SHV Think Book 1996–1896, one of Boom’s early commissions, is illustrative of her experimental and influential approach to book design. Paul Fentener van Vlissingen, CEO of the Dutch conglomerate SHV, tasked Boom with creating a book to commemorate the centenary of his company; his sole requirement was that she “make something unusual.” Boom compiled a 2,136-page document of the company’s history, presented in reverse chronological order, during an extensive five-year process that involved researching the company, attending shareholder meetings, interviewing employees, and reviewing archives of records and images.
SHV Think Book is unconventional not only in its approach but also in its typography, layout, materials, and printing. To encourage readers to journey through the book in a nonlinear fashion, Boom omitted page numbers, a table of contents, and an index. Furthermore, the book’s design extends to the edges of its pages, which are printed to reveal the image of a tulip field when flipped from left to right, and the lines of a Dutch poem when flipped from right to left.
The commission proved to be fertile ground for Boom’s experiments, and her vast and diverse body of work demonstrates a lasting commitment to questioning and challenging conventions of book design. For Boom, books are a sensory, tactile experience—an object to hold and discover and thus a unique information-delivery medium, especially in the digital age.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)