In I Wonder, Bantjes says, “my intention was always to illustrate without illustrating; to avoid the figure a form of illustration…as an idea among book ideas, I want to show that there are different ways to treat visuals, and that it’s possible to make a fully integrated document where the words and images are interdependent, neither able to fully survive without the other.”

The book’s cover is black satin with gold and silver foils, and features gilded pages. Inside, Bantjes discusses a morbid obsession: “I am one of those people who is fascinated by cemeteries. There is something deeply compelling in markers of remembrance and the contemplation of those who are remembered beside those who have forgotten.”

"Heraldry is something I once avoided, in the way I avoid all things that could potentially lead to the depths of geekery that may lead to dressing up in costumes and engaging in jolly feasts of roast warthog. However, I have discovered that the world of heraldry is actually quote fascinating, and holds potentially useful ideas for the practice of graphic design …[heraldy] is namely a graphic language.”

Using pasta shells, Bantjes plays with a number of related but subtly different meanings of "honour" (the British spelling). She says, "In design, there is an oft-repeated phrase, 'honour the text,' which is invoked as an entreaty to set text as cleanly and legibly as possible to put the content before the context… The idea of context over form is the Modernist ideal, and while I take no particular issue with the importance of message, one only has to look around to find their are many ways to honour something. How does one honour text? For that matter, how does one honour anything?"

Bantjes diagrams a day that begins with the task of assembling two Ikea bookshelves and turns into a compulsive house cleaning with multiple furniture moves, trips to the recycling bin, and a sweep of stale cereal boxes from the pantry.

A constellation of celestial jewelry inspires musings on stars. "You know, when we think of stars we tend to think of one or two shapes [five or six-pointed stars], a couple of different sizes, and that’s about it. How wrong that is."

Bantjes talks about the role of memory in design and life: "A diary records the things we think are worth recording, either to ourselves or to the imagined 'other’ reading our fantasy biography. A diary is highly selective in what it records, and/or is intensely personal, as a cathartic space for angst and ecstasy…If you have ever wondered how on earth you spend your time, well, here it is."

"Whether of not you believe in Santa Claus, or even have him as part of your culture, changes are high that you recognize the Santa icon, despite an extremely broad range of visual interpretation…I’m interested in how the Santa identity is maintained and what it is exactly that makes Santa Santa."

Bantjes keeps mum about the meaning of this spread that appears to be written in an unknown, stylized language that’s part Q-R code, part cuneiform, saying only that it contains secrets.

Co.Design

The First Book From Marian Bantjes, Graphic Design's Master of Frills [Slideshow]

Over the past decade, Canadian graphic artist Marian Bantjes has taken the contemporary design world by storm with her rich, labor-intensive ornamentation. Bantjes began her career as commercial designer, yet famously eschewed corporate gigs in favor of self-initiated works, calling herself a "lapsed graphic designer." She recently spoke at TED about this transition, and her devotion to creating meaningful, beautiful work that pleases both herself and her clients.

Her first book, I Wonder (The Monacelli Press), is an illuminated manuscript in every sense of the phrase. It features Bantjes' artful meanderings through life, love and design during a 15-month period. Each illustration was designed specifically for the book -- using every kind of media from rose petals to macaroni. Her quirky, quizzical writing graces each page. Bantjes often invents an entire graphic language for a piece, which requires the reader to engage on a higher level to decipher her work.

With the book's insistence on narrative, and focus on typography, the result combines the best of two worlds. It's a readable collection of smart, visually-intense short stories, and a design book that will likely never leave your coffee table. Here are some of our favorite spreads from I Wonder.

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  • Stephen_Doyle

    Hear her thoughts in her own words! Marian will be speaking at an AIGA/NY event in New York on Monday November 1st at Haft Auditorium at FIT, 227 West 27th Street from 6:30-8:30. Members, $20, Student members, $10, and general public, $30. Don't miss it!