Daily Features

The World of Wes: Designing The Wes Anderson Collection

Interview with the designer of a new book on the evolution of a filmmaker who delights audiences with his unique artistry and idiosyncratic characters.

By Stela Razzaque, Superscript November 6, 2013

When award-winning critic Matt Zoller Seitz approached Wes Anderson with the idea of constructing a book dedicated solely to the filmmaker’s unique style and career, Anderson was apprehensive. It took some convincing on Seitz’s part, and a team of highly charged creative professionals from Appetite Engineers, to finally get Wes on board. The book that materialized in this three-year labor of love is titled The Wes Anderson Collection.

Divided into seven chronological chapters named after Anderson’s films, the heart of the book is a long conversation with the filmmaker, interspersed with critical essays, photos, and artwork. San Francisco based designer, Martin Venezky of Appetite Engineers, spoke to Designers & Books about his journey in creating the book. Drawing from his own personal collection of old print ephemera, Venezky crafted galleries of imagined Anderson collectibles, creating an elegant layout in the true spirit of a Wes Anderson film.

The Book

The Wes Anderson Collection Matt Zoller Seitz

Stela Razzaque: How did you approach the design strategy?
Martin Venezky: The easy part was re-watching all of Anderson’s films, which I did when the project was still in the “up-and-coming” category. As part of the design strategy, I took the title “collection” literally and imagined sets of stamps and cards that an Anderson character might well be obsessively collecting. I have always been a collector of all sorts of ephemera. As a kid I collected stamps and have always been delighted by the miniature. So I was immediately struck with the idea of turning the book into a massive stamp collection...after all, it seemed like a fine hobby for a character in a Wes Anderson movie.

The book arranges information in the way one of Anderson's idiosyncratic characters might collect stamps. © Abrams Books 

SR: The book trailer describes the book as a guided tour through an artist’s mind. How is this conveyed through the art work and layout?
MV: Wes’s creativity is fueled by so many sources that he has been absorbing and merging together his entire life. Our mission for the book was to try and unravel some of these sources and examine how he channelled them into his art. Matt Zoller Seitz did that beautifully in the text and AI tried to imagine those sources as they might appear in an Anderson biopic if he were to film it himself.

SR: What were some of the challenges you faced?
MV: There were so many different kinds of materials all competing for attention - from drawings to sketches, private archives of photographs, comparative movie sequences, books, records, and so on. Keeping everything organized and somewhat consistent between chapters, while at the same time adding surprise - that was the most challenging aspect.

The cards and stamps that I created all took an enormous amount of time, since I wanted to be sure that every card and stamp was just different enough to feel authentic. I included slight dents, discoloration, shifts and misprints to make the cards and stamps feel like real collections: gathered from different sources at different times, but coming together as a set.

Another challenge was editing the book down to a reasonable size. Although the final outcome is a generous banquet, there were so many additional great pictures that we just couldn’t fit into the final book.

© Abrams Books

SR: What are the design elements of the book that best represent a Wes Anderson movie?
MV: A lot of the book’s details don’t announce themselves, but rather give an aura of “completeness”; while other elements blurt out their presence, like the titles over the stamps and cards, or the announcement of the word count that begins each section to indicate text that was still missing: “500 word intro goes here”, for example. I kept those in the design at the beginning as a reminder, and started updating the word count as the real text arrived. It seems to be just the right cheeky sentiment that Wes would enjoy.

SR: What is the meaning and significance of the cover art?
MV: That is Max Dalton’s beautiful mingling of all seven of Wes’ films into one fantasy village. I added the type into the scene which was hard to do because it felt so complete. So I imagined the type as trying to squeeze into place with the same sweet determination that the movie characters exhibit. After Max created the cover illustration, we thought that it would be fun for the back of the book to show the same village at night.

© Abrams Books

Cover of The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz, introduction by Michael Chabon, 2013. © Abrams Books
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