrative" book with all the milestones, data and memorabilia of the past. Neither did we want to make a compilation of collected works from different contributors with a common brief.

The only way was to develop a tailor-made concept to be deployed across the whole piece, with very specific roles for every contributor involved and a red thread that unveils the entire plot throughout all the pages.

02. Take your story as far as you can

Spread from inside the OFFF 2015 anniversary book

Spread from inside the OFFF 2015 anniversary book

We came up with different ideas and were initially were stuck trying to decide which was the best route. Then we accidentally met Dr Vataar, a doctor of Anthropology at ChristChurch University.

He's spent most of his life deciphering myths, and researching cults and obscure congregations He'd spent many years investigating OFFF and shared his theories with us. From a design perspective his role has been key for the plot – we've taken his research and given form to it.

There some things that are difficult to prove, but we tried to collect evidence of the most relevant facts and put it together. It's not a linear narrative. There are different layers where you can see the doctor's discoveries and theories.

There's also a full dossier of our own research on the doctor is featured in the book as well. It's up to the readers to judge the veracity of all of it. The truth is that we enjoyed putting everything together.

03. Don't be overwhelmed by the puzzle

OFFF collaborators past, present and future contributed to the OFFF 15th anniversary book, including Erik Spikermann, James Victore, Mucho and more

OFFF collaborators past, present and future contributed to the OFFF 15th anniversary book, including Erik Spikermann, James Victore, Mucho and more

The whole project has been very challenging. Collecting little bits of information, we've managed to solve a puzzle, but the reader has to take his own conclusions. The cult of OFFF has been a thorough organisation to portrait. Mark Tungate, our copywritter, helped us understand the scope of it.

We have given a design response to all the little stories we've managed to acquire, the rituals, the sermons, the deities… It's a complex faith. I believe we've created an identity for OFFF's cult; a visual system consistent with the real OFFF and all its realms.

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Next page: three more commandments for stunning book design

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