Irma Boom

08/17/05

Juror’s portrait: Irma Boom

The Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, who is specialising in book design, is one of this year’s jurors of the red dot award: communication design. She has already designed some 200 books and her work has gained her an international reputation.

 

Irma Boom is known for preferring to work without exact design requirements imposed by her clients. For her, the content of a book is as important as its design, therefore in many projects she is also involved on an editorial level.
 
And she loves challenges. Her largest project was the 2,136 pages thick ‘SHV Think Book 1996-1986’, a jubilee book for the Dutch conglomerate SHV Holdings, on which she worked for five years. She did research in archives in Utrecht, Amsterdam, Paris, London, and Vienna, visited shareholders’ meetings, and examined the company’s files.

This was a mammoth project, both a dream and a nightmare for Irma Boom. The conditions were ideal; there were no financial constraints of any kind and no design requirements apart from that to create ‘something unusual’.  The down-side was the long, intensive work process, which took her to her limits. Almost 24 hours of work per day and no end in sight for years. Despite all the effort, however, it had been a great experience, reported Irma Boom in an interview. The project had taught her a lot about herself as well as others. 

She understands the Think Book, which was published in English and Chinese, as a great voyage. The reader has to explore it like an unknown place. Apart from the anti-chronological arrangement, there are no orientation points. The Think Book does neither have page numbers nor an index.

Irma Boom, who founded her own office - the Irma Boom Office - in Amsterdam in 1991, works on a national as well as international scale in the cultural and the commercial sector. Clients include, among others, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, De Appel Amsterdam, Zumtobel, Ferrari, Vitra International, NAi Publishers, the United Nations, and OMA/Rem Koolhaas. She teaches at Yale University in the United States, among other places, and at the Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. In 2001, she received the Gutenberg Prize for book design.