Book Arts Degrees

As the title suggests, Book Arts is a genre capitalizing on the artistry found in bookmaking. It creates an interdisciplinary modern art form. It is an art that is composed of books. A further definition is as complicated as defining art itself.

A book contains a narrative that is a multi-faceted means of communication. Book Arts has roots reflected in Surrealism, Futurism, and Constructionism. The form began to be recognized as a distinct genre in the 1970s. The lack of a concrete definition makes the genre limitless.

Book Arts Degree Programs

Book artists are unbelievably skilled. Unfortunately, in the art world, their work is not well-represented. The Minnesota Center for Book Arts was founded to elevate Book Arts in its place in the world of art. In 1985, MCBA opened the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

The goal was to provide an accessible space for book artists to practice their craft and to educate future generations about the process and history. The Center joined Milkweed Editions and the Loft Literary Center to become an Open Book tenant.

Open Book is the nation's first comprehensive book arts and literary facility. It creates a lively destination for those interested in book arts, books, and all kinds of literary endeavors.

What Is this Program Area?

Book Arts covers every aspect of book creation. It includes writing, creating images, editing, designing, typesetting, preparing images for production, as well as printing and binding. Students learn to make books from beginning to end from traditional bookbinding to letterpress printing. They create customized programs from electives in nearly every college department. Students from some colleges choose from capstone and seminar options that best serve their orientation within Book Arts. The programs offer students a conceptual and technical experience presented through a rigorous and interactive studio environment.

The depth and breadth of possibilities explore enormous and complex narratives about the art of the book, papermaking, printmaking, and letterpress printing. Students are encouraged to cultivate a methodology that is a hybrid among the disciplines. Book Arts is a form of creative expression for those with a passion for books. It is an interdisciplinary program that gives students vibrant cultural and artistic programming through performances, exhibitions, and more. Students are encouraged to experiment with and embrace other artistic disciplines such as sculpture, crafts, graphic design, and photography to fully realize a visual voice.

Online Programs in this Area

Because this genre is so difficult to define, an online program that is entitled Book Arts is difficult to find. There are online programs that cover aspects of Book Arts such as Digital Multimedia Design and Bachelor of Art in Studio Arts delivered in collaboration with Colleges of Technology, Information Science, Communications, and Arts & Architecture. They help students prepare to be leaders in the industry. Interdisciplinary degree programs develop students' design thinking through art and design courses, courses that promote progressive critical thinking, ethical and critical use of communication technologies and media, and systems thinking through courses in human interaction and information technology.

The programs help students build the capacities to become agents of change and leaders who engage in critical issues through interconnected projects in communication, technology, and design across a broad spectrum of industries. Discipline integration creates working conditions that are adaptive, collaborative environments that characterize the professions of digital media. Combining approaches, tools, and methods from each discipline provides the fundamentals for developing design, visual, and digital literacy when responding to issues and problems of global and local importance. The learning processes challenge students to explore knowledge beyond boundaries, build options for bringing together different media, or collaborating with others in an endeavor to find new means of communicating ideas.

Sample Universities with Online Program

Penn State offers a Bachelor of Design in Digital Multimedia Design as an online undergraduate degree. Digital Multimedia Design includes designing, using, and applying digital devices, formats, and platforms in an array of interdisciplinary settings. Students learn to develop digital literacy by creating and coding multiple digital forms with the use of various computer languages. Visual literacy is expanded by developing multimedia narratives, and design is enhanced by exploring ideas in situations involving creative problem-solving. The curriculum embodies the purpose of preparing students to be a generation of 21st-century learners by offering the entire degree online through Penn State’s World Campus.

Valley City State University holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. Undergraduates can choose either a Bachelor of Art or Bachelor of Science in Studio Arts, a Bachelor of Science in Art Education, or a Digital Design certificate in areas such as commercial art or graphic design. There are six areas of studio emphasis – Photography, Ceramics, Printmaking, Drawing, and Painting.

Typical Coursework for this Degree

Papermaking – The course offers an introduction to Eastern and Western-style papermaking techniques, which includes sculptural and molding techniques, surface finishes, sheet information, and pulp making. It explores the way paper is an integral material of fine art practices. The course offers opportunities to create products for a range of applications. The studio experience is enhanced by field trips, demonstrations, lectures, and readings.

Introduction to Letterpress Printing – The course introduces the letterpress printing process. Conceptual and narrative potentials of letterpress are addressed along with the technical skills needed to produce well-crafted pieces of print. Students learn setting type, proper use of different presses, imposition and registration, history of wood and metal type. Projects may include small pamphlets, one and multicolor posters, and individual business or announcement cards.

Bookbinding – Students learn to create various contemporary and traditional bookbindings that form a library of structural models. Projects are centered around the development and incorporation of content within books. Content and craft are equally emphasized through homework and in-class projects.

Topics in Book Art – This course is an in-depth study of a book arts topic. The topic may take advantage of events that will allow further exploration of a subject touched on in another course or explore areas that are not covered sufficiently in the regular class rotation.

Color: Material & Light – Students gain understanding of practical usage and color theory through hands-on individual and team-based projects and critiques. The course features reading assignments, lectures, class discussions, research, and writing.

Specific Scholarships

Like online education opportunities for Books Arts, few are explicitly designated for Book Arts. There are scholarships, grants, and start-up capital for education, starting a business, or pursuing an artistic career of one’s dream. The Nancy Norton Tomasko Scholarship for Advanced Study in Bookbinding provides students with financial support to enroll in a course of advanced bookbinding at the Center for Book Arts. Every year the Center awards as many as four scholarships that cover the full tuition of a single course. Awards are based on financial need and satisfaction of prerequisites for the selected course.

There are 17 scholarships awarded by Rare Book School each fall. All are conducted through a single application. The Director’s Scholarship is awarded to professionals and students in all fields that coincide with RBS course content. A Heritage Book Shop Scholarship is awarded to applicants whose interests or work focus on studying the physical book.

Top Organizations to Know

American Craft Council – The American Craft Council has been championing craft for over 75 years. The founder, Aileen Osborn Webb, saw the effect craft has on communities and individuals. She established a not-for-profit to celebrate, cultivate, and preserve the common heritage.

American Printing History Association is an organization that encourages studying the history of printing and related crafts and arts that include publishing, illustration, bookbinding, papermaking, typography, typefounding, and calligraphy. The organization has a wide variety of services and programs.

Career Options for this Degree

Papermakers, bookbinders, and book designers are critical for the production of books. Whether mass-produced or handmade, highly skilled designers and artisans are needed to ensure high-quality editions are produced. People who work in these careers are usually passionate about books. They are well-trained in the use of specialist machinery or computer software. Papermakers, book designers, and bookbinders do not necessarily have to have specific qualifications, but many learn the trade through on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and specialist courses.

Book designers integrate text, pictures, and content into a well-laid out, cohesive, and creative volume. They aim to create books that are consistent in terms of tone, graphic style, and typography. Designers may work for publishing houses or independently. Bookbinders physically bind book covers and pages together. Bookbinding and commercial print finishing are less artistic. It involves using specialist machines for cutting, folding, stitching, and gluing hardback covers and paper together. Some bookbinders specialize in the conservation and restoration of damaged and old manuscripts. Papermaking is a process that is convoluted and tricky, but a rewarding form of artistic production that has exciting and tangible results.