An Experimental Eulogy

Inspired by architecture, this hand­made book is a collection of 8 essays by phi­lo­so­phers and modern­ist designers.

Basic Facts


79, excluding foreword & misc.


8.5 × 11 inches


6-hole stab (Koki-style), french-fold
Hand-dyed wool cover


Canson Ingres white & black 100g
Fabriano Tiziano “lava red” 160g
Canson Mi-Teintes “wild poppy” 160g
Black Indian handmade paper


Walter Benjamin
William Morris
Rick Poynor
Anthony Froshaug
Jan Tschichold
Beatrice Warde
Eric Gill
Jacques Rancière

Initial Exploration


The objective of modern book design is to find a visual-semantic system that is der­ived from the con­tent and con­tains enough fle­xi­ble, extend­able mod­ules. A modern book has the illu­sion that it can go on for­ever. Time — a fun­da­men­tal part of human expe­ri­ence — is pre­scribed to the rea­der as mono­to­nous and se­quen­tial units. In the form of “los­ing con­text,” the rea­der is pun­ished for not fol­low­ing this sequen­tial order.

How can I des­ign a book that is not mono­to­nous and stri­ctly seq­uen­tial, while not fall­ing into cyni­cal post­mod­ern­ism? Is there a way out?

A book’s typical sequence

Inspiration: SANAA

SANAA’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (Kanazawa, Japan) is delightfully simple. It is still developed from a Miesian grid, but the spatial sequence for its inhabitants is very non-linear.

Design Goals


Homogeneous grid: grid does not imply seman­tic struc­ture but only helps with scale and proportion.


Faci­li­tate non-lin­ear­ity: reduce pun­ish­ment for ran­dom start and offer mul­ti­ple read­ing routes.


Intertextuality: running mul­ti­ple texts at the same time allows adja­cent texts and gra­phic to gene­rate new meaning.


Fluidity: inten­tional and tem­pered mis­ali­gn­ment blurs boun­daries, allowing the eye to roam freely.


Intertextuality: running multiple texts at the same time allows adjacent text and graphic to generate new meaning.


Fluidity: intentional and tempered misalignment blurs boundaries, allowing the eye to roam freely.

Toggle Grid

Spread layout becomes balancing objects on a flat plane.

Problem: Too much disorder

Bring back order

From critiques I realized that dis­sol­ving the grid too much is over­whel­ming for the reader.

I found Louis Kahn’s buildings ins­truc­tive. Kahn too likes to arr­an­ge small and sepa­rate volumes, but his pro­grams have a strong sense of order.

Inspiration: Louis Kahn

Throughout his life Kahn developed a preference for hollow columns. His early work, Yale art gallery (right), uses hollow concrete cylinder to host the stairs. His final piece, the Bangladesh Parliament complex (left), is still a giant hollow column surrounded by smaller volumes.

Central Void

Louis Kahn’s hollow column idea proved to be extremely ver­sa­tile in gra­phic lay­out. The text­blocks on four sides pro­vide enough repe­ti­tion to ground the rea­der, while the cen­tral void is lite­rally free for me to place any content.

Basic configuration

One side of vertical text

No vertical text

Toggle Grid

The side insets not only enhance the notion of a central void but also proved to guide thumb placement.

Captions are no longer docile. They actively invade the sur­round­ing text blocks to blur the grid’s boundaries.

Finished Book


I am Peiran Tan, a senior of visual communication design at the University of Washington. I am open for freelance and looking for a full-time job.

I believe good design brings relief, utility, and, if possible, beauty, into ordinary people’s lives.




My special thanks to Forma’s designer, David Jonathan Ross, who generously lets me use his typeface on a student license.