about: Paul Nylander

The illustrada story

Why illustrada design?

The seemingly simple act of clear communication—facts and figures, ideas and emotions—is often elusive: individual experiences and memories create our personal interpretation of the “data” we receive, so no two people “see” the world in the same way.

I believe that stories and discussion are the keys to bridging this gap. Creating understanding, and the clarity it brings, is my mission.

Paul Nylander presenting preliminary designs Paul Nylander's concept cover for The Fourth Dimension

To understand a problem, it is often good to start at the beginning, to start with why? as Simon Sinek encouraged. In my quest to understand the world, I did the logical thing and started with the fundamental building blocks of all matter: elementary particle physics. But after years of studying particle interactions in a search for “new physics,” including earning a Ph.D., I realized that my calling wasn’t to be a highly-focused specialist; my interest in the world was broader than that.

So, over several years of running a successful measurement instrumentation company, I reoriented my focus from the world of software and electronics to that of marketing and sales.

It is at that time that I also began to expand my creative output by rekindling my earlier interests in photography and the graphic arts. illustrada grew out of this combination of experiences.

Loosely named from the same Latin origin as illustrate, meaning to explain, I refocused my voracious appetite to learn into a drive to help others communicate. And I knew I needed to have a deeper purpose in my work.

Helping a photography group expand their membership through explanations Paul Nylander's version of the Theory of Color eBook pages

I pivoted from the world of science to the world of communication, only to realize that, for me, at their heart they were the same: helping others to understand how the world works.

I found my calling: combining my technical skills in photography and image editing and my organizational skills for page layout, I’ve found a use for my insatiable curiosity and inquisitiveness to always push deeper for clarity. Empathy for the reader/viewer together with an intense need to understand and help explain, my specialization in information design, especially long-form content such as books, became a natural fit.


Book design: fact and fiction

In grouping fact and fiction together, I’m intentionally blurring the lines. As any good scientist should do from time to time. Cover design and book design projects are especially enjoyable to me, both as a reader and as a designer.

Book design should complement the story. Unfortunately, too often the design of a book—the cover, the type, the page layout—is little more than an afterthought for authors. Design, after all, costs money. But a book’s design broadcasts meaning, emotion, and mood to a (prospective) reader long before they read a single word.

As much as possible, I try to work directly with the author or content creator. The strongest result comes from being able to understand and translate their vision into cover art and layout which best promotes their ideas.

Paul Nylander and author Ricardo Peters discuss future projects

The writer in me certainly appreciates a tantalizing story. The visual artist in me admires a well designed presentation of the page. The scientist in me appreciates an informative explanation. When it is possible to do all three, true communication is achieved. And that is why book design and its offshoots are, for me, the epitome of projects I have the pleasure to work on.

The projects I share here range from books to magazines, print to digital, and serious to light-hearted, . . . but in all cases I strive to make designs which support the spirit of the text.

Image detail from Paul Nylander's design of Holly Jorgensen's Enchanted

More about Paul

In addition to my design-oriented work at illustrada.com, you are encouraged to also look at my personal work as a printmaker and book artist at paulnylander.com

Pages of Paul Nylander's book Isolation

Explore My Projects…

Design is a process of creative problem solving as applied to challenge of controlling how a user (i.e., a reader) interacts with their environment (i.e., the book). While book design isn’t writing, editing, or illustration, it affects the success of all three. It is part production minded, and part visual story-telling.

I encourage you to step through my recent projects and learn for yourself how I have applied a design process to a variety of different challenges. Or jump back up to the overview.