Creative Director and Catalog Designer Brian Scott

Portrait of Brian Scott by Heimo (

Brian Scott is the Creative Director of Boon Design, has worked with the likes of Apple and Miranda July, and is the designer of our exhibition catalog Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art, and Jewish Thought. It's a stunning book that looks different from any other we've produced. This made us wonder: who is he, and how did he approach the challenge of creating a book about trees, where the subject matter is not just contained in the words, but in the paper itself?

How was this book different from others you've worked on?

The main reason this book was different from others was the schedule—from design to finished books was incredibly condensed. Most book projects take many months and often years, and this is after the content is created and edited. Thankfully the curators (Dara Solomon and Colleen Stockmann) did a wonderful job of organizing the content, and we were also blessed with an incredible printer (Prolific Group) up in Canada that worked well under time pressure. Most importantly, this was the first book I worked on with my longtime print advisor, Celeste McMullin. She and I have collaborated on many catalog-type projects in the past but never a book of this kind. The project could not have happened without her tireless efforts. I am truly indebted to her experience.

How did you incorporate the environmental themes of the exhibition into the design and production of the catalog?

For the design approach I wanted to weave a few concepts into the book that would make it more of an object, but also peel away the layers to reveal the bones of a book. From the first moment I discussed the project with Colleen Stockmann, I thought that using raw eska board for the cover was a departure point. Building upon this foundation, we wrapped the spine with book cloth—juxtaposing the outer layer against the inner layer (eska board) almost like tree bark peeling away. The eska board has a very pulpy, fibrous feel to it; there is no doubt one can feel the connection to the trees that it emanates from. 
We also printed on a wonderful FSC (Fiber Sourcing Certified) uncoated sheet (Lynx Opaque) that is milled by Domtar, based in the US and Canada. 

What were your greatest successes and challenges with this project?

The greatest challenges have been described succinctly above, the schedule being absolutely the toughest. The greatest success is that the CJM was willing to take a huge risk creating a book that eclipsed past efforts and honored the incredible content by enveloping it into an enduring artifact. 

Do you have favorite pieces from Do Not Destroy?

In no particular order: Roxy Paine, Yoko Ono, Luke Bartels, Deborah Lozier, Marcel Odenbach and Zadok Ben-David.

(L-R) Luke Bartels, The Wood Standard, California bay laurel14 x 24 x 24 in, 2011 // Deborah Lozier, Hand-me-down, Found wood, Norwegian vintage sterling silver and silver plate, sterling silver. Largest dim.: 8 x 2 x 5/8 in. Smallest dim.: 2 1/2 x 3/4 x 3/8 in. Courtesy the artist and Velvet da Vinco, San Francisco.

You were trained as an architect. Does this influence your approach to design? How about your work in museums?

Architecture is an incredibly challenging design discipline, the toughest in my estimation. It takes stamina, resolve, politics, and mostly, talent. I believe the experiences I had studying architecture permeate my practice, through discipline, dedication to craft, and willingness to abandon ideas for new and exciting directions. The program at Berkeley encouraged me to expand my peripheral vision to sculpture, performance, drawing, graphic design and building. In some ways these are all still very integral to my design practice, so architecture was the beginning of this exploration.

Parallel to studying architecture, I began working as a preparator at the University Art Museum (now renamed Berkeley Art Museum). This remains one of the most inspirational phases of my life. Lawrence Rinder was a young curator at the time, and he brought some of the world's most interesting and compelling artists to show at Matrix, and the artists showing during those years had a massive influence on me as a maker. Artists like Gordon Matta-Clark, Christian Boltanski, Richard Tuttle, Kiki Smith, Manuel Ocampo, Rosemarie Trockel, Starn Twins, David Ireland, amongst many others gave me a unique perspective into an artist's process and ethos. Building exhibitions brought physicality to the conceptual, and this has always helped me when transforming ideas into something beautiful and engaging. Artists and makers attempt to find the most moving way tell a story, to create an immersive experience, to give form to raw elements and ideas. Designers attempt to do something very similar. 

What is your favorite tree?

For the past several years it's a tree that is not very large but potent. The Brugmansia can be a large shrub or a tree, in the case of my backyard, it's definitely a tree. It's a remarkable tree as it produces toxic but enticingly fragrant trumpet-like flowers, which release their most seductive scent at night. They remind me of my favorite part of being young in Florida—the intoxicatingly fragrant evenings, where every night walk was an olfactory out-of-body experience. Plus my honey bees seem to love them. 

What is your most memorable museum experience?

It's too difficult to pick one given my history: being in the New Mexican desert walking amongst Walter De Maria's Lightning Field. Robert Irwin at the DIA in New York City. Gordon Matta-Clark at the Berkeley Art Museum.

What's the last time you saw something and thought "I wish I made that"?

I am envious and amorous of Derek Sullivan's exhibition, Albatross Omnibus, at the Power Plant in Toronto. He created a book for each of the 52 weeks of the year, selling one per week in the store. The books were small (12cm x 17cm—I am a fan of the metric system) in nature, and were displayed in the gallery all at once, each suspended from the ceiling from aircraft cable. In order to read or view the books you had to climb a bright cyan mobile ladder that had a beautifully industrial construction. As you climb, you can feel the ladder lock to the ground, and as you reach the top step, the constellation of books hanging all around you is at once thrilling and also daunting. It was absolutely fantastic in every way from conception to execution.


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