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  • Writer's pictureM. Huijgen

Digital Senses

TXT Maytal Huijgen | IMGS Peter Lindbergh | Taschen | Le Bloc | Maytal Huijgen

[about creative-books' senses going digital]

Peter Lindbergh, Untold Stories
What Happens if you could click the circle? Peter Lindbergh, Untold Stories | Taschen, 2019

The early versions of the electronic books and online publishing solutions have tried to imitate unique print characteristics, to give the potential "new" readers a sense of familiarity with their beloved printed object. I consider digital "dog-ears" and flipping sound to be the worst of them all.

The digital solutions were trying to bring print familiarity to the digital versions of reading content for a reason. Book readers were emotionally attached to their physical paper and the sense of nostalgia, and did not feel at home with screens. Such emotional reactions to digital reading experiences get even stronger when regarding the world of creative books.

Visual fields such as art, photography, architecture, fashion and design produce the best looking prints. Their production process includes a careful choices-making regarding the construction, material and layout. The final product is in one word: impressive. In more: It is a sensual experience. It stimulates the sense of sight (by being so pretty!), the sense of touch (by having weight and textures), the sense of smell (binding glue!) and most of all, a sense of excitement, expectation and anticipation.

How can such sense-based experience be presented digitally, where it's losing its materialistic core

Digital devices currently can not provide a textural sensation or the smell of glue. The attempts to try and translate profound print features to a digital output has proven to create mainly disappointments among print fans. Instead of looking at the un-achievable materialistic translation, we should look at other ingredients of high-quality content production. Which elements can we take from the design of the creative books to be used in creating the digital reading experiences?

Ingredients of Visual Content

There are more than a few ingredients to the creative books' production. Let's shortly address two of them: image-text relations and layout in mobile outputs.

Image-Text Relations

The creative content story is often presented more through images than by text. The traditional relation between text and image flip, and instead of images illustrating texts, the textual content is being added to the images to provide extra information.

The additional texts can be captures, behind-the-scene-stories, relevant interviews etc. Design-wise, they will either accompany the image on a small scale (captions) or be separated from it completely, to give the image the full focus.

A great solution digital can grant the additional text, comes using layers.

Instead of having the longer texts separated from the image completely, they can overlay it by "activating" it. This way, the texts can be as playful and/or long as wished, without compromising the attention to the visual.

Another form of combining text and images has become extremely popular on creative websites platforms, s.a Wix and Wordpress - the large-quotes-on-top design. Pleasant to the eye, captivating and 100 percent taken from print typography, the large texts appear on top or next to images.

Adjustable Composure

The design of visual books is excellent in maximising format and creating tension in a composition. When thinking of a digital platform in general, mobile ones in particular, the design tendency is to "fill up the screen". It is true that in small display spaces such as mobile phones it would be a shame to place small images just for the sake of getting extreme margins. But there are many other layout options than the default middle-square.

Gustav Klimt: All paintings
A spread from "Gustav Klimt: All paintings" published by Taschen
staying true to the original print layout is normally doable for tablet formats

When designing for mobile there is an added function that is not being used often enough, and that is the activating function. While we are very used by now to long scrolls and press-to-enlarge functions, other interactive gestures can pull much more attention from the reader. Layer pull-over, for example, gives a much reacher sense of revealing and therefore grants greater attention to the presented image.

a subtle arrow invites the reader to discover the hidden extra content

Additional Content

While the printed books are based on texts and images, the digital arena allows many more forms of content. Furthermore, since a great deal of the current marketing channels is digital, it is already common to find additional forms of content being created to the printed content, in order to promote sales.

Ideally, the new digital reading experiences will be digital-born, and their content thought of and created for such platform. In the meanwhile, those extra contents can be curated into cohesive, updated publications that stimulate the senses in new ways digital publishing ---

Someone to Follow

_ Making Public is a group working with the Institute of Network Cultures based in The Netherlands. In their recent guide "Upside Down Inside Out" they offer writers a new way to structure their content with digital output in mind. They take tools and methods from websites structuring and the gaming world to serve as a modular way of rethinking non monolithic digital publication.

_ Peter Lindbergh: Untold Stories is an exhibition currently presenting at the Kunst Palast Museum in Düsseldorf, Germany. The exhibition is the first to be curated by the photographer himself before passing away. A great demonstration for powerful images missing a context.

One of the strongest candidates to become an extremely sensual digital publishing is the field of filmography and the making of movies. With extremely rich visuals and a huge variety of content, the story telling of the movies industry is a perfect match for digital publishing. #startwar, are you in?

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