Maximise the odd to justify the destruction of potential.

Richard Baird (BP&O)
Designer, Writer, Publisher


For over a decade BP&O has offered a distinctive point of view on brand identity design and packaging, carving out a space alongside legacy publishers. Founded by designer and writer Richard Baird, BP&O sought to fuse aspects of a personal blog with the journalistic standards of established publications. Research and review have always been – and continue to be – the foundations of all that BP&O does.

Print on-demand and off-the-shelf retail solutions have opened the gates. The gates that, for a long time, legacy publishers held the keys for. Independent publishing, once localised, has seen a resurgence and flourished. Small voices are now reaching far greater distances and connecting niche audience.

Recognising an opportunity, legacy publishers have co-opted aspects of the aesthetic of independent publishers and, conversely, independent publishers have raised the editorial quality of their publications, meeting the level previously associated with legacy publishers.

This intersection has culminated in a busy and confused middle ground. A somewhat stifled creative liminal space. Further, as late stage capitalism forces efficiencies and recurring revenue models, digital publishing is finding its footing, with monetised platforms such as Substack generating sustainable publishing models that can satisfy the frequency and distribution needed to cultivate audiences.

As digital becomes the primary state of publishing–a sustainable and efficient model with low-risk but stratified entry point that includes micro-blogging and instagramming–the material now exists as a somewhat odd item in our lives. Little has been done to explore the impact on information retention when this is presented on screen, as opposed to reading from the printed page. There are, however, studies that indicate that the screen remains less effective, and the delineation between information is significantly diminished when all is seen in the same way, through glass. The idea that we are reading more but retaining less is a frightening notion.

My practice is based on maximising the oddness of the material in order to create a situation in which the ideas each publication presents can be fully realised, understood and assimilated. To put this differently, I orchestrate type, form, colour, materials and material assembly to support, further or add to the ideas within a text. If I can take out a piece of text and embed its idea in the materiality of the publication then I will do it. Why? A publication should be a total point of view, or a series of points of view. Only by engaging fully with the total material existence of the publication can the idea be understood. When digital is the mainstay, the material is then inherently odd. Ideas embedded in all aspects of the material becomes an engaging puzzle, multi-dimensional.

The printed object creates a situation that is both temporal and spatial. Depending on its size and format, it might demand a table, or that it can be held in the hand standing on a train. It may be short-form, easily digested between meetings or spaces, or long-form that requires a form of total concentration, a library and an hour. These considerations and understandings are critical to exploring how people can best receive and retain ideas. If all information is received in a similar manner, the glass screen for instance, it is harder to position it in a time and place. It is harder to delineate it from any number of other pieces of content. There’s a chemical component to this. What if a piece of information, perhaps of political importance, was followed by something far more serotonin inducing? What will THE mind recall within an hour, in a day, next year?

What I propose is that form and content should not be seen as sequential considerations but concurrent. That the ‘total idea’ be distributed between the available channels of communication; textual, typographic, graphic and material. Perception (and ambiguity) should be a critical part of that. These notions are invitational and participatory. The mind fills in the blanks, it reads the surface of the page and seeks meaning in the material assembly of the book. The ideas ought to exist on and below the surface, bound up in its compositional structure, its volume, texture, and weight. Maximising its oddness is to justify the destruction of the potentiality of the material that was used to construct it.