Making Yayoi Kusama: Festival of Life
Design Details from David Zwirner Books
September 18, 2018

In a unique style that is both sensory and utopian, Yayoi Kusama’s work possesses a highly personal character, yet one that has connected profoundly with large audiences around the globe. Her work—which spans paintings, performances, room-size presentations, sculptural installations, literary works, films, fashion, design, and interventions within existing architectural structures—has transcended some of the most important art movements of the second half of the twentieth century, including pop art and minimalism.

The book Yayoi Kusama: Festival of Life documents the artist’s exhibition at David Zwirner’s Chelsea location in New York in late 2017, featuring a selection of paintings from her iconic My Eternal Soul series, new large-scale flower sculptures, a polka-dotted environment, and two Infinity Mirror Rooms. The publication includes new scholarship on the artist by Jenni Sorkin as well as a special foldout poster.

We asked London-based A Practice for Everyday Life, the design studio behind the book, to share their thought process behind the tome’s unique and aesthetically thoughtful details.

How did you approach the challenge of designing a book on an artist who has so many books?

We felt there was still lots of room to create an interesting book for Kusama which would connect with her work, interpreting or reflecting it in different ways. We love her immersive installations and radical happenings and wanted the spirit of these to translate to the book’s design, whilst preserving a certain minimalism—enough to let the boldness of the work have the space it needs.

Could you tell us about the typeface?

We selected a singular weight of Basis Grotesque, as the characters have a round, playful quality. To bring Kusama’s dots into the typography, we made small interventions to the title and type throughout the book, which was set in uppercase except for using the lowercase o and placing a dot above each capital I.

Could you discuss how you approached the cover?

We were keen to bring Kusama’s work onto the cover, but not with a photograph as is the typical approach; we wanted it to feel closer to the installations that she had been creating at David Zwirner. Kusama’s tulip room, With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever, is a white space with tulip sculptures in which red polka dots cover everything within, including the walls and floors. From the first meeting, we wanted to bring the book into this space, using the same red dots to wrap the book at 1:1 scale—not only the cover and spine but also the book block edges themselves. In this way, it could camouflage itself into the original installation.


All Photos: Kyle Knodell