Book Bento Tip: The Art of Knolling

Use these knolling videos for better book bentos

I learned a new word today. It’s “knolling.” I saw this word in a book called Things Come Apart: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living by Todd McLellan at my local Barnes and Noble. As I browsed the photography books for a gift for my son, I was drawn to the compelling cover of McLellan’s book. When I read the book jacket it spoke of “knolling.”

Here’s how the UK gadget and tech review website, Pocket-lint, defines knolling:

Knolling is a wonderfully satisfying photography technique that involves lining things up to create the perfect image.

This style of photography involves arranging similar objects in a parallel manner or at 90-degrees in an organised way.

The result is often incredibly satisfying and somewhat beautiful. It’s become quite a trend in recent years,… 

29 Satisfying Images of Knolled Tech and Everyday Objects | Adrian Willings

Here’s another definition from this video from artist Tom Sachs:

Knolling: verb; 1989; to arrange like objects in parallel or 90 degree angles as a method of organization.

Don’t you love learning new words?!

Who knew?! I mean, really, I didn’t know there was a word for how I instruct students to design their book bentos. I’ve always just asked students to “lay out their objects in straight lines and/or at ninety degree angles.” I had no idea there was a word for it.

You can google “knolling” and find a plethora of images and design websites with loads more information on this trend that seems to owe at least part of its popularity to Instagram and other digital and social media, where it’s often seen.

But where did the word come from?

According to the video linked below from Alt Media Studios in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, the word “knoll” was coined around 1987 by a photographer named Andrew Kromelow, who was a janitor at a furniture stored owned by renowned architect Frank Gehry. Gehry had been designing furniture for a brand called Knoll, which was named for Florence Knoll, who designed very angular furniture pieces.

A Knoll furniture advertisement; Photo: MidCentArc on Flickr; License

At the end of each work day, Kromelow took overhead photos of the various tools and equipment and objects left out. He called this activity knolling. Later, an artist named Tom Sachs, who worked with Gehry, built on the idea and popularized the phrase, “Always be knolling.”

Always be knolling.

Here are three reasons knolling is popular:

  1. Knolling is captivating. A knolled photograph is hard to ignore.
  2. Knolling makes objects stand out in an easily visible way.
  3. Knolling shows similarities, connections, and relationships between the assembled objects.

Check out the videos below to learn more about knolling. In fact, the first video in particular would be perfect for showing kids how to arrange or knoll their book bentos.

This video is provided by Alt Media Studios located in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

I hope these video resources will help you show students how to make better, more appealing book bentos!

That’s all for this week. When I learned this new word today, I knew I had to share it with you. Words enrich our lives with meaning and can open doors to new curiosities and learning.

Fill your students in on knolling as they work on their book bentos and let them know that they are engaging in a very design-forward photography trend!

As school winds down for the Christmas break, I feel hints of the rest and relaxation that’s right around the corner. Enjoy these final school days of 2021!

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Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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