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Review: Bantjes challenges reader, self

UP Contributor

Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 13:11

“I Wonder” wears many hats. It is neither strictly a graphic design book nor an autobiography — but at the same time, it is both.

Graphic designer, illustrator, and typographer, Marian Bantjes has produced a book which is complex, a style that mirrors her graphic design work. What started as a “light editing” of essays published on the Web, has become an eclectic collection of thoughts themed around wonder, honor, and memory. 
The 13 essays in “I Wonder” cover a wide variety of topics ranging from “The Politics of Ornament” to what makes Santa, Santa. Other stories involve a more personal touch, such as when she discusses her Mother’s brains, a compilation of both notes and doodles dealing with the day to day. 
In order to better understand the connections between subjects, the reader should realize that this book gives a glimpse into the mind of Bantjes and how she considers the world around her. Very seldom do we get a peek at the how and why a designer works the way they do, but Bantjes freely shares her feelings with the reader, inviting them into her experiences and then prompting them to wonder how those experiences apply to their own lives.
The visual design of each essay is as different as the topics they complement and each page turn yields a new and unexpected visual experience. Some essays are framed in images of pasta, while others are plastered with fluorescent orange and yellow typography. In the chapters detailing memories, Bantjes uses her mother’s handwritten notes and old photographs to construct the story. 
While the images are intriguing, the incredible detail often makes things difficult to read and understand. 
Bantjes is influenced by Illuminated Manuscripts, and she also includes notes on production and lists all the typefaces used.
The field of graphic design primarily focuses on the designer/client relationship. With “I Wonder,” Bantjes challenges that relationship by creating something purely for herself, and develops a very personal reflection on wonder, honor and memory, in the process. 
Bantjes provides an honest look inside the mind of a designer, but also employs a variety of layouts, not only to provide visual interest, but also to reference periods or concepts in graphic design history. Combine that with her candid storytelling and the result is a book that can be appreciated by both the graphic design community and the general public. 

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