Behind the design: making of our first Monograph.

Creating our Monograph was never going to be easy. With very high ambitions, and questions that covered narrative, format, content, insights, projects, and process it was challenging to find the right approach. One of the biggest questions was how far back to do we go? With 18 years of work, the ultimate Monograph would cover the story of our inception through the many stages of DixonBaxi to today. With every kind of project and a lot of stories and anecdotes, we initially felt this was the time to commit. However, through countless explorations and development, we decided to shorten the timeframe and look back only a few years to capture a sense of the studio in its latest incarnation. With projects like Premier League, Storey, and Eurosport, plus snapshots of culture and insights into our process, we crafted a pared-back, refined book.

Here we take a look at the process of making the Monograph. From themes to formats to crafting the book and ultimately printing it with Push Print.

The full 20 years of DixonBaxi Monograph will come. That will be something!

Watch this space.

An immersive, explorative journey to discover a narrative for the Monograph.
Developing a range of formats, grids, approaches for weekly reviews.
Cups of tea, considering layouts, discussing stories and what works and what doesn’t.

Finding the narrative
We began by considering different themes, and ways to create an engaging and valuable narrative. From words only and images only as two books to ways to frame projects with anecdotes rather than as case studies. We created countless different formats, grids, layouts, and ways to express the work to reveal the idea and insight. We also filmed conversations with the team that were then transcribed to help form written content to thread through the book. As is the way we these things, the ideas and approach morphed, evolved and changed as we better understood what we wanted to create.

Grid formats are beautiful in themselves.

Debates, discussions and decisions
With the work laid out on long tables in the studio we were able to see what we were drawn to understand how different narrative elements could come together. It was exciting to see so many ways to tell our story. From highly refined with a Swiss sensibility to wildly expressive and bold. This led to meandering conversations about creativity, culture, team, our values and what we were trying to say, and then onto films, memorabilia and more. We had to decide if we wanted to create a book that captures 18 years or focus on the more recent projects. Either way, one of the hardest, and most fulfilling parts was looking at and curating all of the work and stories – and of course all the debates that created.

Carefully considering the value of a theme, format, approach led to many debates.
One of many mock-ups to understand the flow and narrative and feel of the book.
Discreet, small formats offered a precious, more human feel.

Making it tangible
Making mock-ups of the different formats instantly brought tangibility to the project. It gave us a sense of how the book would feel, the tactility, a sense of scale and how the work would react in that context. Initially, we were drawn to the largest formats, a cinematic canvas for some of our favorite images. Equally, we considered smaller, more discreet formats that offered a more precious feel. Each had its merits and it was a long road to reach a decision on a format that had scale and felt substantial while also natural and enjoyable to hold as an object.

Layouts and more layouts. Curating and finding the right balance and juxtaposition of work.
Type treatment from the History rebrand. We enjoyed the drama of this page.
Here we see sketches for the Pyeongchang Olympics identity for Eurosport.

What not to include
With literally thousands of images to curate, and more that we were developing as we designed the book, we had the paradox of choice. What stays in and what do we leave on the cutting room floor? It all came down to the stories we wanted to tell. We felt that less was more, to pare back, refine, let the images reveal the story with subtle captions that add a layer of insight. Ultimately we printed spreads, moved them around, found unusual relationships, remixed them, deleted many and did it all again and again. It was the only way we could find the right balance. Even so, it was evident that we could have created a 100 different versions of the book by editing and curating differently. Is there ever only one perfect version or is it that you have to make a decision and move on?

The cinematic quality of these spreads felt confident and immersive.
The first full mock-up from Push Print allows us a final check.
Reviewing the pagination, cadence and rhythm of the book with every spread on the wall.

Paper, binding and printing
Deciding the stock for the cover, the binding and the paper for the book itself was a delicate balance. Working with Push Print we strived to find a combination that had instant tactililty when you held the book while also having substance, solidity and weight. We wanted it to feel like a precise object so everything had to be perfect. We chose 300g/m2 Gmund Go to Hell Black for the tactile, soft cover and 135 g/m2 Heaven 42 and 90 g/m2 Munken Pure Smooth for the book itself. The size of the book is 270 x 200m with 292 pages and four colour litho print with a limited edition run of 2,000.

The joy of seeing the book on press. We love the smell of ink!
Printers pagination and every spread to make sure everything is perfect.
One of the first metal plates for the book.
Checking the print and seeing the sheets for the first time.
Taking a closer look.

What did we learn?
That we love making books and that it’s hard work when it’s for yourself. The process was cathartic as much as creatively stimulating and inspiring. The project helped us to think about our story, values, what our ambitions are and how the core of what we believe and how we think is a silver thread from the day we began DixonBaxi. It allowed us to reframe our approach and also put a marker down in time, a statement that captures a moment in a long, winding creative journey as a business. It also propelled us forwards to search and look for the new and original, to move on, evolve, change and do things differently.

In the digital world that all our work typically lives in, it’s wonderful to be able to pick up an object, hold it, feel it and spend time with it. In a fast-paced world, a book helps us slow down, to sit and think and hopefully be inspired.

We will no doubt produce another, and that will be an even bigger endeavour but one we very much look forward to.