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The Design Bridge Book Club: The Great Gatsby

Welcome to our new book club blog series. Here’s Holly Kielty, Creative Director Brand Language, to explain all…

Because to be a writer means being a reader, we in the Brand Language team thought we’d start a series of short pieces about the books, both fictional and non-fictional, that have inspired, provoked and occasionally baffled us with their verbal or visual brilliance. Books we think everyone with should read whether they’re designing, strategising or simply sunbathing.

First up, it’s The Great Gatsby.

Kate Moss names it as her favourite book, Jay Z soundtracked the recent film version, and numerous brides echo its visual codes on their ‘special day’. Fashionable, bold and gloriously art deco, The Great Gatsby is engrained in popular culture like almost no other novel, and yet few can actually tell you what it’s actually about. Just like the age it so vividly epitomises, it’s a book that’s often adored but more commonly taken at face value. But to only see its superficial beauty is to miss the subtle metaphors, the finely tuned character traits and the cautionary tales in this Jazz Age masterpiece.

Because The Great Gatsby isn’t just an encapsulation of the Roaring Twenties, it’s a wider comment on consumerism, broken dreams, the dawning of the machine age. And it’s a book of contradictions. Its characters are utterly elegant, but at the same time, tarnished and broken. It glows with glamour and is yet unmistakably dark. It is so utterly representative of its time, and yet as a love story it couldn’t be more timeless. And the ultimate contradiction: it’s so visually stimulating, but almost impossible to illustrate on screen. The crystalline complexity of F Scott Fitzgerald’s language means I’ve never once seen Jay Gatsby in my head as Robert Redford, or Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s such an intimate narrative that you can only respond to it on that one-on-one level, with your own mind.

I first studied The Great Gatsby at university, but not as part of my English Literature course, but in my Art History modules; because it is a work of art and artfulness; the longer you stare, the closer you analyse, the more you see. That’s why I’d recommend it to anyone working in the creative industry, because to read it is to explore the visual and verbal in perfect harmony. It’s the book that made me the kind of writer and thinker I like to be; stimulated by both words and imagery in all I do. When F Scott Fitzgerald set about writing it his ambition was to create ‘something new – something extraordinary and beautiful and simple, and intricately patterned’. Read it, and make that brief your own.

Image by emdot, found on Flickr.

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