It’s easy to pick out the Phaidon titles in a bookstore. They’re the ones browsers pick up and hold, coveting for prime real estate on a coffee table or bookshelf. That swoonworthy quality is largely thanks to Julia Hasting—
the art director for the British publisher’s New York office. With her lush and often experimental designs, she’s bringing back a level of detail to books that’s often lost in mass production.
Hasting rejects many conventional book-world practices, such as designing the cover and interior of a title separately. “I try to see
the book as an overall object,” she says. “Everything has to work together and relate to each other.” She approaches the design of a book
much like an industrial designer might think about a new vase. To her, each title is a 3D entity that can be coveted for its aesthetics as
much as the content. It’s a philosophy that elevates the book to a design object in its own right.
Originally from Germany, Hasting studied graphic design in a multidisciplinary program before freelancing and heading to London
“just to have a look.” A freelance book project for Phaidon turned into a full-time job, and eventually, she was asked to start a design
department in the company’s New York office. Her publisher was a fan of her work and wanted her to establish the same high design
standards for projects coming from the States.
Today she designs anywhere from two to six books a year and commissions other designers for the remaining titles. Her most memorable
work includes the design for Fresh Cream—a book that features 100 contemporary artists chosen by 10 curators. Hasting packaged
each book in a translucent plastic pillow and designed a clear, inflatable store display. The latter makes the books look like ice cubes
floating in a drink. A recent book on fashion designers, Sample, has a jacket that’s pleated like a piece of clothing.
These flashy touches, however, aren’t just for show. Hasting takes pains to think about the content and organization of each book and
how she can match those with an appropriate design. And like every designer, she has to explain the rationale behind her ideas. “Each
time I need to have a reason for what I’m doing,” she says. “For myself, I have to justify it first and be happy with the design. Then I have
to explain it to my publisher. We try to push these unusual ideas through.”
LEFT: For SAMPLE, a book about fashion designers, Hasting created a dustjacket that’s pleated like a piece of clothing. CENTER: An inflatable store display for fresh cream makes the books, which come in translucent plastic pillows, look like ice cubes floating in a glass. RIGHT: Two volumes of Andy Warhol's work come packaged in boxes make of silkscreened kraft paper—a concept that underlines the artist's work.