Taking Stock: Paper, Book Design and a Place Called Kenema


Choosing the right paper for a print project can be tricky. The tactile nature of paper conveys tone, quality and character before a single word is read, and especially applies to designing a book (which we happen to be doing).

O Street Kenema

As you may have seen flying around our various social media channels, we are currently working on a stunning portrait photography book by British photographer Peter Dibdin. He has been working to capture community life in Kenema, Sierra Leone. This book will seek to capture the powerful photographs taken by Pete during his visit to the newly built girls school, run by Swawou School Foundation.

O Street Kenema

To represent Pete’s journey and experiences of this vibrant culture, we have worked with him to develop a design that allows the photography to do the talking. We chose a minimal colour palette inspired by the earthy brick used in the development project itself. Handwritten text—Pete lent his own hand—is used to note the subjects of each portrait. Alongside these design choices sits the ever important selection of paper stocks and finishes.

O Street Kenema

In some ways, its a designer’s dream to be sitting surrounded by piles of paper samples, stacks of photography books and heaps of beautiful inspiring pieces of print. In other ways it presents a challenging process. With Kenema, we want to bring the warmth of the people into the tactile aspect of this book as much as possible—think ivory, cotton rich, textured pages. On the other hand, we need to allow the photography to sit on crisp clean white spreads to really express the colours and lighting by Pete.

O street Kenema

All in all, this has lead me on what can only be described as a paper trail *ahem* to end all paper trails. I’ve gone from Mohawk and Crane’s Crest to Tatami and Woodstock; from Shiro and Biancoflash to Conqueror CX22 and recycled Keay Kolour. In a very short space of time I’ve gone from a samples novice to the new studio paper guru…okay, not quite. But if Ed is Yoda then I’m definitely Luke. And in this analogy our huge studio bookcase is Dagobah. I’m getting side-tracked. Either way, I’m feeling a lot more knowledgable and excited for how this lovely piece of print will turn out. And that’s not even taking into account all the foiling, finishing and bindings I’ve got in mind…

If you would like to get your hands on your very own copy of the Kenema Book then simply follow this link and pledge some money to help us produce this stunning photography book. If you can’t pledge all that much, even a small amount would be appreciated to support its production and make it possible. Once published, all profits from the book will be going to the Swawou School for Girls to help them carry on the amazing work they do.

We’re super proud to be part of such a great project and we hope you’ll join us to continue the story.