IMEC Residency Grant

7 February 2023

Esther Laforge's thesis, Imaging Words: Publication Design in France Between 1945 and 1975, focuses on book design between 1945 and 1975 to comprehend this new « civilisation de l’image.

In Caen, the Institut des Mémoires de l’Edition Contemporaine (IMEC) gathers the archives of contemporary French publishers, writers and book designers. IMEC’s vast collection constitutes the primary base of Esther's research. She uses an intermedial approach to portray IMEC’s rich archives and French book design. The inaugural Olivier-Corpet grant aims to deepen the academic knowledge of French publishing history. It offers two months of residency to pursue Ph.D. research and explore IMEC’s materials. This grant will lead to a publication and a conference at the end of 2023.

After WWII, book design quickly changed in France under the influence of social, cultural, economic, and technical modernization. High literature books, formerly austere looking, were adorned with images and blazing hues, inaugurating the 'civilisation de l’image.' This new book aesthetic provoked debates among French thinkers and book professionals as, in Roland Barthes’ words, the Livre-Objet confronted the Livre-Idée. In parallel, the role of the book designer became prominent in book production, asking for greater acknowledgment from society. Designers drew inspiration from the avant-gardes and contemporary art to elaborate a modern French style.