The Shelf Journal

We wanted to meet The Shelf Journal team, a brand new publication dealing with the book. The moment a magazine is created is always an important event, specially when this one is French and is broadcasting abroad. The Shelf Journal has been created by Colin Caradec and Morgane Rébulard, both less than 25 years old and graduated from École Estienne. With two issues in a year, The shelf can be 100 pages long, allowing to develop wide articles. In this first issue, authors are french, dutch, americans, young, older or even dead, but they all share the passion for the print. This passion is the base of the journal, allowing the creation of a magazine when the press seams to be threatened by the digital medias. The project unites, making possible that for the true first issue some well-known people from graphic and typographic circles contribute to the journal, such as Pierre di Sciullo or Nick Sherman. The book is shown from different angles, with a particular look on the materiality oh the object, its paper, its print, look that shows trough the journal itself, notably with its very particular japanese cover paper and green edge. You can keep it in your library next Ink, Graphê, or abroad, 8 faces, Codex or Slanted. The Shelf thinks wider just than typography, even if when it does it’s with cleverness. This journal shows up all the aspects that make the book something unique, interesting and still contemporary.


The Shelf Journal, Nick Sherman article on type specimens
The Shelf Journal, Nick Sherman article on type specimens
Four pages from Nick Sherman’s article dealing with type specimens.

The interview

What are the reasons that made you create this magazine ?

Beside the journal, we run a graphic and typographic studio and publishing firm, The Shelf Company. We share our time between our clients for graphic design and publishing and the magazine. Some other publishing projects, periodic or not, may appear too. We noticed that journals specialized on graphic design deal most of the time with contemporary design. We believed that it would be interesting to talk about both old or new books. As books, magazine and type specimen collectors and lovers, we felt that there was an interesting topic in oder to create a magazine. A magazine that would talk about the importance of the shape of the book, and about the attachment phenomenon that it creates between the reader and the book.

Therefore, we wanted to deal with the design of the book question via its sensitive aspect, to put the emphasis on its materiality, that is more important than ever today with all the editorial contents that can quit paper to other medias. We could obviously have created a blog with many articles about that, but it would have gone against our unconditional love of paper. Moreover, the physical support of the journal works well with the way we structure our contents, and the vision we have of editorial design. Then, as designers, to make the most of the “magazine” format with print lovers in mind was kind of a challenge for us.

You are, at the same time, publication directors, publishers and graphic designers for The Shelf Journal, why ?

To eliminate all kind of middleman frees ourself from some commercial constraints and allowed us to elaborate the finished object as we wanted. Beside the administrative difficulties, to be allowed to publish contents we want and design their template as we want is an advantage. We believe that this situation also allows us to create an universe that is really ours. We have an omniscient look on the making of the the journal so we have more coherence in what we do. But we are not alone, some well-intentioned friends help us while sharing their outside thoughts on the project.

The Shelf Journal contents
The Shelf contents

What are your favorite themes?

In our mind, it is the spirit of each section that have to stay in the time. They have been created to talk about book design with several different editorial points of view. For instance, “Me My Shelf and I”, the central section in the journal always contains an interview and shows up the personal library of someone well-known in the world of the print, and beyond. The section names, in associations with the coats of arms that represent them are “esoteric” images that may show the spirit of each one. The sections also give us some directions to the people we contact for the articles. The major topic still is the shape of the printed matter.

Is the book a design object?

We try to have a different look on the book, but not in the way that we could try to conceptualize the book. We believe that if we conceptualize with excess, we can loose every link with reality. We intend to do the opposite, meaning to call the primary senses of the reader to make him understand our point of view on the book. The book, as an object, is indeed the link between our senses, our perception of a material entity, and the ideas it conveys, pure intellectual “object”. Therefore this link is created by the “design”. We believe that to create a good reading experience is not something that could be conceptualized (many essays on book design prove it) but something that needs to be learned. Our editorial line strives for this vision of book design, but The Shelf Journal is still an open forum for debate and each writer can bring his own opinion.

A book is something really hard to show. When we see a photo of a book, we feel frustrated of not being able to see it in 3D. For the garments, it exists dummies, but not for books. It’s legitimate to find that our parti-pris is ornamental, and it’s our parti pris. Minimalistic designs are often described as more functional, but it’s wrong. Ornaments always had a function, in all the design fields. In our case, the graphic elements that accompany the iconography have been created in order to unify and structure our images for three distinct cases: an open or closed book, a lonely page, a zoom. Each case owns a proper ornamental code. Using a figurative graphical system is also a way to recall our attachment at the spacial and material value of the book.

The making of The Shelf Journal
Morgane Rebulard's The Polyglot, Le Polyglotte and Mabel typefaces
Above, the making of the magazine. Underneath and from left to right, The Polyglot, Le Polyglotte and Mabel, three typefaces designed by Morgane Rébulard and used in the Journal.

Did you develop a typographic identity and a specific graphic language ?

The heading typeface (Mabel) is a key element on the which we built the typographic identity of the magazine. The “book-wedges” that we can see beside the texts are in fact ornaments integrated in this font. The text typefaces (Le Polyglotte and The Polygot) have been designed a year ago by Morgane as a part of a larger project which was to create a family of five typefaces for multilingual publishings. Using the french and the english variants came after we decided the Journal would be bilingual. About the graphic language we developed, it is figurative and talks by itself. Emphasis is clearly put on this last one because the cover paper and the color on the edge are variables of the collection.

Some clues for the next issue?

Blue – XIXe – London – Yellow – Club – Display – Pink – Périodics.

By Jérémy Landes-Nones, april 2012. All rights reserved.

The Shelf Journal cover

The Shelf Journal

Dual-language journal, editorial board: Morgane Rébulard & Colin Caradec, graphic design: The Shelf Company, published by: The Shelf Company.
18 €, 108 pages, Isbn: 978-2-9540656-0-1


— Off the Shelf
Tristan Pernet, Le trident francophone
Colin Caradec, Préposé aux chevaux vapeur
— Shelf Service
Paul Disjtelberge, On loving books
Nick Sherman, The Design of Type Specimens
— Me my Shelf and I
Pierre di Sciullo, Entrevue
— Display Shelf
W. A. Dwiggins, The Structure of a Book
— Shelf Mark
Paul-Marie Grinevald, Les voyages de découvertes (1750-1850)
— Shelf Label

Journal creators

Colin Caradec Graduated from École Estienne (DMA option Typography – 2008), since worked for fashion and press as an independent or employee graphic designer.

Morgane Rébulard Graduated from École Estienne (DMA option Typography – 2008) and from ÉSAD Amiens (DNSEP – 2010), as been reached type design by Franck Jalleau at the Imprimerie nationale (2007-2011) and since 2009 is a part of a research project on a graphic transcription for sign language (GestualScript). Also worked as a freelance graphic designer for several design studios.


The Shelf Journal
École Estienne
ESAD d’Amiens
Pierre di Sciullo
Nick Sherman Type designer based in Brooklyn and working for Webtype & Font Bureau.
Ink, french type journal created by the graphic studio super-script.
Graphê, french typographic journal published by the association of the same name.
8 faces, bi-annual magazine with 8 portraits of type designers, created by Elliot Jay Strocks.
Codex, type journal made by I Love Typography
Slanted German magazine dealing with graphic and type design.