March 31, 2014

Book cover appeals to hoarders, compulsive organizers


In a video posted recently by Penguin, photographer Dan Tobin Smith reveals how he created a stunning cover image for the UK paperback edition of Mark Miodownik‘s book Stuff Matters. Tobin Smith, perhaps best known for his iconic photograph for Jay-Z’s album The Blueprint 3, creates elaborate assemblages and installations, and often uses tricks of perspective to achieve unusual visual effects, all in-camera.

For the Stuff Matters cover, Tobin Smith gathered a bunch of differently-colored, well, stuff, and arranged it so that, when viewed in perspective, it creates a beautiful spectrum of colors. It’s a cover guaranteed to be loved by the kind of people who love knolling and things fitting perfectly into other things.

In an interview, Penguin designer Richard Bravery talks about the cover:

…[F]or me, the brief was simple: to take everyday, ordinary things that we all take for granted and present them in an extraordinary way…

The images that Dan creates almost can’t be comprehended or visualised until you actually see them. You can try as hard as you like to describe what a thousand objects organised by colour and material will look like but, in the end, you simply have to take a leap of faith.

It took two days to shoot, with Dan and his team painstakingly piecing the still-life together. The result looks effortless and belies the time, energy and attention to detail that Dan gave to the project. It’s a brilliant image but the real genius of Dan’s photograph is its simplicity: the first thing you see is a wave of colour; it’s only then that you are drawn to the many individual objects that create the whole, and that idea articulates the book so well for me.

Stuff Matters is available now in paperback in the US and UK.


Christopher King is the former Art Director of Melville House.