Creating the book on Johnston

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In the Bekins Hall basement one balmy May afternoon, book designer Maureen Forys ’93 was giving a group of Johnston Center students a quiz. They were playing matchmaker, but with fonts instead of people, to see which ones would end up happily ever after. The exercise was entertaining, but the May Term directed study had a more lofty goal: designing a commemorative art book for Johnston’s 50th anniversary.

Forys, a visiting artist, was partnering with MG Maloney ’03, assistant director of the Johnston Center, to instruct the group. The students, whose May Term experience also included individual projects, had named the session “The Book.”

Emily Mains ’18 has enjoyed learning about design and bookmaking as an art form. “But [my other favorite]part was exploring Johnston’s history, the history of a place that I love so much,” Mains says. “Being able to [delve into]what this place is, and communicating that through book design, is amazing.”

The group is not the first to put together a book about Johnston, as it will follow As long as you’re havin’ a good time: A history of Johnston College, 1969-1979 by Bill McDonald and Kevin O’Neill and Hard Travelin’ and Still Havin’ a Good Time: Innovative learning and living at the Johnston Center, 1979-2004, edited by McDonald and Kathy Ogren.

So why another one? “We want to document what we’ve done and honor it with a beautiful book full of artistic archives and creative stories,” says Maloney, a Johnston alumna and trained librarian, who is the de facto Johnston archivist.

To prepare for May Term session, students read the manuscript, which includes submissions from Johnston alumni, and took part in workshops on drawing and painting to stimulate the creative process. With Forys, they then analyzed the content, looked at the digital archives, identified themes, and wrote the creative brief—the aesthetic guidelines for the book’s design.

Forys says the book, and the collaboration with the students, show how connected students and alumni are to Johnston: “I’m getting this amazing understanding of not just how community and learning works here on campus, but also throughout the Johnston diaspora around the world. It has been stunning.”

Two editions of the commemorative book are in the works: a deluxe, clothbound edition with a foil stamp and a jacket, and a more affordable paperback edition. Currently untitled, the work will be printed by an independent publisher based in Oakland, Calif., and available for purchase at Johnston’s 50th anniversary event, Feb. 15-17, 2019.

Read more about the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies:

  1. The making of a Johnston education: 50 years of student-directed learning
  2. Johnston: Myths vs. Reality
  3. Johnston: A timeline
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