Appetite Engineers, San Francisco, California, 1997


It is unusual for a designer to be asked not just to form the look of a book, but to help create it as well. Under the careful watch of Chronicle Books, Bordertown was a collaboration between the author, the photographer, and the designers. We were given the opportunity not only to edit and rearrange the contents, but to contribute to them as well.

Because we are outside of the culture—we don’t even speak the language—our outsider status became a catalyst of discovery. We traveled, visited, observed, and collected. Posters, packages, shopping bags, trinkets, fabric. What we could read and what we could only guess at became part of the creative process.

We developed a basic architecture for the book, and within that tight structure, we were able to move freely. We wanted the elements that come together on the pages to react to each other, as if we as designers were standing at a distance. Violence, humor, voices shouting over one another or whispering in our ears. Typography, like walls and windows, sometimes obstructed our view, but sometimes made it safe for us to stare.

We decided to keep the fictional passages absolutely quiet—like an empty dream state, a rest before the turmoil of the day begins.

Which parts of a given spread were brought in by Barry or David, Martin or Geoff? What parts of a child belong to either parent? We hoped that the question of authorship would, in places, mingle and dissolve as the book acquired a character and personality of its own.

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 1997
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book


Design firm
Appetite Engineers
Creative director
Michael Carabetta (Chronicle Books)
Art director
Martin Venezky
Graphic designers
Martin Venezky, Geoff Kaplan
David Perry
Barry Gifford, David Perry
Scotch Roman, Kabel, Univers Condensed
Chronicle Books