Paper Alphabet

Sonya Dyakova, associate art director at Phaidon, is behind the design of the publisher’s latest title, Sculpture Today, by Judith Collins

Dyakova constructed a three-dimensional typeface, Paper Alphabet, for the book’s cover, the chapter headings, index and appendices to the book.

Taking the physical form of the book’s subject matter as her starting point, Dyakova began by cutting and folding the letters she needed for the cover title from a single sheet of paper. “I then drew up the rest of the characters and used them in all the chapter openers,” she explains.

“In the section divider for the ‘end matter’, I just photographed the sheet of paper that was leftover after I’d finished all the different constructions.” The back of the book features the reverse of the sheet of paper used for the front cover.

“I began drawing the letterforms on graph paper, not thinking about each one’s physical restrictions,” says Dyakova. “When it came to the engineering part, I realised that some letters couldn’t be too close to others, because parts of the paper were already taken by another letter next to it – so I had to adjust the letterspacing and forms themselves.” This meant that none of the letters featured in the book were ‘set’ as such – each letter, says Dyakova, “can be wide or narrow, large or small, it just depends on the composition. It’s super flexible.”

The whole process was a tricky but ultimately rewarding one, she says. “The paper is so fragile, sometimes it misbehaves. You have  to be gentle, yet very precise, as any mistakes will show up. Altogether I created about 50 artworks and each had to be taken to the photographer’s studio without damaging a single letter. Then each letter had to be straightened out and checked before  the photographer would shoot.” The result is well worth all the effort.


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