When you’re on the hunt for a specific book, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive in the mail (and paying a huge fee thanks to international shipping). There’s no one who knows this better than designer and book devotee Tiana Vasiljev.
Just over a year ago she aimed to confront her frustrations by initiating an Australian-based online design book store, Beautiful Pages, stocking both well-known and rare design books, print and magazines. The response from the local design community has been terrific, so much so that Vasiljev is soon to move away from behind the computer screen, to open a Beautiful Pages store in Sydney.
We spoke to Vasiljev about her future plans and favourite books (tough question, but we had to ask).
Happy first birthday to Beautiful Pages. Tell us the story behind the store, where did it begin?
I think the concept for the store started back in 2010 when I was living in London. I had recently purchased a copy of Jason Godfrey’s Bibliographic and was amazed at how easily I could locate many of the books mentioned throughout its pages. I set out on a mission to locate a copy of every title – something that has turned out to be a costly (but very rewarding) goal. After returning to Sydney, I became a bit frustrated at how hard it was to locate some of these titles. Bookstores seemed to all focus on the latest design titles and it seemed to me that unless I wanted to wait 30 days for a delivery to arrive from abroad there really wasn’t much choice.
Through Beautiful Pages I wanted to create an online graphic design store where Australian designers could go to be inspired. A creative online space that both students and professionals could visit any time of the day and easily purchase products that would fuel their imagination. I’ve always been an extreme lover of print and I have a strong belief that print is very far from being dead. If there’s any industry that is going to hold onto the printed page, it is the graphic design industry.
How long did it take to get up and running?
Setting up the store took a lot longer than I originally thought. I registered the company in February 2011 and the site went live in June 2011 – so approximately six months. However, the business has a very long way to go before it gets to the stage that I have envisaged in my mind.
How do you go about choosing which books, products and magazines will be stocked in the store? And has the selection grown over the past year?
Beautiful Pages was originally a collection of 50 books that had inspired me throughout my graphic design career. The store has now become a very carefully curated collection of over 300 design books and magazines that have been selected by graphic designers – for graphic designers. The current selection contains both classic and new publications, many of which have become very important building blocks of graphic design history.
Every product on the site needs to be beautiful – but most importantly – must be well written, inspirational and carry an important message. I have spent a lot of time travelling over the last decade and was hugely influenced by the high standards of design throughout Europe, UK, Japan and America. While visiting galleries, museums, exhibitions and bookstores around the world, I began compiling a wish-list of all the products I came across during my travels that I found to be either beautiful, beneficial or both. Beautiful Pages is a growing collection of the products that have turned out to be both.
You still work as a graphic designer whilst running Beautiful Pages – how do you balance the two roles?
Actually, there are three roles, and I’m not sure whether the word balance can be used. Things get a bit frantic sometimes. At the moment I’m focusing on my freelance design work and running Beautiful Pages during the day. I’ve also begun writing book reviews and posts regularly for a few design publications, magazines and blogs. At the moment most of these are completed on the weekends as are all the financials for the business. I’ve also spent the last 10 years working part-time in the retail industry, which at the moment still takes up a lot of my weeknights and has been the main source of funding for the store.
To cut things short, I’m loving my coffee doses throughout the day (and night) without which I couldn’t possibly function and I’m constantly dreaming about a night when I might get to bed sometime before midnight! Until then, I’ll keep peering over my shoulder at one of my all time favourite quotes by Einstein – a gorgeous poster that reads “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” It puts a smile on my face every time.
Are you planning for the store to stay online only, or do you have plans for a physical shop?
From the very early days I always envisioned having a physical shop space. I can’t think of a better idea. Considering my experience in both the design and retail industry, I think a physical shop space is the logical thing for me to do.
Being a graphic designer, I know just how important the printed page is to our industry and how much importance is placed on quality publications and great design. Designers need to see most of these products to truly appreciate their beauty and elegance – qualities that are too often missed during the online browsing process.
It is a big leap for me and a very risky move (everyone seems to keep warning me) as the retail industry in Australia is at an all-time low. However, I’m hoping there are many designers out there that feel the way I do and will help support the business when we open later in the year.
You must have a huge personal book collection by now. Where do you keep them all?
Yes, I must admit that my personal collection is getting quite large these days. I guess you notice it’s getting pretty big when there’s a book you need to find and you realise that it could be a mission to locate it. I remember reading Steven Heller’s Foreword for Bibliographic with serious design book envy, where he mentioned his personal library as “a separate apartment where I store most of my books.” Although my collection is not that big yet (it’s only one packed room), I am definitely working on it!
And… out of all of the books you stock, can you single out one favourite?
I can’t say that I have a favourite. They have all taught me some pretty important lessons. However, I will mention one book that helped me a lot a few years ago and without which Beautiful Pages may not even exist today.
How To Be A Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul is a recommendation for many reasons. Rarely have I read a book that is so honest, practical and ethical in the advice and lessons that it contains. It is a necessary title for every designer, offering a wealth of advice that has motivated and inspired me in so many ways over the years. Graphic design really is one of the most exciting jobs in the world and I am thankful for Shaughnessy’s ability to highlight this so wonderfully throughout the pages of this book.
“There’s something uniquely privileged and stimulating about having a job where we know we will have an effect (however slight) on the lives of others … where we have the potential to make the world a better place – if only slightly,” – Adrian Shaughnessy.
I’m excited to be a part of the design community in Australia and I honestly can’t think of a better mission right now than to inspire and promote Australian creatives.