September 21, 2012

Waldek Węgrzyn’s Electrolibrary


A project inspired by Russian Constructivist El Lissitzky’s theories about book design.

A Polish designer named Waldek Węgrzyn has created a project for his diploma at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Poland in which a seemingly normal print book can be connected to a computer via a USB cord. A fascinating video revealing his process shows that he actually incorporated sheets of metal wiring between the paper pages. By turning the pages of the book, the reader navigates a beautifully designed digital experience, which can be viewed here (all text is in Polish).

In This is Paper magazine, Węgrzyn explains his inspiration behind the project:

“I was interested in the phenomenon of a book perceived as a kind of interface, which has influenced the way we deal with information. I also wanted to shift the experience typical for print design to the field of digital media. One of the major inspirations was the manifesto ‘The topography of typography’ published in 1923 by a graphic designer El Lissitzky, who has expected a book to be replaced with something he called ‘electrolibrary.’ It seems that his predictions came true.”

El Lissitsky (1890-1941) was a leading Soviet Constructivist designer who, in addition to “Topography of Typography” wrote another manifesto about the future of the book called “Our Book” in 1926.

In a great blog post entitled “Will the Real El Lissitzky Please Stand Up?” in Eye Magazine Barrie Tullett declares that in an age with ereaders and mobile devices, the time of the “new shape for the book as a body” that Lissizky described has undoubtedly arrived. It seems significant though, that Węgrzyn preserves the print book as an object that is necessary to navigate the digital component, which is consistent with Lissitsky’s reverence and interest in a designed object that is accessible to all.


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.