Kohler book design | Communication Arts

Responses by Bud Rodecker, partner and design director, Span.

Background: Throughout 2023, manufacturing company Kohler celebrated its 150th anniversary. As part of this celebration, the company commissioned us to design a commemorative book that celebrates all the creators who have propelled it forward with their bold vision, be they artists, designers, inventors, explorers, entrepreneurs, leaders of business, scientists, engineers, athletes, craftspeople, or those whose expertise and impact defies labeling. The book was designed for Kohler associates, candidates, specifiers, distributors and consumers.

Design thinking: We wanted the book to capture the creators’ voices in first person, letting them tell their story directly and delving into what drives their creative process and output. The book’s design responds to this brief by putting the creator’s voice front and center with pull quotes, bold typography and bold imagery.

Challenges: From a design standpoint, we had the challenge of bringing together images from a variety of sources and making them feel cohesive. Krystina Russel did an incredible job of chasing down images directly from the interviewed creators and working with the archives team to identify historical images. Our layout then needed to provide enough variety to keep the content interesting, while letting some images shine and others recede. We developed a consistent treatment and use that to let them all work together.

Favorite details: I’m pleased with how the cover turned out. We had this vision of a pristine porcelain sink with silver accents. The cover is two foil stamps, a white foil to create a subtle impression for the word Be and a holographic foil for the word Bold. The effect is almost magical as the colors change when the light hits it at different angles.

New lessons: This project reminded us that it’s never too late for a good idea. Until ink hits the page, there is still time to push it and make it better. We worked closely with the Kohler team late in the process to rethink our page and pacing for the book. Even though we had previously agreed on this order, we saw that it could be better—and they did too.

Time constraints: At the start of the project, we had a year to complete it. Even so, we knew it would be tight as the content was yet to be written. The better part of the year was dedicated to collecting and writing the content. We did our best to design ahead of the content, but at a certain point, the final layout was dependent on the content itself. That year came to a close fast, and we found ourselves in a photo finish, delivering printed books just in time for Kohler’s end-of-year event.


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