De­signer Zack Scott ex­or­cised his love of tall build­ings and in­fo­graph­ics with a new book pub­lished by Wild­fire

Computer Arts - - Contents -

De­signer Zack Scott re­veals the cre­ative process be­hind his soonto-be pub­lished book: Sky­scrapers


The ini­tial idea for Scrap­ers came about by chance, re­ally. I was sort­ing through the files on my com­put­ers a cou­ple of years ago and came across some pieces I’d been work­ing on a few years be­fore. They were mostly of sky­scrapers, and it was the style of the work that caught my eye. I thought it would work well ap­plied through­out an en­tire book. Later, I was pitch­ing a cou­ple of much more fleshed out ideas to Wild­fire, and de­cided to show them the Scrap­ers stuff as well. We de­cided to run with it.

I re­searched the con­tent us­ing plenty of sources: books were my pref­er­ence most of the time; I spend too much time in front of the com­puter, so I only used web­sites when I had to; and ar­chi­tec­ture has quite a main­stream in­ter­est so there were plenty of TV doc­u­men­taries.

In terms of which build­ings to in­clude, I wanted to have as broad a ge­o­graph­i­cal spread as pos­si­ble and a sam­ple of every­thing – from the ear­li­est sky­scrapers to the most re­cent. I also wanted a se­lec­tion that in­cluded the world’s most fa­mous struc­tures and some of the lesser-known ones. For in­stance, I knew that the Chrysler Build­ing would be in the book from the very be­gin­ning, but had no idea I would be­come be­sot­ted by the Sea­gram Build­ing.


I came at the con­tent from sev­eral dif­fer­ent an­gles un­til I worked out what made sense. Early on, I was break­ing it down into dif­fer­ent re­gions, but soon I dis­cov­ered that some parts of the world have very few sky­scrapers. For a while I con­sid­ered tak­ing a chrono­log­i­cal ap­proach, go­ing decade by decade, but then I’d have had a mish­mash of styles in each pe­riod. In the end, I set­tled on group­ing them into the four sec­tions that fea­ture in the book: The Road To Sky­scrapers, Sky­scraper Boom, Go­ing Global and Mod­ern Mas­ter­pieces.

As this book con­tains a fair amount of pho­tography-based im­ages, a lot of the con­tent orig­i­nated on screen. I didn’t do many pre­lim­i­nary draw­ings and cracked on with the dig­i­tal files. The im­ages that con­tained ei­ther di­a­grams or in­fo­graph­ics gen­er­ally be­gan with scrib­blings on pieces of pa­per, and if they made sense I’d ap­ply the vis­ual style to them and com­plete the fi­nalised graph­ics on the com­puter.

The photo mon­tages used in the book of­ten in­clude cut­away sec­tions to re­veal the in­ner struc­ture of the build­ing, and these I drew dig­i­tally. Some­times it was fun to bun­dle to­gether cer­tain towers or sky­scrapers to ex­press a cer­tain theme, tak­ing the time to select im­ages that fit to­gether well, balanc­ing the tones, then adding in the sketch lines.

I quite like the im­age where I show how much earth was dis­placed cre­at­ing the foun­da­tions for the main build­ing at Moscow State Univer­sity

– roughly three times the vol­ume of the Great Pyra­mid at Giza. At­tempt­ing to dis­play the eight dif­fer­ent splin­ters that The Shard is com­prised

of, I came up with a lay­out that I think is quite strik­ing and also shows off the bril­liant blue of the glass. Com­par­ing the un­oc­cu­pied height of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab with those of other towers around the globe is in­ter­est­ing as you get to see build­ings side by side that are ac­tu­ally sit­u­ated thou­sands of miles apart. It also helps high­light just how much of the build­ings are only for show.

Ty­po­graph­i­cally, I kept it clean and sim­ple. Ci­tyscapes fea­ture fre­quently in the book and, along with ar­chi­tec­tural im­ages, I didn’t want there to be any clut­ter. The head­ers are all in Tall Dark and Hand­some, a type­face that is in­deed tall, and that fits the theme of the book. It’s fairly non­de­script and doesn’t con­form to any par­tic­u­lar style or era, which again was good for keep­ing the fo­cus on the build­ings. The body is set in Roboto, which is clean, read­able and plain, tak­ing a back seat to the rest of the con­tent.


“The de­sign of a book is a con­stant cy­cle of trial and er­ror; find­ing out what works and what doesn’t”

Even while the book was be­ing de­signed I was happy with the way in which the colour of the build­ings stands out from the clean, black text and white back­grounds. As more work was com­pleted, I was in­creas­ingly sat­is­fied with the graphic style and was sur­prised by how much I re­ally liked each build­ing’s in­tro page. These

pages are in­ten­tion­ally free of in­fo­graph­ics and di­a­grams, to al­low for a bit of breath­ing space. They turned out to be some of the most strik­ing.

The de­sign of a book is a con­stant cy­cle of trial and er­ror; find­ing out what works and what doesn’t. One dif­fer­ence from work­ing on my pre­vi­ous book, Apollo, is that I am now able to man­age my files a lot bet­ter.

There was a lot of back and forth with the pub­lisher early on, while the aes­thetic style was be­ing es­tab­lished. That feed­back was im­por­tant. Since the book was com­pleted, the pub­lish­ers have been very pos­i­tive about it and there has been lots of in­ter­est in it from over­seas.

My next project? It’ll be some­thing quite dif­fer­ent from Scrap­ers. It’ll be good to have a change. As long as I can im­prove and keep learn­ing while work­ing, I’m happy.

scale of the struc­tures dis­cussed. 0101-02 Be­gin­ning with the ear­li­est ar­chi­tec­tural forms such as Stone­henge, Zack com­bines pho­to­graphic and di­a­gram­matic im­agery so that read­ers can un­der­stand the plan­ning and


0909 Build­ings in dis­parate lo­ca­tions ap­pear side by side with an ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ing jux­ta­posed with pho­to­graphic com­pos­ite.

12 An im­age from Zack’s pitch to his pub­lisher, show­ing how his­toric and new struc­tures could come to­gether in his new book.

1010-11 Clean and sim­ple cover de­sign – Zack Scott’s Apollo fol­lowed by Scrap­ers and its stark and sym­met­ri­cal cover de­sign.


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