Roosje Klap on Ebook and empathic design

Roosje Klap works and lives in Amsterdam where she was trained at the Rietveld Academy. She works as a designer in her studio and as a teacher graphic design, currently at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, the Netherlands. She is also a member selection committee Fonds BKVB (Dutch Fund for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture). Roosje Klap is not only a person but also a studio with four other people that create visual communication, mainly graphic design. The studio researches the experimental boundaries of custom fit design, collaborative yet peculiar and mainly work for an international clientèle in the cultural field: museums, galleries, art publishers and artists. Clients include The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, the Mondrian Foundation, The Audax Textile Museum, SKOR, The Royal Dutch Mint, and for publishers like Valiz, Nieuw Amsterdam, Pels&Kemper, Revolver en JRP Ringier. Recent projects lead to collaborations with Krist Gruijthuijsen & Koen Brams, Jan Rothuizen, het Tropenmuseum, Premsela and Mister Motley.

Roosje Klap @ The Unbound Book Conference photo cc by-sa Sebastiaan ter Burg

On the last day of the Unbound book conference, Roosje Klap talked about the importance of empathy as a phenomenon and how it ties people to the book.

Roosje Klap started with outlining some of the work that she has been doing along with the studio researchers that she works with, they are experimenting with the boundaries of custom fit design. These works can be found on her website. On of the works that was highlighted is the ‘Binnen was buiten’, which represented a ‘droste effect’. The design is a metaphor of the research that the writer of the book did in which piles and piles of images and other small notes were found. Another work that was highlighted was ‘Zachte Atlas van Amsterdam’. This design emphasizes the problem that small drawings usually disappear in the middle of a spread. When designers are making the screen design on the computer they forget that the actual bound book has a center that cannot display the picture. Roosje Klap, questioned whether these kind of problems will disappear with ebooks.

Findings in digital design
Roosje Klap had some interesting remarks on the ebook and digital design, emphasizing the advantages of the ebook and issues in digital design. She found something in digital design that, according to her, is really important which is the fact that you have to chunk your text. The readers decide very quick if they like something or not and therefore you have to limit the use of words in the design. Also, the use of introductions provide more clarity when the user reads the text. Other findings were that adjusting the text size and navigation elements on every page is crucial.

When it comes to the ebook, you can add many layers of context. It is first of all interactive, you can look at a movie and play the movie while reading the text. These are elements that you cannot add to the bound book. Other advantages of the digital book are that they are quickly made, they are searchable, and you can add links to the digital books that refer to additional information or can be used for navigational purposes. Furthermore, the speed of publishing has increased with the development of new technology and even the purchase of a digital books happens quickly and with ease.

With unbound books, we are likely to add McDonalds-like generics to design.

The end of the bound book?
However, this does not mean the end of the bound book. Here you see something interesting happening that you don’t see with the unbound book. The bound book has cultural differences that the unbound book does not have. For instance in Germany, the bigger the book is, the better. In Sweden, books that are heavy are seen as more important. Moreover, the book is judged by its cover, it is questionable if the same thing happens with the ebooks. With the unbound book we run the risk of ‘McDonaldization’, creating a generic book.

Furthermore, several elements are not easily transferred to the ebook, for instance tactility, substance, rigidity, shade, color, stiffness, heaviness, paper grammage, time and place, occasion, and memory. She concludes that the ebook nowadays relies more heavily on the design than on the empathic qualities. Not only the design of the pages but also the design of the device itself is what counts for the ebook. Moreover, with the ebook “we loose the individuality and cultural heritage of a ‘normal’ book”, she states. Her concluding remarks of the presentation are that if we can add more empathy in the design of ebooks and if the ebook can catch up on the qualities of the bound book, we might be able to discard our nostalgia on the bound book. In this way the old fashion paper book will be a superhero.

You can view Roosje’s presentation here.