Various hybrid books pages
“Tree of Codes” by Jonathan Safran Foer. Design: Sara de Bondt Studio
“Jekyll & Hyde” by R. L. Stevenson. Design: Alberto Hernández
Kapow! by Adam Thirlwell. Design: Studio Frith
“The Devil’s Dictionary”, Ambrose Bierce. D: Astrid Stavro
“Woman’s World” by Graham Rawle
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. Design: Jung und Wenig
“Page 1: Great Expectations”, Ch. Dickens. D (this page): Ed Harrison

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  • The Editors
  • 04.03.13

Hi, we are The Publishing Lab. Promoting hybrid publishing since 2O11

Founded in 2011 by designer Alberto Hernandez and editor María Serrano, the Publishing Lab is a research project focusing on hybrid books, visual writing and multimodal narratives.

The truth is that TPL is part experimental laboratory, part private investigators agency, part wunderkammer and part amusement park, which is what the expression “research project” really means, though nobody says it aloud.


We try to find as many answers as possible to the question, how can graphic devices be used in a text as if they were just another rhetorical figure? When we think of “hybrid texts” we don’t think of artist books, coffee-table books or any other kind of “decorative” book. What comes to our mind is basically fiction and non-fiction books in which visual communication becomes an integral part of the primary text, not a decorative item.

It is a well-known fact that traditional publishing conventions maintain that both typography and editorial design should be invisible and surrender to the bigger cause of legibility. But maybe in our hyperinformation age the time has come to overcome those conventions. Design critic Ellen Lupton, for example, states that the better service editorial design can do to the reader is by guiding him or her through the text and straight to the information that is relevant to him or her, by signaling the shortcuts.

Also, fiction writers have been struggling for centuries trying to create literary languages which respond to the historical and cultural contexts familiar to their readers (for instance, the omniscient narrator and linear structure of 19th century realism shift, at the beginning of the 20th century, into the internal monologue and multiple points of view of modernism. These in turn recede and leave the field open to dirty realism afterwards, in the second half of the 20th century. And, in turn, it is counteracted by maximalism’s detailed obsession at the turn of the century).

And while writers had this experimental binge going on, their material vehicle of communication was left unaltered. Their innovations did not permeate the book design conceptions and the form of the book is still today very similar to that of the first codex. Was this due to an unquestionable perfection of the form of the book or to an unquestionable shortsighted wasting of rich resources? The answer is: probably both things are true.

Today, the importance of visual literacy has matched that of written literacy and a number of writers, publishers, designers and readers are interested in and respond to those texts interweaving both languages on equal footing. Furthermore, we think that text hybridization has become a powerful tool today for all those writers aiming to engage the reader actively in the construction of meaningful texts.

We also think that these are the kind of works and of artistic relationships we are in need of nowadays. In our age we need storytellers and stories that don’t want to flatten us, or give us an anesthetic or to indoctrinate us in some way, but rather that want us to work hard. We need stories and storytellers that are demanding, and require that we have a reading attitude that is active and thoughtful if we want to get something of value from them. We believe that 21st century narratives must both demand and create savage readers, not tame readers. We think this makes good training for being able to read all social narratives, the real world, with a critical stance.

Apart from that, we’re here for the fun. TPL is a polyphonic conversation based on the motto “the more the merrier”. We invite you to join in.

The Editors

Comments (3)

where can i but some of these books?


Hi Etah, you can buy some of these books from Visual Editions ( and Four Corners (, among other book publishers

Alberto Hernández

Enhorabuena por vuestro trabajo. Soy también diseñador gráfico y artista plástico, de vez en cuando escribo sobre arte y/o diseño. Muchas gracias. Saludos


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