Original artwork has traditionally been the visual centerpiece for the National Book Festival. We’re excited to unveil the poster for this year’s festival, designed by Dana Tanamachi, a New York City-based artist, designer and owner of Tanamachi Studio. You can download a high-resolution PDF of the poster, plus view and download other festival posters through the years from our National Book Festival poster gallery.
Tanamachi shares some thoughts on the design process for the poster, her vision for capturing the theme of this year’s festival, “Open a Book, Open the World,” and her love for working on book-related projects.
Tell us a bit about your background as an artist.
After receiving my degree in communication design from the University of North Texas, I moved to New York City in 2008 for my first job, designing Broadway show posters. It was such a thrill for a typography-and illustration-lover like myself. Each week, I would have the opportunity to work on poster art for shows spanning an array of time periods, so my design history was really put to the test. After that, I had the honor of working under design icon Louise Fili, creating vintage-inspired typography for restaurants, books and food packaging. It was at Louise Fili Ltd that I honed my eye and skill for Art Deco- and Art Nouveau-inspired design and lettering, specifically. In the fall of 2011, I launched Tanamachi Studio, which at the time, focused mainly on large-scale typographic chalk murals. During that season, I had the honor of creating chalk art for the covers of O, The Oprah Magazine, TIME, and three classic children’s books—“Peter Pan,” “Pippi Longstocking” and “The Wizard of Oz” — for Penguin Books, which was a dream come true.
In 2013, I transitioned into more traditional painted murals and also returned to my roots of book illustration and packaging design. Since then, I have had the honor of creating multiple large-scale murals for Starbucks specialty stores, as well as designing a gold foil “Thank You” Forever stamp for the USPS in 2020. I truly love what I do, and I am so grateful to be celebrating 10 years of Tanamachi Studio this fall.
What interested you in contributing to this year’s National Book Festival?
What piqued my interest the most was looking through the archive of all the posters from previous years. Some of my favorite artists and illustrators, whom I admire and respect greatly, have lent their time and talents to create a phenomenal visual legacy for the festival. It was an incredible honor to follow in their footsteps and create the poster for 2021.
What was your creative process for translating the theme of this year’s festival, “Open a Book, Open the World,” into the idea for the poster? What was your inspiration?
When I began considering all the imagery involved in a book festival, I started with the most obvious—actual books! It dawned on me that an open book could also look like a blossoming flower, and the ideas started to flow instantly. I envisioned a wild garden, like something out of “Alice in Wonderland” or “Jack and the Beanstalk,” with blooming books that could transport readers to alternate worlds. It was these worlds that inspired me to add the stars and ombré background, to convey a sense of vastness, wonder, adventure and exploration. Books and flowers both open up and invite us in to behold beauty, mark the seasons and experience change and growth. Combining the two images felt like the perfect metaphor.
Tell us about a book project you are proud of.
I spent over a year working with Michiko Kakutani, the former chief book critic at The New York Times, on her recent book, “Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread.” It’s a collection of all the books she deems essential reading — and she would know, she’s read it all! I got to create full-page illustrations for over 30 of the titles, including “The Odyssey,” “The Great Gatsby,” “The Woman Warrior,” “A Handmaid’s Tale,” the “Harry Potter” series and more! The illustrations were inspired by vintage bookplates, and it was a fun challenge to distill each book into a single image. I felt like I read so much during that project, between the actual books, summaries and Michi’s notes! It was a joy from start to finish.
This interview was conducted by Leah Knobel, a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications. Join us for the 2021 National Book Festival, Sept. 17-26. Audiences are invited to create their own festival experience this year, with programs in a range of formats. Subscribe to this blog for future updates on the festival, and visit the festival website.