1:1 record of Octavo, International Journal of Typography, 1986–1992
Octavo, International Journal of Typography, was published between 1986 and 1992. It has long been unobtainable. Until now.
Octavo Redux, the book
Graphic design is full of creative acts that changed the course of design. The publication of eight issues of Octavo, International Journal of Typography, in the 80s and 90s, was one of those creative acts.
Designed by design studio 8vo, Octavo has acquired mythic status. Copies sell for exorbitant prices and only rarely become available. If you want to see issues, you must hunt them down online, and if you want to own them, be prepared to pay big money.
Until now, that is.
With your support, it will soon be possible to see and ‘own’ all eight issues (#8 was a CD-Rom) and to enjoy them at actual size in a 384pp book.
The book has been designed and edited by two of Octavo’s original designers and editors. And, as with the journals themselves, the book uses high-end production techniques to faithfully reproduce the original publications. To quote the editors: ‘Octavo Redux is as close as you can get to the originals without holding them in your hands.’
We have organised a host of rewards. You can check the full list here (right). Look out for specially designed bookmarks, multi-book offers, and the ‘super deluxe’ edition comes with an iridescent jacket. There is also a reproduction of the legendary 87.4 folded poster. It’s a cult classic.
Octavo Redux, the production details
Octavo Redux features all the covers and spreads from each original printed issue of Octavo, reproduced at actual size (1:1), in full RGB spectrum Kaleido® Japanese inks.
The book also documents covers and spreads from the full-scale working prototypes made by 8vo during the design process for each issue of Octavo.
Subscription cards and subscription card mock-ups are shown at full-scale. The notorious eighth issue of Octavo (the ‘interactive’ CD-ROM) is also documented, including its packaging, as well as the content itself through a selection of actual-size screenshots (640×480 pixels).
The pre-desktop computer production processes employed in the early issues of Octavo, are documented by showing selected type specifications and proof mark-ups for in-position page-make-up typesetting systems. These often resulted in many weeks of long ‘discussions’ with the typesetters, conducted via bike messengers, red pen, highlight markers and Tipp-Ex. Through extensive captions and annotations, the book shines a light on this now lost practice of visual engineering – where maths mattered.
Spreads of the printed issues are created from high resolution RGB photography – one image capture per page – made from the original untrimmed press sheets. This allows perfectly flat, squared-up montages of left and right pages to be brought together as spreads in the lay-flat binding used in the production of Octavo Redux.
In the spirit of Octavo, there are many production surprises in store for the reader of Octavo Redux. In addition to the wide gamut repro, which better represents the true colours of the original issues than everyday CMYK, two special inks are used in the book – a super-light grey to define the page areas of the printed issues, and a soft neon yellow-green as a background for the remaining sections.
Other material considerations include metallic ink on reflective mirror board, with mirror paper used for the end papers, and the books come wrapped in a translucent self-coloured trace jacket, in keeping with the original issues of Octavo.
1:1 record of Octavo, International Journal of Typography, 1986–1992
Edited and designed by Mark Holt and Hamish Muir
Colours: 4/4 Kaleido plus 2 special colours
Binding: Hardback, thread sewn
Special features: Translucent jacket, mirror paper cover and end papers, two paper stocks
Octavo, the magazine – what was it?
Between 1986 and 1992, eight issues of Octavo, International Journal of Typography, were edited, designed and published. The first seven print-based editions were produced to the same format of 16pp, A4. They all came with an 8-page wrap-around trace jacket, and the typeface Unica was used throughout. Issue eight was published as an ‘interactive’ CD-ROM.
Here’s what some commentators said about Octavo:
Octavo looks dishy, and like the average Swiss pavement, is clean enough to eat your dinner off.
Information Design Journal, 1986
Nobody placed an order with Mark Holt, Hamish Muir, Simon Johnston and Michael Burke to do and go through all this; they are publishers, authors, designers, and fund providers, all in one. They are exemplary: sixteen pages of pride, courage, and love of typography can mean a lot.
Rolf Müller, HQ, 1991
[Octavo] The only piece of design worth stealing from my old college library...
Ian Styles, 100. Graphics International, 2002
Since the comparatively quiet early issues, 8vo have discovered the Macintosh and undergone a revolution in sensibility that makes their British imitators look staid.
Rick Poynor, The Designer as Author, Blueprint #77, 1991
Octavo – who designed it?
The journal Octavo was designed by 8vo, a design studio formed in 1984, comprising Mark Holt, Simon Johnston, Hamish Muir, and later Michael Burke.
As Caroline Roberts, in her book Graphic Design Visionaries, has noted: ‘Named after an abbreviation of the book-production term ‘octavo’, 8vo saw themselves as outsiders; they were intense, outspoken and did not identify or engage with the design community. They were pragmatists, obsessed with detail, believing that expression should be a result of the design process, not the motivation for it.’
Although 8vo disbanded in July 2001, Muir and Holt have reunited to design and edit Octavo Redux. They have applied all the ingenuity and obsessive attention to detail that went into the journal to the design and production of this book.
Octavo – what is its legacy?
Octavo, International Journal of Typography, was a ground-breaking event in the evolution of graphic design. It was a stinging riposte by a group of British designers to the complacency and traditionalism of the UK graphic design scene. It was a maverick gesture that challenged the prevailing graphic formalism of the 80s and 90s.
It sought, above everything else, to foreground typography as a solution in itself. It did this at a time when illustration was the dominant mode of graphic expression. And if all eight issues of Octavo prove anything, they prove that typography can be as expressive as image.
Octavo also showed that by challenging the prevailing technical constraints of the time, it was possible to create a body of work that was genuinely ‘ahead of its time.’ Octavo was a publication that spanned the paste-up to desktop era, and is an encapsulation of late 20th century typographic developments. To contemporary eyes, the later issues look as if they were designed on the computer. They were not. They used production techniques from the pre-computer era.
Octavo also demonstrated that designers can function without clients. Self-funded and self-distributed, the journal was launched when the debate around ‘graphic authorship’ was raging. But 8vo took the decision to disengage from theoretical posturing and instead made what they believed in.
In the book Octavo Redux we have the opportunity to share in the designers’ vision and savour the exquisite craft of practitioners functioning at the peak of their form.
Octavo Redux – the book’s designers and editors
Hamish Muir was co-founder of the London-based graphic design studio 8vo (1985–2001), and co-editor of Octavo, International Journal of Typography (1986–92). In 2009, he co-founded MuirMcNeil, a project-based collaboration with Paul McNeil. Member AGI.
Mark Holt was co-founder of the London-based graphic design studio 8vo (1985–2001), and co-editor of Octavo, International Journal of Typography (1986–92). He studied at Newcastle Polytechnic (1977–80), and worked in San Francisco before co-founding 8vo. In 2001 he formed Mark Holt Design.
Unit Editions – the publishers
Unit Editions is an independent publishing company, producing books for an international audience of designers and followers of visual culture. The company was formed in 2010 by Tony Brook, Patricia Finegan (both Spin) and Adrian Shaughnessy.
High quality design and production standards are partnered with insightful texts and informative commentaries to produce books on a wide variety of subjects – subjects that are either neglected or ignored by mainstream publishers.
To date Unit Editons has produced over 30 books and publications. Titles include: Paula Scher: Works (2017); Herb Lubalin: American Graphic Designer 1918–81 (2010), and Lance Wyman: The Monograph (2015).
Unit Editions books are only available through their website and a handful of specialist shops. Our books are shipped postage free to anywhere in the world. Superior protective packing is used to ensure that books arrive in pristine condition, and all large format books are shipped with protective corners.
Risks and challenges
Unit Editions has run two successful Kickstarter campaigns to date. Both have exceeded their funding targets, and both have been successfully fulfilled.
Unit Editions is experienced in the production and delivery of books and publications of all kinds. We only use high quality suppliers (printers, binders, etc.), and we distribute globally daily.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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