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- Books , Graphic Design

Excellence in publishing

Phaidon is a name synomymous with excellence in publishing. Here books are brought to life, they stay in print for many years and they boast a very high quality of design and production. We talked to Editorial Director Emilia Terragni about the challenges facing publishing houses today.


Mrs. Terragni, the Phaidon publishing house has an exciting and very eventful history. It started out in Vienna in 1923 and has grown into the international concern we know today, with its headquarters in London and offices in New York, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Milan and Tokyo. Is it a difficult job to predict the demands of this very large market?

We tend to do books not only that have a global appeal, but also that we will keep in print for many years. Following trends can be sometimes tricky as trends are ephemeral and books are for ever, on top of that it normally takes a minimum of two years to conceive and publish a book, and if we just follow a trend, the moment the book is out the trend is probably over.  We definitely look at what is globally interesting, innovative and exciting and very often we are ahead of our times.


Phaidon is very focused on visual themes, but you also have cookery books and children’s books in your programme, and they stand out for the exceptional quality of the illustrations. How do you select the creatives to produce these works?

We work with freelance designers and illustrators, it is very important for us to choose the right designer for a specific book. Each designer has his/her own strengths: some of them are good typographers, others good picture editors. Some are very good at illustrating an architecture project, and others skilled in presenting art themes. Some love a minimal look, other like the excessive. The most important thing is to select the right designer for the right book, and to have a good brief: precise enough to communicate the vision of the book, but loose enough to enhance their creativity.


In your view, what influence does excellent book design have on sales figures?

When I buy a book I am very interested in the quality of the design, the paper, the production, and I am sure I am not the only one. I believe that our audience really appreciates the quality of our books.

You currently have around 1500 titles in your programme – which of them have surprised you with their success?

The success of the cookbooks always happily surprises me, and in the last few years we have seen all our categories really growing.


Where do you see the future of the printed book?

I see the future of the printed book in well executed, beautifully produced, carefully curated volumes that will continue to be an indispensable part of our culture, and they don’t necessarily have to be expensive, they can be beautiful, intelligent, and affordable.

This interview was first published in novum 09.17 (main topic »book design«) »Buchdesign«. Single copies are available: