ArtCenter's Viewbook Can Be Judged by 40,000 Different Covers

Published : Tuesday, September 10, 2019 | 5:06 AM

ArtCenter College of Design’s recently published Viewbook is winning multiple high-profile design awards

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but what if that book has more than 40,000 different covers?

That’s how many covers were created for ArtCenter College of Design’s innovative “viewbook,” a biennial publication marketing the Pasadena college to prospective students.

ArtCenter, where new approaches are nothing new, has taken a new approach to its signature document.

“In the world of art and design schools, the viewbook is an important showpiece and memento,” said spokeswoman Teri Bond. “It’s important for the prospective student and for those who create it. Some people hold on to the book for years. It’s the most highly regarded professional recruitment tool we use besides the website.”

There are more than 40,000 total variations ArtCenter College of Design ’s Viewbook in circulation.

There are more than 40,000 total variations of ArtCenter College of Design ’s Viewbook in circulation.

This year’s innovation was created by a team lead by Brad Bartlett, department director and professor of Transmedia in ArtCenter’s graphic design department.

“Combining time-honored craft with cutting edge technology, we designed an algorithm to generate over 40,000 unique cover variations. “The algorithm shuffled geometric shapes into different configurations of the letter ‘A.’

Each printed cover of the Viewbook features a unique configuration of modular geometric elements and is numbered sequentially, though mentioned once, it is worthy of repeating that there are more than 40,000 total variations in circulation.

The concept reflects the ArtCenter experience where the illustrations represent each student’s creative pathway through the framework of the curriculum.

Bartlett said the creators of the project wanted to marry the past with the future. The Viewbook bridges them because the modules were inspired by Alvin Lustig, a West Coast design pioneer who studied and later taught at ArtCenter in the 1930s and 1940s.

“Alvin Lustig was a pioneer of West Coast modernism and we found inspiration in some of the early experiments he’s done in using those geometric shapes,” Bartlett explained.

The concept was to run Lustig’s way of making designs through a contemporary process and methodology using new tools and technology.

ArtCenter alumnus Josh Finklea designed custom typeface for the book. Recent graduate, Alex Seth, (MFA 18) collaborated with Bartlett on the design of the cover and provided coding on the algorithm used to generate each iteration of the design.

“We worked with the printer locally who we have known the owner for 20 years now,” Bartlett said. “They’ve allowed us to experiment with new tools and technology. All these individuals allowed the project to take shape in the way it has.”

Photographs don’t do the Viewbook justice as there is a tactile element with different inks and textures.

“The project has been well received by different design competitions and organizations,” he said. “We’ve been floored at the response.”

Among the prestigious honors for The ArtCenter Viewbook are:

• Selections as one of the covers in the 50 Books 50 Covers competition by AIGA + Design Observer
• Winner in the 60th Communication Arts Design annual competition
• Silver Award Winner in the Graphis Design Annual 2020
• Excellence Award winner in the UCDA Design competition
• Winner of a CASE Circle of Excellence award

The Viewbook also represents is a change in how society and culture perceive art.

“We try to reflect the changes we’re seeing in the industry,” he said. “Graphic designers aren’t just crafting singular artifacts, they’re developing dynamic systems to create unique design experiences. We try to embrace processes and methodologies along these lines.

As for the future, Bartlett said there are a lot of unknowns that comes into play.

“Our big challenge is to prepare our students for jobs that may not even exist yet,” he said. “It’s not only about equipping them with skills and the ability for them to respond to things that are happening now, but it’s also giving them the tools to anticipate the changing social and technological conditions of design in the future.


More information

ArtCenter’s Viewbook 2019-2020 Credits:

Creative direction and design: Brad Bartlett

Creative coding and design: Alex Seth

Project supervision: Scott Taylor

Editorial direction: Mike Winder

Production supervision: Ellie Eisner

Production: Audrey Krauss

Photography: Juan Posada

Copy Editor: Mary Nadler

Writing: Lynne Heffley, Brenda Rees, Solvej Schou, Jamie Wetherbe, Mike Winder

Font: Centra #2 Mono designed exclusively for the publication by alumnus Josh Finklea

Printer: Clear Image Printing Co., Los Angeles, California

Prospective students can obtain a copy of the Viewbook by contacting the Admissions Office and filling out this form or at and 626 396-2373.

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