“Print is dead” is something every designer and publisher has heard the past few years. But we’ve been working with one of publishing’s most famous brands on a series of books that proves the print format still has “life” in it yet.
As publishing undergoes enormous change, LIFE has reinvigorated its brand by extending its legendary photographic legacy into a series of image-driven books. The magazine that documented the 20th century in iconic photographs has become a series of timely titles that are enormously popular with readers, proving that while many people now experience the world online, they are still turning to print for a definitive take.
Since 2009, we have worked with LIFE Books to design several of the publisher’s titles. The books tell stories through images, often pulling photography from the extensive Time & Life Pictures collection. Each book maintains the iconic LIFE brand but creates a unique setting for the subject. The design elements are carefully coordinated to establish a framework that makes the images the focus, bringing the brilliant photography to “life.”
LIFE Books publishes on a wide range of subjects, from history, religion and politics, to lifestyle, entertainment and celebrity. New titles are issued 12 to 15 times a year and appear in both hardcover and paperback, in various sizes and formats depending on the subject. The trade paperback editions are often sold at the newsstand, extending the LIFE brand in its native environment.
Li’l Robin’s Anke Stohlmann has been Creative Director for many of the books, working closely with Bob Sullivan, Managing Editor for LIFE Books, and longtime LIFE photo editors Barbara Burrows and Christina Lieberman. At LIFE every picture tells a story, and the editors carefully shape the content of each book to engage the reader.
“Our readers know that they’re going to get great pictures,” says Sullivan. “Our goal is to present photography well and to tell a story through images, in a meld with a lively narrative that has an emotional connection with the reader. Journalistic stories told with good photography and the LIFE brand still resonate with people.”
We approach the design of each book as its own challenge, developing a setting that showcases the subject matter at hand. Typography and other elements are used to create context for the images, so the reader first and foremost experiences the photography.
“Anke knows how to use the format to its best advantage,” says Sullivan. “Proper display of photography, with maximum impact for the pictures.”
This strategy can be seen in three of our favorite recent titles for LIFE:
Out this spring, Titanic: The Tragedy that Shook the World—One Century Later commemorates the centennial of the sinking of the legendary ocean liner. Period typography and motifs set the stage for the “you are there” immediacy of the content, which includes historical photographs, first-person accounts from survivors, and diagrams and images of the vessel, as well as a look at the disaster’s cultural legacy in books and films.
An intimate portrait, Remembering George Harrison: 10 Years Later was published in 2011 to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of the “quiet” Beatle. A relatively restrained design helps convey Harrison’s soulfulness, while bold typography creates a pop sensibility that hints at a life lived in the spotlight.
One of the series’ best-selling titles, The Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of All Time examines 50 historic cases of the unknown, including the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the identity of Jack the Ripper, and the fate of Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. We created an arresting cover design of a magnifying glass passing over the title, inviting readers to examine the book. The cover typography complements the iconic LIFE logo, and the black, white and red color palette of the interior pages creates a suitably notorious setting for the mysteries.
Our work with LIFE continues: a new book on Rolling Stones is just out, and we’ll soon be designing an edition that celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. “Our goal has been to get LIFE back on its feet as a really good book brand,” says Robert Sullivan. “To have Li’l Robin come on board has been immeasurably valuable to us.”