Martini With a Twist
This project came with a title pun of sorts and a too-good-to-be-true brief: “just do some kind of bold, colourful, perhaps Art Deco-style all-text cover.” I went straight to the typeface Bifur, originally designed by Cassandre in 1929 and recreated by P22 in the 90s. The ‘Y’ letterform already looks a bit like a martini glass, it only needed minor adjustments.
About the plays: Absurdity reigns in multiple award-winning author and playwright Clem Martini’s newest collection of work: five plays spanning two decades, from 1989 to 2009. A lonely elephant handler befriends the half-blind woman who drove through his yard, a severed head in a suitcase life support system is given a second chance at life, a quiet shut-in wrestles with the jealous ghost of his wife, a young woman with the ability to smell lies struggles to make new friends, and a mismatched pod of whales in the Pacific Ocean struggle with identity, love, and interspecies dating. With a sharp tongue and impeccable comedic timing, Martini’s characters resonate beyond their impossible situations, their fears and hesitations all too human.
The other concept I was asked to mock up is a whale swimming inside a martini glass. I gave it a go, I really did, but it somehow evolved into a martini-fuelled photo shoot using the glass I was drinking from to obscure the title.
I decided to post this as a response to the many skeptical looks I’ve received after stating that I design books for a living.
This is what a book looks like pre-design. Basically, a massive pile of paper containing:
– Multiple versions of the manuscript typed up by the author in Microsoft word
– An editorial “road map” designating what might go where
– Lists with spelling, grammar, and stylistic corrections that need to be inserted from 3 or 4 rounds of editing
– Loose drawings torn from sketchbooks
– A reference guide labeling illustrations (in this case, 240 of them)
– Handwritten notes from all involved on $30 worth of post-its
This is what it looks like post-design and printing.
I designed a 6 x 10″ horizontal landscape format with 5″ wide jacket flaps that hold the author portrait drawings and bios. Olivier Martini is on the front flap and Clem Martini on the back.
The interior layout follows a 3-column grid system, running the illustrations on the verso pages and the text on the recto pages. I broke this rule occasionally to strengthen the dialogue between Clem and Olivier, when one brother’s story needed to take the spotlight.
Over the years, the various treatments Olivier experimented with affected his composure and the steadiness of his hands. So his mark-making changes throughout the book, reflecting side effects of medication like Stelazine.
On the back of the jacket:
“In 1976, Ben Martini was diagnosed with schizophrenia. A decade later, his brother Olivier was told he had the same disease. For the past thirty years the Martini family has struggled to comprehend and cope with a devastating illness, frustrated by a health care system lacking in resources and empathy, the imperfect science of medication, and the strain of mental illness on familial relationships.
Throughout it all, Olivier, an accomplished visual artist, drew. His sketches, comic strips, and portraits document his experience with, and capture the essence of, this all too frequently misunderstood disease. In Bitter Medicine, Olivier’s poignant graphic narrative runs alongside and communicates with a written account of the past three decades by his younger brother, award-winning author and playwright Clem Martini. The result is a layered family memoir that faces head-on the stigma attached to mental illness.
Shot through with wry humour and unapologetic in its politics, Bitter Medicine is the story of the Martini family, a polemical and poetic portrait of illness, and a vital and timely call for action.”