The Life and Death
of the American Mall
In August of 2019, the mall I grew up going to closed down, forcing me to think about my relationship with the mall. On one hand a failed simulation of a perfect city, on the other a space that holds important memories of my adolescence, a walk through the mall elicits both positive and negative emotions. This publication embodies that ambivalence in the form of short stories I've collected, some nostalgic, others cynical, but all centered around the malls of American suburbia.
Photos by Alex Alspaugh.
The Life vs. The Death
The name of this publication includes “the life and death” not just for poetic effect, but because as the tone of the stories switch from cynical and academic to nostalgic and youthful, the visual language shifts dramatically. From use of color to text alignment, typeface to photo treatment, page furniture to the finish of the paper, the two halves inhabit the same book in stark juxtaposition. The only element that remains the same is the grid, however different the uses of it may be.
The table of contents is modeled after the directory of Northgate Mall, with each section of the mall assigned to a short story, and color coded based on if they belong in “The Life” or “The Death”.
In “The Life” half, each short story has distinctly different color palettes and accompanying graphics, but are unified by their similar structure. Each leads in with a full spread for the title art/custom type, and all use graphics that obtrude into the dense blocks of justified type. I used these graphics to make vinyl stickers which are bound into each story.
Each of the "The Life" stories has an accompanying sticker set bound in somewhere within it.
Elements reminiscent of teenage magazines are distributed throughout this half, as adolescence is a common theme throughout these stories. Below are one of the coupons and one of the perfume ads.
By contrast, “The Death” half is printed in grayscale, on matte gray paper and utilizes much more negative space, giving this half a duller and more hollow feeling. Whereas in “The Life” half the visual interest comes through colors and graphics that stay within the same structure, here the steady rhythm comes through the visual language, while the visual interest comes in the ways that the use of the modular grid changes from spread to spread.
The short stories on "The Death" half are supplemented by short pieces of mall history, differentiated visually by the black fill pages.
If you want to peruse: