Paris versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities by Vahram Muratyan

Published by Penguin, 2012

February 7th, 2012

When we first held Vahram Muratyan’s charming new book, Paris versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities, in our hands we were reminded immediately of the value of a book as an object, the sense of permanence and the experience of holding a book in your hands that cannot be replicated digitally. Although Muratyan’s book developed from his blog of the same name, the material is actually treated more effectively on the page making Paris versus New York one of the few successful examples of the blog-to-book phenomenon.

Muratyan launched his Paris versus New York blog in 2010 during a 3-month sojourn in New York when he began noticing the subtle differences between the city and his native Paris – the small things that make the experience of inhabiting a city unique. Muratyan, a graphic designer by trade, parlayed these observations into clever, funny-because-they’re-true visual comparisons of these two renowned cities, tackling such heated debates as Coco vs. Calvin, Bordeaux vs. Cosmo, and macaron vs. cupcake. The book expands on the blog’s content by including 60 illustrations that have not been previously published and the split-page format is the perfect forum to display Muratyan’s unique brand of visual storytelling.

In an homage to the graphic design of the 1950s and 1960s, Muratyan conveys meaning with few words and draws the reader into his narrative through the simplicity of his flat, colour-blocked pictures and decidedly retro typography. Muratyan’s sharp wit is evident in the subtlety of his images; the only difference between un bobo and a hipster is the pattern of his shirt while what distinguishes Woody from Godard is the placement of their eyes behind their identical thick frames. While the imagery may be whimsical and light, some of the observations are anything but. Pyramide vs. Cube in particular, which compares the relative cultural importance of the Louvre in Paris to the Apple Store in New York, hits right at the heart of American consumerist culture.

As we’re currently obsessed with anything reminiscent of mid-century Modern, we couldn’t help but be enchanted by Muratyan’s witty, provocative, and at times irreverent, illustrations. The timeless quality of both the imagery and storytelling makes Paris versus New York a must read. Don’t settle for viewing the images online, you’ll miss half of the experience.

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