update: this book is included in the dutch best designed books selection of 2010 and won the highest award at the Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt (best book design in the world) election in Leipzig.

a few weeks ago i received my copy of atlas of the conflict designed by Joost Grootens. i thought it would be nice to share. i did make some photos but they turned out horribly due to the gloomy weather, so bear with me. a little note upfront: this review is based on my personal opinion and is in no way, shape or form intended as a professional review.

about Joost Grootens

Joost Grootens is a dutch book designer who mostly designs architecture and design books and is widely known for his atlases. he made a few dutch atlases such as de grote, the big, der große KAN atlas, which is purely about the Arnhem-Nijmegen area and Vinex atlas (about suburban districts that emerged in the early nineties). you most likely know him from his Metropolitan World Atlas, which got him the gold medal at the schönste bücher aus aller welt competition in Leipzig in 2006.

about the book

the atlas of the conflict maps the processes behind the shaping of Israel-Palestine over a period of 100 years. the book is packed with maps (500+) and provides a analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict using aspects as borders, land ownership, landscaping and wars. the book also offers insights into the phenomenon of using spatial planning as a political instrument.

+ and –

+ i think Grootens did a great job with his formal approach on this complicated subject. its shear impossible the get a good image of what really happened because there’s happened so much and the image that we obtain through media is a coloured one, regardless of how journalists strive to create an objective image. it is enlightening to see the story in cartography, because it shows the actual changes.

+ i love the design of the first part of the book with loads of beautifully detailed maps, symbols and analysis — it has a fresh feel to it.

+ i like the use of a two colour palette to emphasize Israeli or Palestine features. i really like the blues (used for Israel) but the brown is less fortunate choice in my opinion (especially with this delicate subject). it feels as though the two colours don’t have the same strength.

+ throughout the whole book Grootens chooses to use hyperlinks (page numbers at the bottom of the pages) to link the maps with the source material and ‘refer the reader to additional information’. this works well, it feels intuitive and is easy to find.

– i was quite surprised by the size of the book, its rather small (195 x 115 mm). i want to see some of the maps a bit more up close. the larger maps are divided in three. although this provides some interesting graphic images (such as page 130 which is almost empty with only a few settlements), it does affect clarity. in the notes on the design section you can read that the size is kept small ‘to allow for a concentrated reading of the maps’. i feel a bigger size would provide more overview.

– in chapter four Grootens introduces photography in the map section, i don’t really like the combination of photos and maps for some reason.

– in the lexicon section there is a lot of text and photos cramped on the pages. like there was too much information and they were limited to a certain amount of pages. it conflicts with the first major part and almost feels like a different book.

in love?

on the whole its a beautiful book with loads of information and detailed maps, which give you insight into the complicated situation. i am not as much in love as i was with the Metropolitan World Atlas, but perhaps the subject alone gave a lot of restrictions. love the first part, the last part: not so much. its a nice addition to my book collection though.

book atlas of the conflict
author Malkit Shoshan
designer studio Joost Grootens
publisher 010 publishers
isbn 9789064506888
price 34.50 euro
pages 272 pg, full color, hardcover

pictures by 010 publishers