By Dejan Kršić
320 pages, softcover, $45, published by F&W Publications, mydesignshop.com
When Milton Glaser writes the preface to a book, and the introduction is by Steven Heller, you may well imagine that the work inside will be exemplary. And it is. Fist to Face documents the career of Mirko Ilić, an iconoclastic designer from the former Yugoslavia, who has produced a wide range of often-controversial work from political illustrations for such disparate clients as Rage Against the Machine to the film You’ve Got Mail. Along the way he rocked the establishment as an art director at the New York Times and Time magazine creating fresh, provocative design and as always, following his own drumbeat.
His illustrations are often visceral in nature, and always pointed in their humor and their take on the cultural zeitgeist. “Back home he could well be called ‘King Mirko,’” writes Steven Heller. The man is dynamic, acerbic and funny—and immensely talented. One evening at the first Illustration Conferences (ICON), Ilić, a practiced storyteller, regaled CA editor Rebecca Bedrossian and me with an amusing array of tales. His sense of humor is that of a person who has witnessed a great deal, and so can see the irony inherent in much of our social relations. Ilić’s life is his canvas and he has painted larger-than-life self-portraits as a gauge to cultural waves and red tides.
He is also a generous mentor who lives and breathes art and design. Whether he is creating a transgender Barbie to illustrate an article on sexual reassignment surgery or painfully illustrating the waging of war in his homeland of Croatia, Ilić’s confrontational designs demand your attention. Fans will love this collection featuring 500 full-color images in one volume, and readers will learn a great deal about his career and the evolution of international design. Touted as a visual biography, Fist to Face is so much more: Dejan Kršić’s informative and well-written text presents Ilić’s story within a complementary and dynamic design layout (he is also the book’s designer).
Ilić was a punk, a cartoonist, an exile. His accomplishments are too numerous to recount, and his story—a talented artist in a military family, constantly forced to relocate in the former Yugoslavia, adapt to different cultures and languages, and witness war—is one that could be borrowed from literature. If you don’t know Ilić’s work, you should. There could be no better introduction than this well-designed and produced book. If I taught design, I’d make it required reading. —Anne Telford