There are many levels of satisfaction that come from working at Princeton Architectural Press. In addition to working with an insanely talented group of people, there is the simple thrill and sense of pride that accompanies each new book that arrives from the printer. In spite of dummies, color lasers, PDFs, and paper and binding material samples, we really don’t know how a title is actually going to come out, so there’s always some nervous anticipation and, almost every time, elation that the finished book exceeds our highest expectations. It’s the thrill any maker, whether architect, chef, furniture maker, or craftsperson experiences when a project is finally complete. As much as we create these beautiful objects because we love them and believe in what they say, there’s another adrenaline rush that comes when the book finds its audience: gets reviewed, blogged or “tweeted” about, and, in the best of all possible worlds, flies off the shelf. There’s a kind of vindication here: we’re not simply making these handsome, interesting books for ourselves, there is, indeed, an audience for what we do, and sometimes a surprisingly large and enthusiastic one.
In addition to this success in the marketplace, we’re also flattered beyond words when our colleagues in the publishing and design communities single our books out for professional recognition, which is why we watch for the results of the annual 50 Books/50 Covers competition with the same sense of suspense others watch for, not to completely overreach, the Academy Award nominations (ours is a small world, after all).
So it’s with particular pride that I’m pleased to announce that three of our books were picked in this years 50 Books/50 Covers competition, including Paula Scher MAPS, Thomas Thwaites’ The Toaster Project, and Manuel Lima’s Visual Complexity. That’s six percent of the best-looking books on the market, per the Design Observer, a disproportionate share considering the small size of our company. It seems no coincidence that these are also three of our best-selling books of the last year, proving again not only that design sells, but that first-rate design is as integral to Princeton Architectural Press books as their unique content. Congratulations to Paula Scher, Paul Wagner, and Jan Haux, designers of these books (respectively).
I met yesterday with a famous photo-journalist about a book project, and he said he’d spent the hour before our meeting looking through the backlist section of our most recent catalog. “I had to smile at a lot of them,” he told me. “Who else would’ve published some of these books? I don’t think there’s another publisher who would have taken a chance on a student’s project to build a toaster from scratch, right down to mining his own raw materials.” He was referring, of course, to The Toaster Project, Thomas Thwaites’ entertaining and educational chronicle of his attempt to build a cheap appliance-store toaster by making his own plastic, copper wire, quartz heating element, and so on. Of course, it made me smile, too, to hear this esteemed photographer pick up on and praise the very core of our mission: to publishing interesting books, no matter how quirky, in beautiful and affordable ways, and it makes me smile, too, to know that our peers in the design community seem to agree that we’re doing a good job of it.