Book Review: LAYER

A handsome volume of photos and text laid out personally and precisely by Benjamin Hubert which would be better served with text in Hubert’s strong narrative voice.

LAYER. Benjamin Hubert. Words by Max Fraser. Phaidon. Image by LAYER

The design and layout of the book published by Phaidon is what we expect from Benjamin Hubert; clear process to finished-design photographs laid thoughtfully across 256 pages. As sole officer of Benjamin Hubert Limited, in a scant decade he has built-up LAYER into one of the most highly sought-after general design studios in the world. Based in East London, and with an impressive portfolio of clients including Vitra, Braun, Nike, Bang & Olufsen and Airbus, getting insight into Hubert’s approach will be of interest to all designers. Fans of LAYER will appreciate this collection of Hubert’s designs as both inspiration for sustainable solutions to design problems and as a catalogue of future acquisitions.

Those with an eye for layout will appreciate mid-century modern advertising nods. For example David Ogilvy would recognize page 96 as a magazine ad for GO —the first 3D-printed wheelchair and it works as one. There is no overflow of relevant text onto following pages as in lesser monographs. Hubert marries the images and text precisely.

Ripple table, Benjamin Hubert, 2013. Credit: courtesy of LAYER (pages 72-73)

Regarding the text itself, Max Fraser delivers a narrative which fits the brief of summarizing Hubert’s career, arranged across seven single-word sections. Like a corporate mantra “Crafted, Mindful, Transformative, Evocative, Holistic, Human, Visionary,” reads the table of contents, which may prove a let-down against the strong personal voice of Hubert in his introduction. Fraser charts Hubert’s progress in third person with scant new details beyond Hubert’s practice early on of making cold calls fearlessly, meticulously documenting his efforts, and attention-seeking by leveraging the tendency for large firms to desire what other large firms desire.

Beosound Balance, Bang & Olufsen, 2020. Credit: courtesy of LAYER (pages 220-221)

Designers wishing to hear more from Hubert himself will have to wait for a future book. Those looking for any special insight into LAYER right now will best be served by reading Hubert’s intro then focusing on the designs. They speak volumes.

Bulent Akman is an academic, author and human copywriting consultant based in Warsaw, Poland.