Pages from National Geographic Society's Trails of Tears, Paths of Beauty

National Geographic Society
Trails of Tears, Paths of Beauty

This book is part of a long-running National Geographic series called “Special Publications.” Basically, a solid group of longtime NGS members has been receiving these volumes once or twice a year for decades. The interesting thing about “Trails of Tears...” is that it is the first “Special Pub” that has been trusted to an outside designer. We were honored to be chosen for this project, and humbled by the high standards the long-running series had already set.

The subject itself is one of the saddest phases in American history. It chronicles the forced marches of the Cherokee and Navajo people as they were relocated from their original homes to the parched wastes of the American west. It’s a complex story sensitively told in both text and photography. John Agnone, the talented NGS illustrations editor assigned to the project, assembled a beautiful mix of illustrative material including historical photographs, modern full-color images of the countryside these marches crossed, paintings and other artwork produced by the Navajo and Cherokee, and the beautiful cartography for which NGS is famous. It’s not easy to pull off the perfect integration of such a diverse collection of material, but we think we have accomplished it.

One strong thread running through this book is how the Navajo and Cherokee relied on their deep cultural understanding of beauty to cope with the brutality they faced. We chose to use their design motifs to set off each chapter beginning. The rest of the design challenge here was to come up with layout that let the images work their magic.

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