01 Jul 2023 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

“What I propose, therefore, is very simple: it is nothing more than to think what we are doing.”—Hannah Arendt [1]

1. I'm in an editorial-design phase of an archival-research-based book project that I began in 2020. That’s a lot of hyphens for one sentence. I will try again. I am adding pages to an InDesign file, cutting and pasting various text and images I’ve acquired over the past three years. I am resizing, rewriting, deleting, layering, interspersing, scaffolding, rearranging. On my desk I have a flexible outline of nested post-it notes that I refer to, remix, and add to. While I work, I've been reflecting upon this editorial process as one of the lesser discussed book arts. By “editorial process” I do not mean the mechanics of editing for grammar and clarity (although there is that too, I’m condensing many transcripts), but rather the larger editorial project of selecting, guiding, steering, (re)presenting. As Jan V. White writes in Editing by Design, the “Editors’ greater purpose is to organize the material in such a way that its significance shines out.... What matters is that some message, some point of view, be communicated to the viewer”[2]. 

2. I am neither writing the text nor creating the images for this book I am “making.”

So what am I doing?

Pointing out

Asking questions

















Putting into relationship

Cutting & pasting

Moving things around



Designing (is all the above comprised in this one verb?)

3. As I compose this list, I think of Jenny Odell's Harvard Graduate School of Design 2020 commencement speech, published as the lovely slender volume Inhabiting the Negative Space. Odell offers that “the most substantive work you can do” as a designer is operate as an “orchestrator of attention,”[3] referencing Sarah Hendren's terrific 2016 Eyeo Festival presentation. In this talk, Hendren muses that synonyms for “designer” might also include “impresario” / “translator” / “curator” / “believer” / “amplifier”/ “archivist” / “conduit” / “midwife” / “radical generalist.” Hendren quotes George Saunders (also a favorite writer of mine), “When you tunnel deep into what you don’t know, sometimes that becomes your voice”[4]. Yes. All of this resonates deeply with my current activities. I am definitely tunneling into what I do not know. That is the main thing I am doing, in fact. Add it to the list in #2.

Editorial Thinking, Image by OEI ( 

4. Or, as Jonas (J) Magnusson and Cecilia Grönberg of the Swedish “extra-disciplinary” magazine OEI phrase it, “To edit is to work with what exists”[5]. In this particular kind of bookmaking, I am working with what exists to make what does not yet exist. 

Founded in 1999, OEI has published 97 issues, which they describe as “experimental forms of thinking, montages of art, poetry, theory, visual culture, and documents; critical investigations, infrastructural poetics, localities, ecologies, new epistemologies, and counter-historiographies." 

Last October at the Camden Art Centre in London, I had the pleasure of seeing Magnusson & Grönberg present about their editorial practice. While the OEI exhibition is a one-night pop-up, its installation is characteristically thoughtful. Individual issues, which appear not like magazines but rather as large, hefty softcover books, are dispersed among tables for perusal. A slideshow of images, including an intriguing diagram of “Editorial Thinking,” is projected on the wall. The sound of an operating printing press—an audio recording—fills the gallery.

I extract small gems from their talk: 

“Outsource as little as possible”

“Proofreading is untheorized”

"Prepress work = labor intensity + care + differentiation"

Building an archive of an area — collaborating with experts about the area (scientists, historians, etc.)

Fieldwork, editing, “radical publishing”

Exhibitions, events, readings, are all seen as editorial events in 3 dimensions

Micro-communities, localizing publishing (much of their work is in Swedish)

“Giving a location a mirror of its history”

“Cultural counter-history”


“Very material work”

You can only bind up to 6cm in Sweden!

In answer to an audience member's question, “Why don’t you publish digitally?" Magnusson replies, “It wouldn’t be fun.” 

5. I remind myself: what makes this type of bookmaking wholly engrossing is being wholly engaged in all the parts of making the book. It is very material work. It is multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, extradisciplinary. And it is fun. Fun, I tell you! (Sometimes I need reminding).

(To be continued July 15)



1. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1958), 5.

2. Jan V. White, Editing By Design (New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1982), 2.

3. Jenny Odell, Inhabiting the Negative Space (Cambridge: Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2021), 23.

4. Sarah Hendren, Design for Know-Nothings, Dilettantes, and Melancholy Interlopers, Eyeo Festival 2016,, accessed June 19, 2023.  

5. “Public Knowledge: OEI.” Camden Art Centre., accessed June 17, 2023 


Emily Larned has been publishing as an artistic practice since 1993. She is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Emily is currently working on a book with feminist activist K.D. Codish, former director of the “non-traditional” New Haven Police Academy.

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