The National Book Festival has just presented a radical shift in its poster design.
For nearly two decades, the Library of Congress has heralded its annual summer celebration of literature and reading with an established look — a representational illustration often warmly depicting animals, children and Mother Nature, interspersed with nods to Washington’s monuments and metaphors for mental travel. And for such a high-profile assignment, the festival has turned to noted illustrators such as Peter de Sève, Rafael López and Yuko Shimizu, as well as the visual whimsy of New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast.
On Thursday morning, though, the festival released a distinctly different official poster for next month’s event, an image rippling with typographical design as compelling verbs — “enchant,” “despair,” “amaze” — sprout from the pages of an open book.
The poster is by Canadian artist Marian Bantjes, a leading figure in typographical design. A veteran member of the prominent organization Alliance Graphique Internationale, she often explores, in her own words, “the marriage of word and image,” typically from a foundation of distinct structure.
“I’m what I call a visual designer, as opposed to a conceptual designer,” Bantjes tells The Washington Post. “My priority is to make something that is beautiful, visually arresting and hopefully intriguing.”
As for this year’s poster, she says there is no literal “meaning.” Instead, she says, “the entire poster is built around the structure of a book, and filled with bookish details.”
“Inspiration comes from the ether,” she says, “from whim, from what I like or am into at the time.”
The left side of the illustration — the “start” of the spine-cracked book — features words correlated with beginnings, just as the right side employs words that signal conclusion, with the nine “pages” of words in between reflecting an arc of creative journeying.
“Given the breadth and depth of the library’s significant holdings featuring typography,” said David Mandel, the library’s director of the Center for Exhibits and Interpretation, “we felt engaging a designer known for her creative and thoughtful explorations of type and lettering was an exciting direction for the National Book Festival poster.”
Bantjes’s work, featured in scores of publications, is in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.
The 19th-annual National Book Festival will be held Aug. 31 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and among the more than 100 authors appearing will be Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, chef José Andrés, scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., Barbara Kingsolver and graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier. The Washington Post is a charter sponsor.