by Jon Dowling·
To start at the beginning. My wife and I conceived the idea of Counter-Print, like many a great idea before, at the pub. We'd been buying vintage books from her native Belgium for some time and bringing them in to work to show our colleagues at our respective design studios in London. We'd sold the odd book we had bought back to friends and colleagues, not for a profit I might add, but this led us to believe that there might be an opportunity for selling these titles to a wider audience.
Our first site only had a few books available but every time we would put them on, they would quickly sell. The joy of unearthing classic design books on our travels in Belgium and Holland, coupled with the buzz of 'the sale' lead to a really rewarding period in our lives, both professionally and personally. We traveled, met wonderful like-minded people and were able to explore our passion for books and design which dated back to our time studying Graphic Design on the same course at University.
Within a year, the small success we were having with Counter-Print, coupled with design work we were taking on, allowed us to quit our day jobs in London and we added to our work load our first publishing venture as Counter-Print. We first came out with our quarterly newspaper, the only thing we could afford to print at the time, and later graduated to editing, designing and publishing books of our own.
First and foremost Counter-Print is an online book shop and we now sell new books on design from a variety of publishers we admire, as well as children's books and – with the launch of the new site – we have added a 'Lifestyle' section which we hope to expand over the coming months.
Counter-Print has been a slow burn. What we started as a side project nine years ago has gradually taken over our lives, evenings, weekends and sleep. However, we do it because we enjoy it. We love finding new sources of inspiration and sharing them and it seems like the popularity of design history has really taken off of late.
After the arrival of the tablet and e-book, we were constantly asked our opinion on the future of the book and the direction publishing was taking. Physical publishing had taken a massive hit and it looked like print was in fact dead. Or dying. Or at least had a mild case of man flu. Well sitting at Counter-Print HQ, writing this post at the tale end of 2016, it seems as though the storm has now been weathered. E-books have for the first time declined in their sales and the physical book still accounts for 80% of all books sold. Our inbox is peppered with Kickstarter campaigns funding new titles, reissues of once unobtainable corporate guidelines, monographs of design luminaries and newly conceived titles on contemporary trends and fashions.
It's an exciting time to work in the field of paper and print, with the rise of the e-book not killing our industry but resulting in the book designer and publisher having to work harder to seduce. A stroll around Waterstones will quickly show you that this is the case. In my opinion, not only is the average book cover now designed with greater skill and love, they even have a specific section for 'beautiful books'.
Perhaps the public is falling back in love with books, like someone who has left there long term lover for someone more 'exciting'. Now we are are waking up to the inherent beauty that was always there and appreciating it like never before.
We will continue to share in this appreciation and aim to bring you the most thoughtfully designed, well conceived and beautiful books we can find over the coming weeks, months and years.