VAS: An Opera in Flatland
VAS: An Opera in Flatland
VAS: An Opera in Flatland
VAS: An Opera in Flatland

VAS: An Opera in Flatland

Slipstudios, Chicago, Illinois, 2003


VAS: An Opera in Flatland is a collaborative novel by Steve Tomasula and Stephen Farrell. VAS chronicles Square, Oval, and the other inhabitants of Flatland as they ?nd themselves slipping into a post-biological future in which lying down with the scalpel is as common as buying and selling genes. Printed in the colors of flesh and blood, this hybrid image/text novel demonstrates how differing ways of imagining the body generate diverse stories of history, gender, politics, and, ultimately, the literature of who we are. Using a wide and historical sweep of representations of the body—from pedigree charts to genetic sequences—VAS searches for one’s identity within the double helix of language and lineage.

One of the many challenges of our work process is bridging the domain of graphic design with the close yet sometimes contentious domain of writing and recasting them into a more integrated and simultaneous activity. Our collaborative approach encourages design that does not merely house text but creates its own crosscurrents of analysis and reflection. Design is integral in gathering, processing, and reinterpreting the research for works like VAS and for drawing out underlying subtexts. The architecture of the page and vocabulary of design motifs feed off of the writing as the writing feeds off of the design, both guiding the project’s scope, its themes, and its ultimate form. The result is an expanded language of literature and design.

Juror Notes

“One of the most inspiring uses of typography in the show.” Archie Ferguson

“Pushes the boundaries of what we can do. Totally engaging; the design doesn’t interfere with the text.”

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2003
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book


Design firm
Creative directors
Stephen Farrell, Steve Tomasula
Art director
Stephen Farrell
Stephen Farrell
Jacket designer
Stephen Farrell
Stephen Farrell
Production director
Stephen Farrell
Steve Tomasula
Station Hill Press
Trim size
5.25 x 9.125”
Quantity printed
Clarendon, Cholla, IDE, Univers, Winchester
Four-Colour Imports
Weyerhaeuser Cougar Natural, 70lb. text, vellum finish
Four-Colour Imports
Binding method
Book type
Literature and nonfiction