TOME OF TOWERS
Designer Zack Scott exorcised his love of tall buildings and infographics with a new book published by Wildfire
Designer Zack Scott reveals the creative process behind his soonto-be published book: Skyscrapers
LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS Zack Scott
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.
GIVING IT STRUCTURE
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.