In this book review, we take a look at Brand By Hand by Jon Contino, It’s the first monograph on the work and career of New York Graphic Designer Jon Contino, and the book was published by Abrams in 2018.
The book explores Jon Contino’s lifelong devotion to the guts and grime of New York and cementing his biggest artistic inspirations, from hardcore music to America’s favorite pastime. A graphic-design retrospective showcasing his unmistakable hand-lettering, the book shares how he has taken a passion for pen and ink and turned it into an expanding empire of clients, merchandise, and artwork.
The book is a beautifully crafted construction that contains 240 pages of chaos for you to marvel at. The copy we received also came with a selection of illustrated bookmarks/postcards.
Jon Contino is an influential staple in the design and branding community. As founder and creative director of branding agency CONTINO, he has produced award-winning work for household names including Nike, MillerCoors, American Eagle, Coca-Cola, 20th Century Fox, AT&T, and Sports Illustrated. He has also received some of the industry’s most prestigious honors, including a Decoration & Design Building Stars of Design award, a Clio Key Art Award, a Cannes Lion award, and an ADC Young Guns award. He was born and raised in New York and never left.
We will start with the cover design as I do with all the books I review and I think the cover is one of the most important elements of a book as I think the cover draws people in so selling it with the cover then blow the reader away with the content. And this book did just that for me!
The cover is so Jon Contino it features his handprint in the centre and the lettering is custom by Jon himself.
On the back in the centre is a silhouette of Jon’s face and text within. The cover is bang on and as it is custom by Jon himself it oozes Jon Contino’s style and personality and makes you want to get stuck into the content, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.
I would personally like to thank Jon for signing our copy of the book.
Ok let’s dive in, and this book is chock full of Contino illustrations and sketches and some of the thought & design processes it’s not a text-heavy book which is good as I was not expecting it to be.
It’s kind of like an autobiography of Jon growing up and how he got into design and it’s a very interesting read. Viewing all the awesome illustrations, and sketches make you want to go pick up a pencil straight away and start sketching.
The book does have a structure starting with Jon as a kid growing up and how he spent the majority of his childhood being terrified of werewolf attacks, he also shares some background about his family, being from New York, and loving chasing the American dream to the clothing business he set up with his buddy Matt Gorton, Being a die-hard Yankee fan, and his love for baseball, and hardcore music bands.
The older Jon got the more fascinated he became with the tattoo culture as he says these permanent illustrative symbols were a way people marked themselves and back then there wasn’t much of a middle ground, the only people that had them were bikers, tough guys, and the troublemakers they marked themselves so you knew not to bother them. After he agonized over his first tattoo he learned how the power of art and illustration is one of the strongest possible ways to tell a story. Tattoos are the most elemental story art. inscribing ideas onto a person’s body.
Jon lead a straightedge lifestyle he did not smoke, drink or do any drugs he was a control freak and anything that could possibly break that was his mortal enemy, but he developed an interest in designing beer labels and engraved cigarette lighters as he explains it was a creative goldmine, and there was something about appealing to adults who are attempting to enjoy life that brings out the best in design.
The power of symbols led Jon to become enamored with logo design. Over the years Jon has taken everything he has experienced in life and seen the creativity that surrounds it helping him create his own very unique style including hand-lettering and illustrations.
I have been a fan of Jons work over the years, and when I found out he was releasing a book it got me excited. It really is a fantastic book and if you are familiar with Jons work then don’t hold back get your self a copy and appreciate Jons work even more. If you are unfamiliar with the man that is Jon Contino then you are missing out not only is this book insightful it’s inspiring to look at it deserves a place on your bookshelf.
Also published on Medium.