Books : reviews

Scott Kim.
Key Curriculum Press. 1996

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 4 May 2008

I first heard of Scott Kim's work from the writings of Douglas Hofstadter, and he provides an interesting preface to this book. Kim combines calligraphy, geometry, and graphic design to produce writing that works on many levels. The example here most showing the same or related word when looked at upside down or in a mirror, or that manage strange repetitions, or other peculiar effects. (The cover illustrates this: the title "Inversions", when inverted, reads as the author's name.)

This is an interesting exercise in perception and psychology: how much a letter can be changed yet still be recognisable as that letter, particularly in the context of a whole word. Kim explains that we tend to perceive whole words rather than their individual letters: there is one peculiar example given here where the word itself is clear, but it is almost impossible to discern any of the letters individually. (I am reminded of a school teacher who once wondered why I couldn't spell (in the days well before spell checkers) given that I read so much. I was perplexed: I read words, not their letters, and wondered if I was in some way strange. I now suspect that she was the strange one.)

Despite the interesting examples, and a little bit of text at the end explaining the various techniques, this feels a bit thin. Fun to flip through, maybe, but no stunning insights. At least, not for me: maybe I'm not artistic enough.