Duration: I worked as an in-house book cover designer within the Penguin Art Group for three and a half years.
Location: New York, New York.
Education: BA in architecture and visual arts, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.
Career path: I always made things. Growing up, I realized I could roll masking tape sticky-side out and construct sculptures from the tubes.
I studied architecture in college because I liked the project-based approach to education. Along the way, I took a graphic design course and realized there was a job where people got paid to read books, think about them and make the images that carry them into the world.
After emailing a bunch of designers whose book covers I admired, I got lucky and landed an internship at Knopf. I really loved the process and the result, seeing a book I designed on a shelf or in someone’ hands on the subway, etc. When I graduated, I was fortunate that there was an opening at Penguin.
Working in-house is great. You get the time and space to experiment, the freedom to try new things, to succeed and to fail. I had the space to make a lot of things physically, many of which never made it to the shelves but some which did. The Penguin Art Group has a great culture and community; it was a great place to work.
Designing a book cover is great because, for the most part, you get to initiate the ideas. I would come up with multiple covers for a book—many of them would get “killed”—but still the ones that made it onto shelves were designs that I thought up and executed. But as with any design work for a client, there are always constraints.
When you are the client, there are fewer constraints, so while I was at Penguin, I started a few personal projects. They all stem from an interest in the book as both object and content.
Artistic influences: I’m interested in the book as a medium. Books fascinate me because they are both dense in content and as physical objects: simultaneously sculpture and catalog. A singular thing containing multitudes. I find these inherent dualities generative: object/content, container/contained, physical/immaterial, finite/infinite.
Books are common. Most people have interacted with a book—held, opened, read, skimmed, looked at. People know what to do with books; they have shelves and coffee tables. This ubiquity provides a base understanding of an audience and allows room to play with expectations and norms. It’s an entry point into a conversation.
In my work, I seek to research and explore, to prod and to play with, the historical, cultural and functional conceptions surrounding books. I’ve nailed books shut. Drilled holes and put in locks. Used screws, bolts and zip-ties. Elevated the container by removing access to the contained. I’ve given books wheels and ball bearings. Coat hangers, hooks and suction cups. Brackets, tubes and piping. Adding to and modifying their functional value.
I started an Instagram @ice_cream_books where I post colorful photographs of ice cream on top of books. Bella Hadid called it “the most important Instagram out there today.” Hal Foster says it’s “better than Marx’s utopia.”
I also founded Catalog Press, a small edition publishing house producing catalogs of readymade objects, images, words and artists’ work. I make the books by hand, binding—among other things—slices of American cheese, dollar bills, napkins from The Plaza Hotel and Heinz ketchup packets.