Catalog Press is questioning what a book can be (and maybe it’s made of cheese)
Each of these projects over the years has led the designer to view books as “inherently catalogues,” forming the basis of this project and providing “a jumping off point [which] lets me play with what a book can be,” says Ben. “A stack of napkins? A pile of dollar bills? A pack of American cheese? I can use the idea of the book as a catalogue to explore these wackier ideas while at the same time experimenting with more constrained design moves.”
While experimentation and wit can be seen across his entire portfolio, another running theme is his love of materials. “There’s something nice in thinking and designing through a physical process,” he notes on this point. “I feel like decisions come more naturally.” As a result the humour and fascination with Catalog Press by viewers develops from how straightforward it can be. “For example, the primary reason I chose $200 for my book $200 In Order is that the thickness of a stack of 200 one dollar bills felt like the right size,” the designer points out. “I had to get a stack of bills to see that and make that decision.” Consequently, Ben’s books allow the viewer to see this line of thinking. There is an immediate reaction of “I get this” when viewing one of his creations, and then, in our experience, you start to think “I want it” too.
The reaction to Catalog Press has been one of mammoth excitement and joy, and one Ben wasn’t particularly expecting. “While I intended for the books to make people question what it means to be ‘a book’, I had no idea they would elicit such strong responses!” And his particular favourite? “Probably The Details, a book of 200 architectural details sorted by formal characteristics.” Featuring solely iPhone photos Ben’s snapped over the past few years, the designer has removed each of the backgrounds in order “to highlight the specific architectural element I found interesting,” he says. But when it comes to the book design these details explode: “As an object, I love how it is big, you feel the content.”
And, for those of you who maybe don’t share our fascination with books, Ben has started a sibling site exploring objects too.