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Visual Communication Students Explore the Future of the Book

Students from Visual Communication have collaborated on a project exploring the future of books, libraries and knowledge production. The project, a collaboration with Sussex-based printers Pureprint, culminated in a publication with a print run of 300 which will be launched with an event at the RCA Library later this month.

Described by the students as both a ‘catalyst’ and an ‘exquisite corpse’, the book features a series of short texts exploring different perspectives on books, libraries and knowledge production, which have been edited so that they read as one coherent whole.

While some of these short texts were written by the students, others were commissioned texts by individuals including Senior Tutor Graphic Design Adrian Shaughnessy, Visiting Tutors and recent Visual Communication alumni Robert Hetherington and Billie Muraben, RCA Librarian Cathy Johns, and Associate Dean of School of Communication Teal Triggs.

The resulting publication, the students explain, is: ‘a seamlessly flowing compilation of research on the nature and future of books and libraries’, which, ‘seeks to embody, rather than merely present, the outcomes and the discoveries’ of the project. It emerged from ‘three months… of discussions, exhibitions and field trips,’ during which the group explored the future of reading, translation and distribution, new media and politics, public and private, memory and copyright. 

Sixteen students from both the Visual Communication MRes and MA worked together on the project, breaking up into smaller self-selected groups to focus on different aspects of the book’s creation, including design and production, editorial and events.

Associate Dean of School of Communication Teal Triggs has been impressed with students’ professionalism during all stages of the project, and well as with the way that it has shaped and informed the students' individual projects.

A version of the Book Test Unit project is due to run again next year, although as Teal Triggs explains, 'the direction that the project takes will be shaped by the incoming students.'

The Book Test Unit publication will be launched in the RCA library, which has been a focus point for the students throughout the project, on 20 June 2017.

Book Test Unit 2017

Project Managers: Graham Newman, Jessica Mensah

Design: Jack Tollady, Maria Pestana Teixeira, Jaione Cerrato, Paula Minelgaite, Hyunsong Lee, Marta Anguera and Stephen Hall

Editorial: David McAllister, Lucy Quirke, Zhenya Grigoryan and Taeho Kim

Events: Sara Jamshidi, Jungmi Lee and Laura Calloni

Directed by: Teal Triggs, Robert Hetherington and Emily Candela

The Book Test Unit is part of a larger research project – the Book Futures Lab – established at the RCA in 2014.