Dan O. Williams

Since 2007, I’ve lived and worked in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts as an art director (3 years) and product manager (4 years) at Storey Publishing — publisher, bar none, of gardening, brewing, small-scale farming, cooking, crafts, and other books for sustainable living. I’m also the designer of n+1, a New York–based journal of literature, culture, and politics. I design for print and the web — though this distinction is evolving. My current work is focused is on the interconnection of print and online. I graduated with high honors from Harvard University with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies. This is some of my recent work.

If you’re interested, you can download my current resume here. (It’s an 460 KB PDF.)

Some things I like: interesting and challenging music of all kinds; Dutch typography; the films of Andrei Tarkovsky; works of economic thought and urban planning written by Jane Jacobs (and very little of that genre that isn’t); Bruce Nauman (and many many other artists as well); Christopher Alexander, Claude Shannon, and Emily Dickinson; Art (capital A) in general; odd Belgian beers with curious labels; the perfection of home-baked pizza; avant-garde food photography; and my wife’s cooking.

n+1 website

  • 2014
  • website
  • front-end design
  • responsive css

My wife and I work together on web projects as Durable Goods Design. When we built the last n+1 website in 2009, it was one of the first sites to use fonts served through Typekit. What was state of the art four years ago is old hat today, so when n+1 wanted to make their 10-year library of issues available — by subscription — through the website, we took the opportunity to execute a complete redesign, rethinking everything about how the site looks and functions. If we were to build a site around paid digital subscriptions, we had to make the online reading experience as nice as possible, on as many devices as possible. 2014’s redesign represents a fundamental change for n+1: now the canonical version of the magazine is online. We went to great lengths to make sure that the experience of an online issue isn’t simply digitized text — it repositions the magazine as digital-first, delivering the best possible writing with the best possible design. With the new site, n+1 delivers on its promise of always moving forward, upward, and onward. And it only took a year of working nights and weekends. Visit the new n+1 website here. Typefaces: Adelle, Adelle Sans, Freight Sans. Illustration is my own.

Occupy!

  • October 2011
  • 40 pages
  • 11.5" × 15"

The fall and winter of 2011, when Occupy Wall Street and Zuccotti Park were impossible to ignore, seem very far away today. The intervening years have transformed the Occupy! gazette — created over only three long days and nights in the passion of immediacy — into something that already feels like ancient history. Still, it was real. There was a time when our unethical economic situation felt like it might crack. When the right application of force in just the right location might actually inflict some pain. This spirit, this passion, this anger, and this radical democracy needed raised voices, but also a hint at structure and historical context. Occupy! did its best but we know how the moment ended — slowly, inevitably consumed by the rising tide that floats all boats but floods everyone who’s unfortunate enough not to own one. Still, I’m as proud of this little scrap of history as anything I’ve made.Typefaces: Versa Sans, Warnock, Nitti, Akzidenz Grotesk. Illustration by Dan Archer, Molly Crabapple, and David Kearns.

Emily Books

  • 2013–present
  • variable size

Emily Books publishes ebook editions of indie titles too idiosyncratic to have enjoyed broad popularity, but too well written to be neglected. Their subscription-focused bookshop exposes its readers to all kinds of funny, terrifying, honest, sexy, raw, refined, queer, angry, sweet, and serious voices. I created a series design for their iOS app that allowed each title to express its own personality with only the barest means: color, type, and a single square image. The design had to work well not only at three different aspect ratios, but also had to be legible at the postage stamp–size of the iOS Newsstand. I redrew their logo and built a system that allows maximum flexibility within maximum rigidity. Typeface: Calibre. Photography is my own.

Trash-to-Treasure Papermaking

  • February 2011
  • 208 pages
  • 10.875" × 7.375"

Arnold Grummer has been promoting papermaking for over forty years, and this book is the culmination of his life’s work. Authoritative in tone, but pitched to the complete beginner, Trash-to-Treasure Papermaking is a friendly guide to the pleasures of recycled paper. I wanted this book to have an extra wide aspect ratio, becoming floppy when opened and demonstrating the physical properties of paper itself. It’s printed on chunky uncoated stock for the same reason. This project is also something of an homage to the Gotham typeface — an attempt to use and establish it as a legitimate heir to Helvetica. Typefaces: Gotham, Gotham Rounded, Sentinel. Photography by Greg Nesbit.

The Cleaner Plate Club

  • January 2011
  • 312 pages
  • 7.375" × 9.25"

I was particularly excited by this project because of how much I believe in the book’s premise: Children will eat real food that’s good for them if it’s tasty. It doesn’t have to be junk. I knew I wanted this book to have a hand-lettered feel — the challenge was to be child inspired without becoming childish. There’s no greater expert at this than Bruno Munari, so I looked to his masterpieces for inspiration. I also tried to take bits and pieces from video game culture, particularly from the look and feel of Katamari Damaci and Noby Noby Boy. The result is a book that’s fun and approachable without losing the seriousness of its message. It’s an object lesson in its own theme: that a bit of a fun and a bit of inspiration can bring out the “good” in the “good for you.” I did all the illustration and hand lettering in addition to the photography and book design. It is really a labor of love (and for a local author, too). I hope Bruno would approve. Typefaces: Sentinel, ITC American Typewriter, Gotham Rounded.

N1FR: The n+1 Film Supplement

  • September 2010
  • 20 pages
  • 11.25" × 15"

The first n+1 film supplement appeared in movie theaters in middle September, 2010, bringing long-form film criticism to the places people still care about such things. The editors had the idea that they wanted to print some previously online-only content and do it as cheaply as possible. I’d wanted to work with newsprint for years and was so keen to get it done that I turned around a near-final draft of the paper the night I heard about it. Editorial concerns stretched production to about a week, but this was a fun, fast project: very appropriate for a newspaper. Typefaces: Warnock, Versa Sans.

Put ’em Up!

  • June 2010
  • 304 pages
  • 7.375" × 9.125"

I love the flavors of canned fruits and vegetables. Canning recipes often require the product to be fairly acidic before processing in the water bath (to be extra inhospitable to microbes). Thus, good canned veggies are usually highly pickley and piquant, with bright flavors and assertive spice mixtures to help balance the twang of acid. Put ’em Up! has a charismatic author who really wanted her book to have its own distinctive personality and I wanted that personality to be just like those acidic flavors: bright, idiosyncratic, and a bit prickly. The result is a vivid, nearly avant-garde presentation — a mix of classic typography with intuitive but playfully bizarre color choices, and hyperreal HDR imagery with highly accomplished pencil drawings. Each chapter opens with an asymmetric grid of imagery processed nearly to the point of appearing synthetic, like a contemporary cabinet of curiosities. Then each food section opens with a color field and “taste graph” that evokes the flavor and fragrance profile of the ingredient. The book is also highly structured and cross-referenced for wayfinding between the recipes and the techniques (which are in a previous part of the book). The result is an oddly wonderful experimental canning book. Photography by Kevin Kennefick. Illustration by Elara Tanguy. I did the hand lettering in the labels and hand painted all the lids. Typefaces: Sentinel, Bauer Bodoni, Knockout, Stone Serif, Akzidenz Grotesk, Gotham.

Utopia in Our Time poster

  • May 2010
  • 1 page
  • 16" × 24"

Utopian dreams had become passé, but the idea of striving toward utopian goals shouldn’t be corsetted by trends and fashion. Mark Greif, one of n+1’s editors, had a vision of wheatpasting New York with the sort of strident, earnest posters that might have been made in the civil rights era — or perhaps as a beacon from an alternate reality where utopian dreams of improving society actually became generations of radical change instead of a hokey throwback to hippie decadence. I was on the fence about the dolphins, thinking them too insincere, but I am coming around. Post-boomer irony was a disappointment in the fallen ideals of the world our parents left us, but it’s possible that even the most ripe irony targets (hang-in-there kitty, three howling wolves, leaping silver dolphins, doe-eyed kewpies) hold within them the dream of sincerity. Just as there are no ironic orgasms, utopia continues to assert its uncool power. Typeface: Utopia (modified).

utopia in our time

Made From Scratch

  • May 2010
  • 208 pages
  • 5.5" × 8.25"

I was pleased to work with Chris Silas Neal for the paperback version of Jenna Woginrich’s how-to-do-it memoir of packing up and moving to a (rental) farm in northern Idaho. I never even told him I had one of his posters hanging in my dining room. The last few years have seen a big DIY boom, and hard times are sometimes good times for a publisher like Storey, turning sturdy old backlist titles on subjects like root cellaring into surprise bestsellers. Storey’s strong position in the zeitgeist has allowed us to find and actually hire top talent like Chris. Though it would be nice to think that there will always be some glamour in the unglamorous crafts and trades that sustain our traditions, with a better economy comes better access to forgetting. Perhaps victims of future downturns will look back on the aesthetic achievements of our present hardship with fond nostalgia. Illustration by Chris Silas Neal. Typefaces: Trade Gothic, Agenda, Agenda (modified), Faiplex Narrow, Gotham. Interior: Simoncini Garamond, Latin, Barmeno.

n+1 Issue Nine: Bad Money

  • April 2010
  • 212 pages
  • 7" × 10"

I started working with n+1 in 2005, a year after they published their first issue. It took many, many variations (some quite subtle) before we came to the design scheme that has remained unchanged since my first issue (Issue 3). The primary goal of this redesign was to create a text presence that disappeared, in the style of the crystal goblet. It had to be attractive, yet not attract. And this contradictory direction is not uncommon in design. For instance, when I worked for Barnes and Noble, the dictum was “the same but different.” Coolness, ease, and grace are still the most powerful of design's illusions, considering the sweat, cursing, and failure needed to maintain them. Design, at its core, is the control over attention: what is noticed, and when. (NB: I was not able to change the actual n+1 logo when I did my redesign, perhaps this is why I always notice it at the wrong time!) Typefaces: Warnock (modified), Versa Sans.

The Perennial Care Manual

  • July 2009
  • 376 pages
  • 8.5" × 10.875"

I tried to make the photography shine in this book. Rob Cardillo’s garden photography is some of the best, and Nancy Ondra’s garden is just incredible. I wanted big, earthy colors, chunky photos, and a hands-on attitude. It’s a huge, beautiful book that you’d be happy to get dirty. Typefaces: Arno, Cronos, Gotham.

n+1 Issue Six: Mainstream

  • December 2007
  • 236 pages
  • 7" × 10"

This cover is my favorite of all the covers I’ve done for n+1. While the interior of the magazine is designed to be a vessel for the writing, the cover has only what I bring to it. There are no explicit rules, but I find that they start to write themselves as I start to work. Why is one shape “correct” while another isn’t? What shade of red has the just the right feeling of sick nostalgia? The challenges of corporate work can be explicit: How can we say a specific thing to a specific audience? With n+1, there is a different mandate, one that is intuitive yet not entirely personal. It is a challenge to say something truthful, realizing that the language of color, shape, texture, and position has its own, nonliteral, truth: It is a truthfulness of action.