From wedding invitations to great tomes on history, one of print’s most vital roles in today’s digital world is as a physical reminder of the events that shape our lives. And as demonstrated so profoundly by this unique book, it can also remind us that life’s darkest tragedies still contain seeds of strength and renewal for those left behind.
In the days immediately following the deaths of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson in the 2014 Sydney siege that horrified the world, the street outside the café where the incident took place was filled with flowers and notes from the public expressing their grief. To commemorate this outpouring, the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet commissioned the creation of a book limited to just 20 copies: 10 going to the families of each victim.
Designed by Amanda Lawton, one of the department’s in-house graphic designers, the volume was digitally printed by Sydney’s Digitalpress on a variety of papers using the new Xerox Iridesse press. The book is housed inside a rigid, heavyweight presentation box perfectly in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion.
Hand-bound and lined in Silver metallic buckram fabric, its only outward embellishment is a blind-debossed illustration representing the favorite flowers of the victim: sunflowers for Johnson’s copies, aqua hydrangeas for Dawson’s.
Handling the box and feeling its weight in your hands when you know both its purpose and rarity is a unique and unforgettable experience.
Opening it reveals a large book inside, its buckram cover boasting a debossed pattern and laser-cut window through which peeks either a sunflower or a hydrangea, their colors popping nicely against the dark, tile-like cover that surrounds it. The design actually mimics the look of the official memorial two blocks from the cafe, which features 210 handcrafted flower sculptures under glass embedded in the pavement.
Tugging a strategically placed ribbon frees the volume from the package. It is only then that recipients were able to glimpse the letters of condolence from both the NSW State Premier at the time of the event, as well as from the current Premier, secreted away in a depression inside the box specially built for that purpose.
Upon opening the book’s cover, the eye is instantly greeted by a vivid wave of colorful sunflowers or hydrangeas – depending on the edition – setting the stage for the luscious photography to come.
Flipping through the pages you’re presented with beautiful photographs of the public floral displays that sprang up just after the tragedy, as well as images of cards and gifts left by mourners at the scene, interspersed with quotes and illustrations throughout. A host of different papers are here, including 100 gsm (70 lb.) Fedrigoni Sirio Translucent; Neenah Classic Laid; 148 gsm (100 lb.) Neenah Classic Smooth; 125 gsm (80 lb.) Fedrigoni Sirio Pearl Oyster Shell; and 190 gsm (130 lb.) Fedrigoni Splendorgel. All in all, an intriguing use of paper and texture throughout.
Tucked snugly in a pocket in the inside back cover is a lavishly illustrated booklet about the memorial itself. Its cover – featuring an embossed pattern and holographic foil echoing the memorial’s flowers under glass – again reflects the layout of that public space. And at the back of that, held in place by notches in the cover, rests a seed card packed with forget-me-not seeds ready to spring to life. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting, or more hopeful, memorial than this.