Book Love

In today's Industry People we meet Rik van Leeuwen of Wonderful Books to learn more about his work with designers, artists and writers bringing their beautiful work to life in print form...

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Tell us what you do in one sentence...
Helping photographers, graphic book designers and writers to make wonderful books.

What's your professional background, and what did you do before founding Wonderful Books?
I’ve been working in the graphic industry for 25 years. Before Wonderful Books, I worked for more than 20 years at Lecturis Printing House – Lecturis was one of the top high-quality printers in the Netherlands, and we worked for the best graphic book designers in the Netherlands and the UK. In those days we worked in a team of three people: estimating, project management, sales. I started working there making estimates. Later, I made the move within Lecturis to project management and was head of the office there. For the last 10 years, I was responsible for the London & Paris markets.

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Describe a typical working day...
I start on my bike, riding through the forest to get extra energy, on my way to my office in Eindhoven. When I get in, I’ll start by checking emails, and thinking about graphic solutions to questions I’ve received from book designers, working together with my graphic suppliers – these are things I’ll then talk through with the designers themselves. In the afternoon I often find myself traveling to a printer, to check the printing for a project that is on press.

What kind of clients do you work with?
Graphic book designers and studios, photographers, marketing studios, artists and designers from other disciplines too.

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What are your favourite kinds of project to work on?
I enjoy working on books involving more than one kind of paper, and more than one printing technique — I like it when a book has a challenge. I enjoy the process of working out how I can translate the look and feel of the idea into a real book.

Has your job changed much in the last few years, and what direction do you think the print industry as a whole is moving in?
It hasn’t really changed for me. I think, looking to the future, that more and more books will be special in some way – using a wider range of different kinds of paper, for example. That feeling of different kind of papers in one book, and getting inspired by books using great photography, is what people want to do.

That said, changes are afoot within the industry. The flexibility of the printers is less constant, because of the amount of work they have to take on to keep afloat. There are fewer specialist book printers operating nowadays, and the book printers who are still running have become bigger, and more focussed on numbers. That makes it harder to find the right printer for the books I want to create.

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What's the most challenging part of your job?
To foresee problems in the production of a book, and also to get the right information via email from the designers I am working with. What do they really want? That is why I prefer to see the ideas behind the book, before I get an email with the specification.

And what's the most enjoyable?
Seeing that I have made the right decisions in the most challenging parts of my job, and when I have found a better paper to use that works with the design of the book. I enjoy meeting and talking with designers and artists about what they want to achieve with their finished book –n everything comes down to the details.

If you weren't working in the world of books, what would you be doing?
If I weren't working in the world of books, I would like to work outside, getting energy the whole day from the sun and the air in nature.

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Tell us about a recent project you really enjoyed working on...
Last year, I made a book called A to Z for Jacob Dahlgren, together with Research & Development in Stockholm. I went to Stockholm to see the art and the photos, and I was inspired by the strong colours. I made a decision to try mixing a specific ink colour. The colour correction of the images within the book was very important too. For the end result, uncoated paper and strong colours were in a perfect balance to show the art from Jacob Dahlgren. For the cover, we used two different papers from Arjowiggins and tested different techniques. The combination of the paper asked us to find a better glue – the drying process took a bit longer, but it worked. Finally, it became a great book.  

In your opinion, what makes for a wonderful book?
Good graphic book design is key, in combination with more production techniques and different papers. And…it is really important, in my opinion, that the book should open easily on every page. A book should inspire you to read and look in to it.

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