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Augmented Books

Text: Nina Sieverding

In this digital age, the role of the book in the future is repeatedly discussed and questioned: at book fairs, in panel discussions, and in the culture section. Despite all gloomy predictions, designers and artists keep coming up with new ideas for the old medium. One current graphic design trend are augmented books that use augmented reality to lend their content an additional virtual level.


Augmented Conspiracy


Fifty years ago, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to set foot on the moon. Until this very day, the Apollo 11 landing serves as a breeding ground for numerous conspiracy theories. For Stella Friedenberger, the lunar landing is a “metaphor for the human quest for progress”. The design student chose the event as the subject of her bachelor’s thesis at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle and used it to explore the interface between classic print media and new, digital technologies. Among other things, the publication depicts popular questions raised by lunar landing sceptics, which are set prominently on a black background. Using a webcam, the questions are answered literally in black and white on a computer screen. In this manner, Friedenberger intends to question usual visual patterns: “What happens if one accords more credibility to augmented reality than the classic medium of a book?”




In his art, US artist Austin Lee blurs the borders between analogue and digital work. To make sculptures, he uses virtual reality and 3D printers; for his naively amusing drawings he uses painting robots and in the process of creating his enormous paintings, he constantly switches between tablet, computer, and paintbrush. Thus it comes as no surprise that Lee is also reinventing the medium of the artist book. Within the framework of the project “Spheres”, in which Swiss graphic designer and type designer Philippe Karrer invites various artists to create an artist book curated by him, a colourful book bound with a white spiral emerged, which can also be experienced in an augmented manner using an app. With a glance at the display, Lee’s line drawings come to life.


Don’t be silly, Einstein!


The saying (which is difficult to translate into English) “Sei nicht albern, Einstein!” [“Don’t be silly, Einstein!”] occurred to student Saskia van der Meer as a flash of inspiration followed by a fit of laughter whilst cycling to her art academy, Bremen’s University of the Arts. As a result, she decided to deal with the topic of silliness within the scope of her bachelor’s thesis in the field of integrated design: “In our society, one frequently has to be serious to be taken seriously. If someone is silly, their competence is doubted, which I found a pity.” As a supplement to her bachelor’s exhibition, van der Meer designed a publication that is expanded virtually using the augmented reality app Artivive. This app makes it possible to animate posters from the exhibition, view visual footnotes directly and discover previously hidden silly things in the book.


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