Kim Adrian, Nicholas Delbanco, J. Nicholas Geist, Andre Perry, Brian Oliu
Seth Fried, Bryan Furuness, Travis Hessman, Margot Livesey, Bodine Schwerin, Lawrence Sutin
Olivia Bustion, Olivia Clare, Brendan Constantine, Geri Doran, Angie Estes, Robin Hemley, Julius Kalamarz, Mary Kiolbasa, Louise Mathias, F. Daniel Rzicznek, Tomaz Salamun (translated by Michael Thomas Taren), Peter Jay Shippy, Bruce Snider, Nance Van Winckel
You’re holding in your hands the latest edition of Ninth Letter, our eleventh issue, and isn’t there something different about it? Did Ninth Letter get a haircut, or new glasses? In a manner of speaking, yes. When we launched our first issue five years ago, Ninth Letter was all about change, right? Doing something new, experimenting, thinking outside the box. We never left that idea behind, and so after ten issues, we came back to the table and said, what we’ve been doing—it’s still fun, but it’s no longer an experiment. What can we do to shake things up once again?
Our answer to that is right here. Under the art direction of graphic design professor Jimmy Luu, the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Ninth Letter explores through design the deconstruction of what Ninth Letter has done before with regards to images and text. Professor Luu explains his vision for this issue in more detail below, and we think these new designs represent an organic movement forward in the evolution of our project.
Some of the elements in here are especially designed for this issue only, while others may hang around a while longer. We’ll see where the road takes us next. One thing we know for sure is that we will always have great writing, we will always have thoughtful and captivating images, and we will continue to strive for new ways to bring them to you.
Perhaps I am being bit nostalgic for a time before so much of our world became digital, but there is something special about holding a piece of printed paper in our hands that keeps beckoning us back to the past. Yet, it has also been declared many times over that print is dead—that it will no longer be valid in a future of depleted natural resources, abundant digital technologies, and networks of information that populate in real time. This is the reality that designers are—or should be—asked to grapple with each time we start a new project. Why are we still printing things if it’s faster, more economical, and more eco-friendly to just do it digitally instead?
Maybe the answer is that as a society, we probably should be producing less printed matter. It seems that so many decisions that lead to the production of print materials are rooting in medium-based dogma. There is still too much We printed this because it’s always been printed, and not enough we printed this because it can only be printed or even Why is print the best option?
I was asked to join the Ninth Letter team this Spring, and it seemed to me like an appropriate time to engage some of these questions about the nature of printed matter, and take some newer risks with the format and design. What you hold in your hands is the result of the material, conceptual, and aesthetic conversations that our design team had over the course of this semester.
Accepting that going completely digital is not an option, we decided to really invest in the physicality of the book format. A large difference that you’ll notice in this issue is that the images are no longer embedded in the layout of specific stories. Instead, they come in pieces, and although some images are made with particular stories in mind, the relationship between text and image is left more open. This deconstruction of our old format is intended to leave room in the design for you, our reader, to invent, connect, remix, and improve. We hope these loose particles find their way out into the world as entities in and of themselves, which will perhaps allow others to follow the connected threads back to the texts which inspired their creation.
In the end, we designed an issue that asks for different ways of reading, and attempts to uphold the notion that its existence as a printed object is no accident—that in every way possible, it only worksbecause it is printed, The question we will continue to ask in future issues of Ninth Letter is not whether print is dead, but moreso, how can print adapt.
Love + slab serifs,
Steve Davenport and Audrey Petty
Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Joseph Squier and Nan Goggin
Huang Li, Adam Muran
Lauren Ayers, Nate Baltikas, Tanya Boonroueng/Kachentawa, Bryan Kveton, Christine Jeng, Darren McPherson
Dana Burchfield, Russell Evatt, Brian Kornell, Matt Minicucci, Paul Pedroza, Micah Riecker
Lillian Bertram, Ashley Booth, Jaime Brunton, Aaron Burch, Blair Croan, Lindsey Drager, Caroline Duda, Cory Holding, Sean Karns, Lara Mann, Kristin McCann, Arley McNeney, Sara McWhorter, Heather Salus, Crystal Thomas