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Books


04.08.14: David Morris

The Public Library
“The public library is a singularly American invention.” An excerpt from the new book The Public Library: A Photographic Essay.
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04.02.14: Bryn Smith

De Vinne at the Grolier Club in New York
A review of the Grolier Club’s quiet, yet noteworthy exhibition, “The Dean of American Printers: Theodore Low De Vinne and The Art Preservative of All Arts”.
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03.22.14: Rick Poynor

The Filmic Page: Chris Marker's Commentaires
The French director Chris Marker’s book Commentaires is as innovative as book design as his documentaries are as films.
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02.04.14: Rick Poynor

Why Tatlin Can Never Go Home Again
Raoul Hausmann’s photomontage Tatlin at Home is much pinned on Pinterest, but what has become of the original?
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01.16.14: Tarpley Hitt

Speaking Typography: Letter as Image as Sound
Just as a poet weaves the intent of his poem into its sound and craft, so did Lissitzky, as designer, hope to marry intent with the typography and the design of the book itself. But did he?
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01.14.14: Alexandra Lange

Playing With Design: Fredun Shapur
Add Fredun Shapur to the pantheon of modern designers making winning and sculptural objects for children.
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01.10.14: Gideon Amichay

No, No, No, No, No, Yes
In this excerpt from his book No, No, No, No, No, Yes. Insights From A Creative Journey, Gideon Amichay pushes past no to yes.
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01.03.14: Rick Poynor

Martin Sharp: People, Politics and Pop
Martin Sharp rediscovered: drawings and collages from the book People, Politics and Pop: Australians in the Sixties.
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12.30.13: Alexandra Lange

Year of the Women
A year-end wrap-up of my favorite stories. The common theme? Women and the making of design.
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12.29.13: John Foster

From Russia With Doubt
From Russia with Doubt is the true story about brothers Ron and Roger Pollard, two amateur collectors who enjoyed going to flea markets and estate sales, picking up objects, paintings — anything they happened to like.
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12.11.13: By Maria Giudice & Christopher Ireland

Rise of the DEO
An excerpt from the book Rise of the DEO by Maria Giudice & Christopher Ireland.
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12.05.13: Warren Lehrer

The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley
An excerpt and slideshow from Warren Lehrer’s A Life in Books.
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11.11.13: Rick Poynor

Collage Culture: Nostalgia and Critique
An interview with David Banash, author of Collage Culture: Readymades, Meaning, and the Age of Consumption.
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10.30.13: Rick Poynor

Belgian Solutions: The True State of Things?
The foul-ups or “Belgian solutions” in a new book of street photographs are simply the way things are.
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10.22.13: Jez Owen

Branding Terror
A review of Branding Terror, a new book by Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini.
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10.16.13: Debbie Millman

Card Shark (a Poem)
A visual poem from Debbie Millman's new book Self Portrait as Your Traitor.
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10.10.13: Rick Poynor

New York: City of Spectacular Doors
For six years, Allan Markman crisscrossed New York taking pictures of remarkable doors for a new book.
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10.03.13: Alexandra Lange

Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Freelancer
One of the incidental pleasures of Judith Major’s new book on pioneering architecture critic Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer is the glimpse it gives into the life of a cultural journalist at the turn of the past century.
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09.16.13: Rick Poynor

Bohumil Stepan's Family Album of Oddities
Bohumil Stepan’s Familienalbum presents a series of surreally equipped and irreverently modified collages of his family.
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09.07.13: Rick Poynor

Bohumil Stepan's Gallery of Erotic Humor
Mapp Editions has released a digital version of Bohumil Stepan’s Galerie (1968), a surreal collection of collages and drawings about the relationship between the sexes.
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09.05.13: Karen Green

Bough Down
An excerpt from Bough Down, Karen Green's transcendent book about surviving her husband's suicide.
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08.22.13: Rick Poynor

Collage Now, Part 1: Sergei Sviatchenko
In a crowded field, Sergei Sviatchenko’s highly reductive photo-collages look like his own and no one else’s.
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08.22.13: Rick Poynor

Collage Now, Part 2: Cut and Paste Culture
Cut-and-paste culture is booming and collage-making is rampant: paper-based, digital, and all points between.
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08.15.13: Rick Poynor

Keld Helmer-Petersen: Pioneer of Color
An accessible edition of Keld Helmer-Petersen’s 122 Colour Photographs, a landmark 1948 photobook.
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08.14.13: Edited by John Bertram and Yuri Leving

Lolita — The Story of a Cover Girl
Excerpt from Lolita — The Story of a Cover Girl.
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08.09.13: Rick Poynor

David Maisel and the Apocalyptic Sublime
David Maisel’s photographs are visions of the Earth as we have never seen it full of beauty and terror.
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07.30.13: Rob Walker

Looking Better, All The Time
Alexandra Horowitz' book On Looking offers a framework, and specific tactics, for smarter seeing.
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07.23.13: Alexandra Lange

Nevermind the Masterpiece
What's your "Masterpiece of Everyday New York"? A broken umbrella? A shirtwaist? Discarded gum?
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07.14.13: John Foster

The Voynich Manuscript
Accidental Mysteries for July 14, 2013 focuses on the rare and undecipherable Voynich manuscript.
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07.10.13: Martha Scotford

Ernst Reichl: Wide Awake Typographer
Ernst Reichl, one of the top book designers of the 20th century, was also a prolific writer who wrote more than 550 comments on his book designs.
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07.08.13: Alexandra Lange

How To Unforget
The straightforward logic of "A Handbook of California Design" makes it the first step in unforgetting two generations of makers.
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07.01.13: Alexandra Lange

An ABC of the ABCs
Were you a child? Did you read books? Then the NYPL's "ABC of It" serves as a portal back in time.
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05.28.13: Alexandra Lange

The Fork and the World: Design 101
If you had to explain design to the uninitiated, where would you start?
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05.14.13: Kit Hinrichs and Delphine Hirasuna

The Alphabet Card
Excerpt from The Alphabet Card, a new book by Kit Hinrichs and Delphine Hirasuna.
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05.09.13: Rick Poynor

The Age of Wire and String Rebooted
Granta’s new edition of The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus is a landmark of experimental illustration.
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04.27.13: Rick Poynor

On the Trail of The Eater of Darkness
The Eater of Darkness is a collision of science fiction, murder mystery, Surrealism and experimental typography.
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04.15.13: Rob Walker

Cover Story
A book vs. its cover: Why Colubmia GSAPP students treated this year's architecture annual like garbage.
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03.05.13: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Fin de Copenhague
Asger Jorn and Guy Debord’s book Fin de Copenhague is a Situationist classic and a brilliant piece of design.
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03.03.13: John Foster

The Proper Art of Writing in 1655
Accidental Mysteries for March 03, 2013 focuses on the proper art of writing in 1655.
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02.26.13: Chris Calori

Six Feet Under: Mapping Tangled Transit Networks
A review of Underground Maps Unraveled: Explorations in Information Design by Maxwell J. Roberts.
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02.22.13: Rick Poynor

The Experiential Thrill of Driving in Films
A new book, Drive, shows how the car scenes in movies help us understand the experience of modernity.
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02.04.13: Alexandra Lange

Why Bernadette Fox Is Scary
The heroine of Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an award-winning female architect. Don’t envy her life.
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01.26.13: Rick Poynor

Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers by Herbert and Mafalda Spencer was aimed at children, but its intriguing visual approach is more “photobook” than “schoolbook.”
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01.22.13: Adam Harrison Levy

Dylan Stone: 100 Years
Adam Harrison Levy reviews Dylan Stone's exhibition of 100 years of personal pocket diaries at Ruth Phaneuf Fine Art.
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01.21.13: Alexandra Lange

Balthazar Korab, RIP
Tribute to architectural photographer Balthazar Korab, and a discussion of what made him different from contemporary Ezra Stoller.
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01.15.13: Rick Poynor

Socialism and Modernity: A Hidden History
A new book documents the unfamiliar history of socialism and modernity in graphic design from former Yugoslavia.
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01.08.13: Alexandra Lange

Kicked A Building Lately?
That question, the title of the 1976 collection of Ada Louise Huxtable’s work for the New York Times, embodies her approach to criticism.
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01.06.13: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 01.06.13
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is The Alchemist’s Notebook.
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10.31.12: Alexandra Lange

Dot Supreme
On the enduring power of the simplest shape, from corporations to children’s books.
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10.19.12: Louise Sandhaus

Merle Armitage: Daddy of a Sunbaked Modernism
Louise Sandhaus's profile of book designer Merle Armitage.
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10.14.12: Rick Poynor

The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
Punk has two new graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw?
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10.08.12: Alexandra Lange

Having Fun at the Museum
Blocks, rocket ships, playgrounds and balls: the hidden meaning of playthings at the Museum of Modern Art.
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10.05.12: Rick Poynor

The Museum of Communicating Objects
Orhan Pamuk’s The Innocence of Objects is an illuminating guide to his Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.
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09.22.12: Alexandra Lange

Just Keep Typing
An excerpt from the new book Breakthrough! Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination that involves Post-It notes, legal pads and baking. 
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09.05.12: Louise Fili

A Life in Letters
An excerpt from Louise Fili's Elegantissima.
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09.02.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 09.02.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is American Reading Primers.
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08.26.12: Rick Poynor

The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter
Clutter and design are inseparable as concepts because clutter is the negation of design.
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08.21.12: Alexandra Lange

Critics Critical Criticism
Meta-criticism all over the blogosphere (but why only about books?)
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08.19.12: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: André Breton's Nadja
The Livre de poche edition of André Breton’s Surrealist classic Nadja remains the best visual interpretation of the book.
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08.16.12: Rob Walker

High Caliber Expression
Reading Richard Ford's response to a critic (by shooting her book) as an expressive act.
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07.30.12: Rick Poynor

Pierre Faucheux and Le Livre de Poche
A masterclass in book cover design: Pierre Faucheux’s work for the French paperback publisher Livre de poche.
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06.28.12: Rick Poynor

What Does Critical Writing Look Like?
A report on work by the first graduates from the Royal College of Art’s Critical Writing in Art & Design MA.
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06.18.12: Rick Poynor

Updating the Maps of Graphic Design History
Graphic Design: History in the Writing is a heartening sign that graphic design history is attracting a new generation.
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06.09.12: Alexandra Lange

Introducing Strelka Press
On Strelka Press, a new "digital first" publisher of longform architecture and design criticism.
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06.07.12: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: A History of the Machine
Erik Nitsche’s New Illustrated Library of Science and Invention is a landmark of modern, low-cost, mass-market, educational book design.
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05.14.12: Rob Walker

Managing Digital Durability
Learning to manage the disconcerting durability of digital objects.
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05.11.12: Alexandra Lange

The Mother of Us All
Reyner Banham on Esther McCoy: "She speaks as she finds, with sympathy and honesty, and relevantly to the matter at hand." Could there be a better definition of the role of the critic?
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04.13.12: Rick Poynor

The Closed Shop of Design Academia
Shouldn’t it be part of a design academic’s brief to communicate more widely with the design profession and public?
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03.26.12: Michael Erard

The Elements – Molecules, Atoms and Quarks – of Style
The cipher shared by great poets and the best brand namers is essentially that the littlest things mean the most.
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03.23.12: Rick Poynor

The Covers of J.G. Ballard's Crash: An Update
Some recent covers of J.G. Ballard’s disturbing Crash, a notoriously hard novel for designers to interpret.
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03.20.12: John Thackara

It’s Not Just The Bags
Design + Craft: The Brazilian Path by Adelia Borges explores the complex relationship between designers from the Northern hemishphere and indigenous artists in the Southern hemisphere, specifically craft communities in Brazil.
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02.08.12: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: A Classic by Berger and Mohr
John Berger and Jean Mohr’s A Fortunate Man brilliantly fuses words and photos to examine a doctor’s life.
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01.31.12: Rick Poynor

The Evil Genius of David Shrigley
British artist David Shrigley, subject of a major exhibition in London, is forever tempting and testing the viewer.
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01.23.12: Adam Harrison Levy

A History Of The World In 100 Objects
Adam Harrison Levy reviews the book A History Of The World In 100 Objects.
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01.19.12: Rick Poynor

Ernst Haas and the Color Underground
Has Ernst Haas, an early master of color photography, received the credit his ground-breaking pictures deserve?
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01.16.12: Michael Erard

Imaging the Brain
Using geographical visuals to understand the brain.
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01.09.12: Rick Poynor

Read All That? You Must be Kidding Me
Ellen Lupton’s essay about reading and writing for Graphic Design: Now in Production misses some key points.
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01.01.12: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Jean-Luc Godard Anthologized
Lawrence Ratzkin’s cover design for an early anthology about Jean-Luc Godard is almost an anti-cover.
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12.22.11: Alexandra Lange

Girard the Magnificent
Is it enough to be gorgeous? If so, Todd Oldham and Keira Coffee's 15-pound Alexander Girard wins Book of the Year.
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12.01.11: Rick Poynor

Man in a Bowler: Illustration after Magritte
By copying Magritte’s subject matter and method, illustrators ended up making a great artist look hackneyed.
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12.01.11: Alexandra Lange

Cooking with the Eameses
A new book chronicles one family's life with nine pieces of Eames.
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11.25.11: Rick Poynor

How to Cover an Impossible Book
Tadeusz Borowski’s book This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen poses a visual challenge for designers.
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11.10.11: Rick Poynor

Literary Horror from the Chapman Brothers
British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman have created an image of sublime horror for the cover of Granta magazine.
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11.03.11: Rick Poynor

This Post has Been Declared a Link-free Zone
Links can greatly enrich an online text, but are they also a counterproductive distraction from reading?
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10.31.11: Alexandra Lange

Lessons from the High Line
How can the High Line become a new paradigm, and not a dead end?
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10.28.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Continuum's 33 1/3 Series
The 33 1/3 books about classic albums are a perfect example of how design can help focus an editorial idea.
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09.13.11: Alexandra Lange

Thinking in Tumblr
Don't write a book, make a Tumblr.
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09.09.11: Rick Poynor

A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice
The Reader, a recent book from Stockholm about critical practice, has some smart insights while missing the bigger picture.
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09.01.11: Rick Poynor

Chris Foss and the Technological Sublime
Is cult science fiction artist Chris Foss’s work just highly effective illustration, or can it be seen as a visionary form of art?
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08.26.11: William Drenttel & Jessica Helfand

Late Summer Reading
In the late summer, we share a reading list first published in Frieze magazine, April 2011.
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08.25.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: The Metallization of a Dream
The best designed book about the artist Eduardo Paolozzi was compiled in 1963 by a student at the Royal College of Art.
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08.24.11: Alexandra Lange

Up From Zero, the Novel
A post-9/11 fiction scooped by reality.
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08.10.11: Alexandra Lange

Reading in Public
A new book club with an unusual topic: architecture and design.
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08.09.11: Mark Lamster

An Interview with Laurence King
Mark Lamster interviews Laurence King, the publisher.
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08.04.11: John Thackara

Lean Logic: A Dictionary For The Future and How To Survive It
I have never encountered a book that is so hard to characacterise yet so hard, despite its weight, to put down.
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07.27.11: Rick Poynor

Andrzej Klimowski: Transmitting the Image
Andrzej Klimowski, author of a new book, On Illustration, has used the medium to create a compelling alternative reality.
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07.22.11: Alexandra Lange

Jane Austen, Landscape Architect
Trapped by a ha-ha: bad romance and good landscapes in Mansfield Park.
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07.15.11: Alexandra Lange

Making Dieter Rams
Why is Braun still the best?
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07.06.11: Rick Poynor

The Dictionary as Art Concept
A new Magritte exhibition catalogue is not the first to take the form of a dictionary. How important is originality when it comes to book design?
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06.28.11: Alexandra Lange

Welcome to the Hall of Femmes
How should we celebrate women in design, past, present, future?
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06.28.11: Rick Poynor

Speculative Fiction, Speculative Design
The cover of England Swings SF is one of those prescient imaginative leaps that vaulted so far it disappeared from the historical record.
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06.27.11: Julie Lasky

Between Two Convex Mirrors: A Conversation with Tomi Ungerer
Interview with illustrator and book artist Tomi Ungerer.
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06.22.11: Alexandra Lange

Jane Austen, Architect?
Why is Austen next to Ballard on the Designers & Books lists?
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06.22.11: Rick Poynor

On the Threshold of Sebald's Room
Daniel Blaufuks is haunted by a picture of an office in W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. Where did it come from and what does it show?
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06.20.11: Jez Owen

Behind the Zines
A review of the book Behind the Zines: Self-Publishing Culture published by Gestalten.
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06.13.11: Louise Fili and Steven Heller

For the Love of Scripts
“No one person ever invented an alphabet,” wrote Type-maven Tommy Thompson. Script typefaces are no exception. During the letterpress era they were in such great demand that many people “invented” them, and many others copied them.
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06.07.11: Matthew Stadler

Publication Studio: What’s It Like?
On any given day the storefront is home to book production, bookstore, endless packing and shipping, a half-dozen hangers-on, curious drop-ins, lost tourists: a composite day in the life of Publication Studio, Portland.
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06.06.11: Rick Poynor

Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?
A DVD cover for the classic film noir Kiss Me Deadly uses the blindingly obvious symbol that just keeps on giving.
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06.01.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Stefan Lorant's Lilliput
Stefan Lorant’s use of photos in pairs could be wry, funny, bizarre, whimsical, satirical and not always kind.
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05.19.11: Susan Roy

Better Homes & Bunkers: The Fallout Shelter for the Nuclear Family
An excerpt from the book Better Homes & Bunkers: The Fallout Shelter for the Nuclear Family by Susan Roy.
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05.19.11: Rick Poynor

Unearthly Powers: Surrealism and SF
Richard Powers, auteur of the paperback cover, was a key figure linking science fiction and Surrealism.
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05.10.11: Rick Poynor

Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read
The Designers & Books website has published my list of 20 indispensable books about graphic design.
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05.05.11: John Thackara

Open: A Survival Issue
A new book from the Dutch publisher Bis, Open Design Now, includes essays, cases and visuals on various issues of Open Design.
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04.25.11: Ernest Beck

Hard Times for Hard Copy
Why AIGA almost scuttled its most venerable design competition: 50 Books/50 Cover.
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04.05.11: Alexandra Lange

Muddying the Waters
Explore New York's watery edges with the graduating class at D-Crit.
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04.03.11: William Drenttel

Design of Crime, Evil and Death
Buried in our Winterhouse library are numerous books with "design" in the title — things like Death by Design, Design for Dying and Design in Evil.

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03.28.11: Alan Thomas

Calcutta: Bookland
Alan Thomas, at the Kolkata Book Fair.
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03.22.11: John Thackara

Collapse of Civilization Tango
They say that the last days of Rome were culturally rich — and the same seems to be the case in our own times.
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03.18.11: Julie Lasky

Lit from Above
Kindle be damned. The love affair between designers and printed books is a smoldering thing. Consider the outcry that followed AIGA’s proposal to fold its 86-year-old “50 Books/50 Covers” show into the broader stewpot of an annual multidisciplinary design competition. Or consider Designers and Books, a website that publishes the reading lists of eminent tastemakers.
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03.09.11: John Thackara

Images de Pensée
Darwin, Freud, Descartes, Goethe, Klee, Beuys, Marinetti, Nabokov, among others, left behind these “images of thought.”
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03.07.11: David Antin

Bomb Hanoi: The Andy Warhol Cover
Art critic David Antin remembers working with Andy Warhol on the "Bomb Hanoi" cover of some/thing in 1966…
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02.22.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Richard Neville's Playpower
Martin Sharp’s cover design is a garden of queasily decadent delights where the joke is probably on the reader.
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02.09.11: John Thackara

Ultra Modern
I dislike the word “Glocal,” I also dislike the word “Creative,” now a new word has come along to bug me: “Sustainism.”
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02.04.11: Rick Poynor

What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like?
J.G. Ballard was one of those rare writers whose vision inspired a new adjective. What is a “Ballardian” image and how have designers and image-makers interpreted it?
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01.27.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Nairn's London
Inside the architecture critic Ian Nairn’s classic, idiosyncratic guide to London’s buildings and spaces.
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01.25.11: Jessica Helfand

Certificate of Approval
Jessica Helfand writes about her favorite piece of design.
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01.25.11: Adrian Shaughnessy

Down in the Trenches with Kenneth FitzGerald
Adrian Shaughnessy reviews of Kenneth FitzGerald’s new book Volume: Writing on Graphic Design, Music, Art and Culture.
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01.23.11: Rick Poynor

Discovered by Chance in a Paris Arcade
What better way to pass a couple of spare hours in Paris than to visit the covered arcades that were, for the Surrealists, some of the best places to encounter the marvellous?
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01.17.11: Alexandra Lange

How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Eameses?
Alexandra Lange reviews the book The Story of Eames Furniture, by Marilyn Neuhart with John Neuhart (Gestalten, 2010).
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01.04.11: John Thackara

Plan B "Best Architecture Book of the Year" in the Netherlands
My book Plan B: Ontwerpen in een Complexe Wereld (Plan B: Designing In A Complex World) has been selected by the influential magazine de Architect as their best architecture book of the year.
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12.30.10: Rick Poynor

Surrealism in the Pre-School Years
A poet described postcards as a “Lilliputian hallucination of the world”: he must have seen the surreal babies.
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12.22.10: Alexandra Lange

Shopping D/R at Etsy
Want to recreate D/R this Christmas? Etsy provides the goods.

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12.21.10: Rick Poynor

W.G. Sebald: Writing with Pictures
How do the great German writer's notoriously tricky visual fictions compare with reality?
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12.15.10: Mark Lamster

British Incursion
Stirling, Foster, and a new association with the Architectural Review.
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12.14.10: Alexandra Lange

Throw Pillows As Character
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand shows how novelists can use decor, and development, as character.
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12.10.10: Rick Poynor

The Impossibility of an Island
Atlas of Remote Islands might look like a celebration of distant paradises. Its beauty masks a darker purpose.
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12.07.10: Steven Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen

Designer as Author
In 1954, Alvin Lustig gave a lecture titled “What Is a Designer?” at the Advertising Typographers Association of America. It was his first speech after he lost his eyesight.
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11.29.10: The Editors

Holiday Books 2010
Recommended books by Design Observer writers for the 2009 holiday season.
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11.22.10: Edward Morris and Dmitri Siegel

Destroy This Book
The Green Patriot Posters project looked to the graphic design and artistic communities for ways to invigorate and mobilize people to remake our economy for a more sustainable future.
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11.11.10: Rick Poynor

What Does H. P. Lovecraft Look Like?
In a gilded age of adaptations: films, TV series, theatrical productions, H. P. Lovecraft’s short novel At the Mountains of Madness, is re-envisioned for a new generation.
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11.11.10: Mark Lamster

Boom Goes Pop
Mark Lamster reviews Irma Boom's book, Irma Boom — Biography in Books.
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11.05.10: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation
This post is the first in an occasional series. The idea is to revisit a book from my bookshelf.
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11.05.10: Rick Poynor

An App for the Self-Replacing Book
British artist Tom Phillips’A Humument, must be one of the most successful artist’s books ever published. Now, in an entirely logical development, comes The Humument app for the iPad.
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11.01.10: KT Meaney

The Library: A Museum
The library at North Carolina State University is laden with gold. Books that seem "rare" or simply too special for public shelving have been, in my mind, erroneously stacked and "dewey decimaled".
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10.27.10: John Thackara

Leave Nothing But Footsteps
“Take nothing but memories” Kalack concludes “and leave nothing but footsteps”.
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10.25.10: Marian Bantjes & Jessica Helfand

The Bantjes Covers
Marian Bantjes exposes the long process that led to the cover of her new monograph, I Wonder.
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10.25.10: John Thackara

From Easter Island to Three Mile Island
You don't need to know how a combustion engine works to drive your car to work. Why should you need to know anything about the programming behind the pixels just to get around the web?
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10.22.10: Alexandra Lange

AN Friday Review: Harry Weese
I review the new book The Architecture of Harry Weese. I was dreaming of a monograph on Weese only a few months ago. Unfortunately, this book was not what I had in mind.
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10.07.10: Leonard Koren

Which “Aesthetics” Do You Mean?
An excerpt from Leonard Koren's new book Which “Aesthetics” do You Mean?: Ten Definitions
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10.04.10: Michael Erard

It's the 16th Ed. of the Chicago Manual of Style and I Feel Fine
Michael Erard reviews the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.
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09.29.10: Alexandra Lange

This is A Thrill...
Design Research reviewed in the New York Times.
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09.22.10: Luc Sante

Circus: The Photographs of Frederick W. Glasier
Rediscovered: Frederick W. Glasier. Glasier made extraordinary photographs of the American circus during its heyday.
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09.20.10: Joshua Glenn

The "X" Factor
A slideshow features fifteen of Joshua Glenn's favorite Cold War-era "X" paperbacks.
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09.01.10: Michael Bierut

James Victore: Straight Up
"Few designers have done more to render typography foundries irrelevant than Victore. The human hand, his hand, is always in evidence." Michael Bierut on James Victore's work.
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08.21.10: Alexandra Lange

D/R, Back in the Boston Globe
Robert Campbell, the Boston Globe’s architecture critic, takes a look at Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes and declares that Cambridge lived the modern life first.
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08.17.10: Alexandra Lange

The Imperfect Imperfectionists
Last week I felt disgusted with myself for becoming one of those parents who no longer reads so I bought Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionistsat Book Court.
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08.16.10: Alexandra Lange

On DO: When Shopping Was Sociable
What do Design Research, the Apple stores and the Brooklyn Flea have in common?
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07.25.10: Michael Bierut

Jerry Della Femina, Mad Men, and the Cult of Advertising Personality
A review of Jerry Della Femina's From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor, published in a new edition on the occasion of the debut of the fourth season of the AMC series Mad Men.
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07.23.10: Alexandra Lange

Better Living by Design
In 1950, industrial designers Mary and Russel Wright published the Guide to Easier Living, a revolutionary handbook for the modern home.
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07.20.10: Mark Lamster

Master of Shadows: Paperback
Behold the very dashing cover for the forthcoming paperback edition of Master of Shadows, design by the great John Gall.
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07.10.10: Mark Lamster

Spain vs. Holland: The Eighty Years War in 90 Minutes
Spain and Holland will re-enact the Eighty Years War in tomorrow's World Cup final.
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07.07.10: Jessica Helfand

Happy Birthday, Steven Heller
A tribute to Steven Heller on his Birthday!
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06.14.10: Alexandra Lange

Make Me A Mini Monograph
The thing I found most depressing was the sense I got that one could only write a book about designers that were already famous.
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06.06.10: Mark Lamster

An Empire State of Mind
Everyone seems to be weighing in with pieces on the new edition of the AIA Guide to NYC, which is as it should be.
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06.04.10: Alexandra Lange

AIA Guide, Family Style
Page 627, upper right corner, of the new AIA Guide mentions my husband, Mark Dixon.
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06.04.10: Alexandra Lange

Marigold, Goldenrod, Egg Yolk
I think of this color yellow as being so 1960, like Kodak Carousel boxes, made famous all over again by Mad Men.
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05.28.10: Mark Lamster

BEA 2010: A Recap
The future of the book was, as per usual these days, on the minds of publishers and retailers.
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05.19.10: Helen Chang

Jugendstil: The Youth Style of Viennese Book Art
Turn-of-the-century Vienna was a magical, infectious brew. Viennese children’s book illustrations at the time were no exception.
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05.14.10: Alexandra Lange

It Was All Yellow
In Buying In, author Rob Walker avoids talking about the aesthetics of the Livestrong bracelet.
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04.29.10: Alexandra Lange

The Ur-Paperback
This great handmade layout for what now seems like a ubiquitous mass produced series—maybe the ur-paperback—reminded me of a piece I wrote for Metropolis long ago on remaking the Penguin line, Penguin Goes Punk.
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04.27.10: Steven Heller

Home Is the Sailor, Home from the Sea
In 1943, Margaret Wise Brown, the children’s book author signed a contract with Harper & Brothers to publish The Fathers Are Coming Home.
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04.15.10: Alexandra Lange

All in the Execution
Ian Baldwin's review of The Grid Book calls out the coffee-table book format and it's middlebrow achievements.
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04.10.10: Alexandra Lange

Every Thing Design: Can I Play Too?
Alice Rawsthorn, whom I generally want to grow up to be, writes in today’s T about Every Thing Design, Dutch designer Irma Boom’s latest book based on the collections of the Museum of Design, Zurich.
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03.29.10: Alexandra Lange

On DO: Design Blogs: The Vacuum of Enthusiasm
As part of my new strategy of writing the conversations that go on in my head, I critique design (and architecture, to some extent) blogs today on Design Observer.
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03.19.10: Mark Lamster

Artist! Lover! Swordsman!
“No man could outfight him — No woman could resist his charm.” So reads the copy on this pulp cover from 1953.
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03.08.10: Alexandra Lange

Not A Learning Experience
The Privileges finally gives a real satire of almost-present day New York City, in which money is discussed and no one has to learn their lesson.
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03.03.10: Alexandra Lange

The (Architectural) Anthologist
After some digressions weird and wonderful, the Nicholson Baker I loved from The Mezzanine and U and I and Room Temperature seems to be back, cranky and at sea and procrastinating.
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03.02.10: Mark Lamster

Writer's Voice
My interview with Francesca Rheannon of NPR's Writer's Voice is now online.
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02.23.10: Steven Heller

Becoming a Designer in the Age of Aquarius
On rereading S. Neil Fujita’s 1968 job manual, Aim for a Job in Graphic Design/Art.
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02.23.10: Adam Harrison Levy

Death’s Bloom
From 1913 to 1971 five thousand one hundred and twenty one mentally ill patients were cremated. Their remains were sealed in copper canisters. In 2000 David Maisel photographed them.
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01.27.10: Alexandra Lange

Write What You Know
My handwriting should be a font. That’s what everyone has been saying since I was about 12, and while I agree it is true, it never seems like a compliment to me.
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01.25.10: Alexandra Lange

Suburban Design
Lester Beall, was always my favorite of the cadre of mid-century corporate identity designers for the color, energy and sheer American-ness of his design.
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01.05.10: Alexandra Lange

About A Boy
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is one of my favorite contemporary novels, but Manhood for Amateurs made me like him much less.
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12.19.09: Alexandra Lange

Want to Make an Architect Cry?
Want to Make an Architect Cry? Give him (or her, but she’s less likely to mind) Robert A. M. Stern’s latest monograph, which, at 600+ pages, covers just his last five years of work.
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12.19.09: Mark Lamster

Rubens for the Holidays
Snow is falling hard on the Eastern Seaboard. It's cold out there. A good weekend to stay in before a fire with your warm drink of choice and a good book.
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12.14.09: Steven Heller

Harsh Words from T.M. Cleland
Design criticism may be comparatively new, but critical designers are not.
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12.07.09: Mark Lamster

Master of Shadows: A Telegraph Book of the Year
The distinguished British historian Michael Burleigh has named Master of Shadows a Book of the Year in the Telegraph.
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12.03.09: Alexandra Lange

DoubleX: Kid Made Modern Reviewed
My review for Todd Oldham's Kid Made Modern for DoubleX is much less happy happy, joy joy than most of the other coverage.
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12.02.09: Martha Scotford

Ulysses: Fast Track to 1934 Best Seller
The first United States publishing of James Joyce's Ulysses.
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12.01.09: Mark Lamster

"Compelling" & "Important": The L.A. Times Praises Master of Shadows
Good book reviews are rarities to be prized in these days of shuttered newspapers and diminished book coverage. By good I don't simply mean positive.
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11.25.09: Mark Lamster

Dankuwel Antwerpen!
This is a good week to be thankful and I am especially grateful to everyone who made the launch of De meester van de schaduw in Antwerp such a success.
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11.19.09: Alexandra Lange

D/R on WGBH
My last post about D/R before the book comes out next September.
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11.19.09: The Editors

Holiday Books 2009
Recommended books by Design Observer writers for the 2009 holiday season.
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11.11.09: Mark Lamster

The Big Stage
'll be giving a talk on Rubens and his diplomatic career at the Ringling Museum's extraordinary Asolo Theater.
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11.11.09: Mark Lamster

Adoration: Library Journal on Master of Shadows: "An Exceptional Book"
A nice synopsis and very generous assessment of Master of Shadows appears in the forthcoming issue of Library Journal.
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11.04.09: Alexandra Cardia

From Cabinet: Jacket Required
In April 2009, one of the earliest known dust jackets was found at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.
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11.03.09: Mark Lamster

From Bauhaus to My House
Nearly thirty years ago, Tom Wolfe made quite a splash with his reactionary little attack on modern architecture.
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11.03.09: Felice C. Frankel, George M. Whitesides

No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale
A slideshow of images from the book, No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale.
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10.31.09: Mark Lamster

The Shadow Master — Live on Halloween Eve
I'll be discussing the original Shadow Master, Peter Paul Rubens, on the John Batchelor Show.
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10.29.09: John Gall

The Nabokov Collection
The assignment: redesign Vladimir Nabokov's book covers, all twenty-one of them. The solution: twenty-one specimen boxes, the kind used by butterfly collectors like Nabokov, each created by a different designer.
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10.28.09: Alexandra Lange

D/R Love
There is much online excitement about the D/R exhibition, opening tomorrow.
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10.27.09: Mark Lamster

Half King Reading
Many thanks to all who came out to my son-et-lumiere extravaganza last night at the Half King in New York.
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10.22.09: Mark Lamster

Good Morning Cleveland!
I'll be on drive-time radio tomorrow morning in Cleveland.
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10.21.09: Mark Lamster

Master of Shadows: Reception
It was a great honor last night to celebrate publication of Master of Shadows with a small gathering at the residence of the Belgian Consul General in New York, Ambassador Herman Portocarero.
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10.20.09: Mark Lamster

Master of Shadows — In Stores Now — New York Event
After so many years of working and waiting, the day has finally arrived: "Master of Shadows" has been released into the world, and is available at a bookstore near you.
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10.19.09: Mark Lamster

Peter Paul Rubens: Graphic Designer
In his day, Rubens was also revered as a diplomat, an architect, a classical scholar, and even a graphic designer.
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10.18.09: Alexandra Lange

Love Among the Figurines
I finally got my hands on Important Artifacts by Leanne Shapton.
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10.10.09: Mark Lamster

The Art of Diplomacy
It's a rather satisfying bit of parallelism that the excerpt of my book on the political career of Peter Paul Rubens appears in the Wall Street Journal on the same day that Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is the paper's lead story.
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10.02.09: Mark Lamster

Tiepolo Pink
I'm happy and honored to report that Master of Shadows has been named an Indie Next Notable Book for November by IndieBound.
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09.25.09: Michael Bierut

The Figure / Ground Relationship
Designing is the most important thing, but it’s not the only thing. All of the other things a designer designer does all day are important too, and you have to do them with intelligence, enthusiasm, dedication, and love. Together, those things create the background that makes the work meaningful, and, when you do them right, that makes the work good.
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09.24.09: Mark Lamster

We Regret to Inform You That Love Will Not Save the Day
The big story on East 7th Street these days is the opening of Thom Mayne's new student center for Cooper Union, on Third Avenue.
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09.21.09: Mark Lamster

People of the Book
I'll be participating in my first event to celebrate the publication of Master of Shadows on October 6th, here in New York City.
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09.13.09: Alexandra Lange

Higher and Higher
In his back-page New York Times Book Review essay on The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard, Jonathan Lethem makes many good points about Ballard’s visionary writing, “desolate landscapes” and his linkages with other arts.
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08.23.09: Mark Lamster

Rough-Cut Redux: Amazon Makes A Change We Can Believe In
Last week, I noted the strange appearance of the all-capped phrase "ROUGH-CUT EDGE" displayed adjacent to the title of my book on Amazon.com.
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08.22.09: Mark Lamster

On "Master of Shadows"
Peter Paul Rubens gives us a lot to think about in his canvasses of rushing color, action, and puckered flesh, so it’s not surprising that his work as a diplomat and spy has been neglected.
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08.19.09: Mark Lamster

Master of Shadows: The Jacket
The design for the Master of Shadows cover is quite handsome.
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08.16.09: Alexandra Lange

Shelf Life
Lizzie Skurnick's Shelf Discovery is a new book about rereading classic teen novels with an adult eye.
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08.12.09: Michael Erard

A Short Manifesto on the Future of Attention
We have a wide-ranging discussion about what is and what can't be free, which is basically about the future of profit. Maybe we should be considering a dilemma of a human nature: the future of attention.
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08.11.09: Steven Heller

Covering the Good Books
When reading was more fundamental than tweeting, Time Life Books played a significant role in getting the general public to acquire books on almost every subject.
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08.10.09: Mark Lamster

Rough Cut
It seems that some bibliophiles prefer a deckle edge to their books — when the pages opposite the spine are rough hewn.
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07.29.09: Sebastian Carter

Jan Tschichold — Master Typographer
Jan Tschichold was one of the most distinguished typographers of the last century, and has had many admirers, among whom he himself was not the least. Jan Tschichold — Master Typographer is, as its title suggests, intended as a tribute to it's subject, but it is one which would have displeased him greatly.
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07.29.09: Ars Libri Ltd

Hungarian Rhapsody
This collection is the record of the immensely productive life of György Kepes.
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07.29.09: Ars Libri Ltd

Writing & Calligraphy
This remarkable collection of Writing & Calligraphy from the noted connoisseur and bibliophile Peter Arms Wick.
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07.29.09: Steven Heller

A Good Trademark: A Historical Perspective
Textile Brand Names Dictionary, included were more than 4,000 names of fibers, yarns, fabrics, and garments registered with the United States Patent Office between 1934 and 1947.
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07.21.09: Mark Lamster

Advance Praise for Master of Shadows
The first notices for Master of Shadows are beginning to flow in, and I'm happy to report that the initial response has been very positive indeed.
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07.13.09: Mark Lamster

Design Your Life
Written in collaboration with her twin sister, Ellen Lupton's Design Your Life is a joyful, thoughtful, rumination on the objects that occupy us, 
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07.06.09: Alexandra Lange

Nostalgia Trip
I can't resist reading Colm Tóbín's new novel called Brooklyn.
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07.03.09: Alexandra Lange

In Spite of Myself
I loved the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace for their message of feminism, love, and class.
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07.01.09: Mark Lamster

Really Great Gatsby
As Jeffrey Trachtenberg reports on the WSJ books blog, last week a 1925 edition of the Great Gatsby, with its vintage surrealist jacket, sold at auction for $180,000.
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06.24.09: Ars Libri Ltd

Paul Schuitema Collection
This remarkable collection of graphic design is from the Dutch designer Paul Schuitema.
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06.23.09: Mark Lamster

Lamsterdam
Master of Shadows will be published in Europe this November, and I'm hoping my distinguished Dutch publisher will undertake a guerilla art project to promote it in Holland.
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06.15.09: Mark Lamster

Bottom of the Ninth
My review of Michael Shapiro's new book on the aborted life of the Continental League, a would be addition to the majors, appears in today's Los Angeles Times.
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06.09.09: Eric Baker

Free Books
Everyone loves a good book, of course, but lets not forget that the books were FREE! 600 books given away in one day on the streets of New York City.
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06.03.09: Alan Rapp

Personal Space
Robert Sommer’s Personal Space: The Behavioral Basis of Design was published in forty years ago, and its compact title concept — an invisible but perceptible security zone surrounding an individual — caught on. But where is Sommer now? A recent study in Perception finds that listening to music on headphones alters our sense of sociospatial relations. Until these more contemporary strands of inquiry result in a truly new analysis of how we perceive our interpersonal zones today, Personal Space is now available in a new edition, with some additional commentary by Dr. Sommer, from Bosko Books in the UK
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06.02.09: The Editors

Books Received: July 2009
The Design Observer Fall book list is here.
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05.30.09: Mark Lamster

BEA Report: 10 Fall Books (+1) for Your Library
It has been a grim year for publishing, which accounts for the unusually restrained mood this past weekend at Book Expo America, the industry's annual trade show.
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05.28.09: Ellen Lupton

A Conversation With David Barringer
David Barringer’s book, There’s Nothing Funny About Design is actually very funny. The conversation that follows was conducted via e-mail over a three-day period.
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05.12.09: Steven Heller

How Much Is That Artifact in the Window?
Many of us have bought design objects for pleasure and / or scholarship. We’ve paid varying amounts — high and low. But what or who determines the value of a design artifact?
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04.24.09: Mark Lamster

Friendship's Offering
Behold the first known book jacket, for an 1829 literary anthology. It was discovered at Oxford's Bodleian Library, minus the book it once encased.
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04.21.09: Steven Heller

Father of Shrek, Grandfather of Tweet
William Steig was the father of vanity license plate abbreviations and the grandfather of the Instant Messenger, SMS, iChat, and Twitter shorthand.
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04.13.09: The Editors

Books Received: Summer 2009
The Design Observer Summer book list is here.
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03.31.09: Adam Harrison Levy

William Klein: Contacts
William Klein made a rare appearance in New York recently to promote his latest book, Contacts. American by birth, he has lived most of his life in Paris. He is now 81.
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03.17.09: Franz Wright

"Visiting the Library in a Strange City"
A poem by Franz Wright.
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03.17.09: Mark Lamster

Access Denied
In putting together the images for Master of Shadows, my publisher placed a permissions request to use a painting from the collection of the Norton Simon Foundation, in Los Angeles, only to be denied.
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03.12.09: Mark Lamster

Splendor on the Grass
What makes a great tennis match great? I started asking myself this question while I was putting together a review of A Terrible Splendor, a new book hooked on a 1937 Davis Cup.
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03.05.09: Mark Lamster

Save the Library Redux
Could it be that the sour economy is the best friend of the good old library?
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02.28.09: Mark Lamster

After Peter Paul Rubens (Long After)
Perusing the Christie's website a few days ago, I noticed a print attributed to William Pether "after Peter Paul Rubens."
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02.26.09: Mark Lamster

Save the Library
These are tough times for those of us who care about books. The publishing industry is in a tailspin; electronic readers and the Internet are challenging the primacy of the printed page.
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02.20.09: Mark Lamster

Planet M
My friend Gideon Lewis-Kraus's beautifully written Harper's piece on the last Frankfurt Book Fair is the talk of the publishing world.
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01.21.09: Steven Heller

The Good Books
Why can’t American publishers produce a series of good — no great — books on graphic culture like Die Bibliophilen Taschenbücher? Published in 1979 by Harenberg Kommunikation, Dortmund, Germany, each small usually full color volume was based on a visual theme, including American absurdist postcards, German political posters, French cigarette advertisements, vending machine cards, Soviet Posters, and Liebig’s Fleisch Extract advertising cards
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01.15.09: Mark Lamster

Master of Shadows: The Cover
Behold the cover for Master of Shadows, which releases this coming October.
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12.20.08: Mark Lamster

How the West Was Lost
My reviews of two new photography books.
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12.16.08: The Editors

Books Received: Winter 2009
The Design Observer Winter 2008 book list is here.
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10.15.08: Dmitri Siegel

Design by Numbers
Dmitri Siegel discusses Stephen Baker's new book The Numerati and how data-mining and personalized content may impact design.
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10.06.08: The Editors

Books Received: Holiday List 2008
The Design Observer holiday book list is here.
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09.15.08: The Editors

Books Received: Fall 2008

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09.15.08: Steven Heller

Breakdowns: A Review
Steven Heller reviews Art Spiegelman’s Breakdowns, his first anthology of autobiographical and experimental comics were originally published in 1978. Thirty years later, a new edition, Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist As A Young %@(#!, is finally out.
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09.12.08: Rob Walker

Shared Memories
Many of the images reproduced in Scrapbooks: An American History, by Jessica Helfand, date back 50, 80, even 100 years. Reproduced in color and spread across wide pages, the anonymous scrapbook creators could hardly have imagined such a fate for their work.
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08.19.08: Jessica Helfand

Biblionomatopoeia
What do you call book jacket design that manipulates the book jacket itself in an effort to illustrate the content of the book? Answer: biblionomatopoeia.
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06.30.08: The Editors

Books Received: Summer 2008
New books have been piling up here at Design Observer. We thought we'd share some of the many recently published titles we have received over the past couple of months...
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06.30.08: Becky Neiman

Taking Things Seriously XIII

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06.30.08: Paul Maliszewski

Taking Things Seriously XI

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06.16.08: The Editors

Books Received: Spring 2009
Design Observer Spring 2009 list of 50+ books received.
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06.02.08: Denise Gonzales Crisp, Rick Poynor

A Critical View of Graphic Design History
Now comes yet another historical survey, Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide by Johanna Drucker and Emily McVarish. Denise Gonzales Crisp and Rick Poynor have been marking pages, making notes and exchanging views...
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05.15.08: Rosamond W. Purcell

Taking Things Seriously XII

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05.03.08: Jessica Helfand

National Scrapbooking Day
"Scrapbooks (like these) remind us that creating an album from saved matter does not necessarily provide an accurate self-portrait..." An essay by Jessica Helfand from her new book on the occasion of National Scrapbooking Day.
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04.15.08: The Editors

The Next Page: Thirty Tables of Contents
Last year, on the occasion of "Next," the AIGA's Biennial National Design Conference in Denver, Design Observer published a little book, The Next Page: Thirty Tables of Contents. We are sharing it here as a slide show...
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04.14.08: Luc Sante

Taking Things Seriously X

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04.07.08: Lorraine Wild

100%
So, it’s 1966 and two guys are hanging around their Los Angeles apartment, musing about the sort of things that people mused about in the Sixties. The aesthetic philosophers in question were the artist Ed Ruscha and the artist/comedy writer/composer/performer Mason Williams...
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03.27.08: Joshua Glenn

Taking Things Seriously IX

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03.04.08: Steven Heller

Swastika Humor?
Trivializing the swastika is not a crime, but it can be dangerous, particularly since it continues to be used as a weapon of hate. Perhaps this book would have best been titled, “We Have Ways of Making You Wince.”
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01.06.08: Thomas Frank

Taking Things Seriously V

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12.31.07: Carol Hayes

Taking Things Seriously IV

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12.16.07: Adrian Shaughnessy

Graphic Editorship
Fuel's realization that they possessed the transferable skills and instincts to publish thought-provoking books with editorial depth, has allowed them to create a publishing venture that offers a fresh take on visual culture.
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12.13.07: Dmitri Siegel

Taking Things Seriously II

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12.13.07: William Drenttel

Taking Things Seriously I

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12.03.07: Jessica Helfand

Things, Part I
In an age characterized by elevated environmental awareness — reducing our carbon footprint, enhancing our sustainable output — we remain obsessed with our attachment to the material world.
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11.27.07: Tom Vanderbilt

Discipline and Design
On a sweeping and fully realized scale, Richard Ross's photographs probes the disciplinary dynamics in the cruel hidden places you would expect them, and in the banal everyday places you might not have even noticed them.
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09.26.07: Steven Heller

Decorative Books: The End of Print
Back in 1956, The Times promotion department provided a viable answer in the form of its 65 Ways to Decorate with Books in Your Home, a book/zine with a reasonable $1 cover price. Steven Heller looks here for answers to repurpose of these venerable materials into useful life-enhancing goods.
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08.09.07: Steven Heller

Confessions of a Book Catalog Reader
I read publishers' seasonal book catalogs the way some people go to the movies, in part to watch the trailers for coming attractions.
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07.30.07: Adrian Shaughnessy

Barnbrook Bible: A Graphic Autobiography
Jonathan Barnbrook's new book, Barnbrook Bible, ranks amongst the most ambitious personal projects undertaken by any graphic designer...
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07.03.07: William Drenttel

One Man's Literary Compass
It was in 1966 when I returned to San Francisco to re-establish The Greenwood Press. The first thing I did was to build these bookshelves with my young architect friends. These photographs by Dennis Letbetter, forty years later, have captured so beautifully the soul and spirit of Greenwood's library.
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06.13.07: Tom Vanderbilt

On the Squareness of Milk Containers
Do you know, or have you ever wanted to know, why milk containers are square and soft drink containers are round? This and other questions of design are answered in Robert Frank's new book The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas.
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05.04.07: Alice Twemlow

The Bandwidth of Books
Publishers are publishing artists' work and the research and ideas generated from thinking about art. They are passionate about their missions, mostly locally focused and non-commercial in attitude. The quality of their work is often very high; their books well conceived and produced, and innovatively designed. But the question is, who is reading them?
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02.08.07: William Drenttel

The Good Citizen's Alphabet
Bertrand Russell had the wisdom to realize that certain words require proper definition to be used correctly in political and social discourse. This alphabet book is offered here as a slide show for our readers.
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01.16.07: Michael Bierut

The It Factor
In their 1983 book Quintessence: The Quality of Having It, Owen Edwards and Betty Cornfeld created an elegant and influential treatise in what makes something the real thing, a lesson that Steve Jobs has obviously absorbed.
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01.13.07: Michael Erard

Word Made Flesh
The forgotten discipline of sentence diagramming forces the structure of language to wear the clothes of images. A sentence diagram is less a map than a portrait, and in this vaudeville language is painted, corsetted and trussed.
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01.05.07: William Drenttel

Diversity as Form: The Yale Architecture Posters
Since 1998, Michael Bierut has worked with Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, designing more than 40 posters. Mohawk Fine Papers has published a book celebrating this collaboration: Forty Posters for the Yale School of Architecture.
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12.20.06: Michael Bierut

Now You See It
There was a message hidden in the illustration on the cover of the New York Times Book Review a few weeks ago. At least I think it was hidden. Did you see it? Why didn't I?
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12.11.06: Michael Bierut

The Graphic Glass Ceiling
A week ago, I was the moderator of a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y with Milton Glaser, Chip Kidd and Dave Eggers. Afterwards, someone asked, "Why do you — all three of you — suppose there are so few female graphic designers — or at least so few female 'superstar' graphic designers?" There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. What would your answer be?
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11.14.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Listomania
The English design group Spin has produced a publication called 50 Reading Lists, which allows the reader the double pleasure of admiring the handsome presentation of 50 lists, as well as the chance to study the reading habits of 50 graphic designers.
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09.24.06: Michael Bierut

The Golden Age of American Commercialism
The encroachment of commercialism into everyday life seems like a peculiarly modern phenomenon. Yet around one hundred years ago, America began a romance with salesmanship that today seems almost delirious. A 1922 business directory shows how great crass commercialism used to look.
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08.23.06: Michael Bierut

Helmut Krone, Period.
One of the greatest designers that ever lived was an advertising art director: Doyle Dane Bernbach's Helmut Krone. A new book celebrates his life and work.
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07.28.06: Jessica Helfand

A Good Pan Is Hard To Find
On baking a cheesecake and becoming a better designer: it's one big balancing act of artistry and skill.
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05.18.06: Julie Lasky

The Photography of Mark Robbins
Mark Robbins' Households is a collection of portraits in which the sitters are sometimes sitting rooms (or kitchens or bedrooms), and the people are polished, draped, and arrayed like furniture. Composed to resemble architectural plans or elevations — or in some cases the triptychs of medieval altarpieces — the images represent home dwellers and their environments. Flesh, bone, brick, stone, contoured torsos, and varnished chairs assume equal status. The message is simple: You may not be what you eat, but you most certainly are where you live.
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04.24.06: Willis Regier

In Remembrance of Richard Eckersley
Richard Eckersley died on April 16, having given the best years of his life to establishing the importance of high-quality book design for university presses. Here, a remembrance by Willis Regier, director of the University of Illinois Press.
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01.19.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Robert Brownjohn and The Big Idea

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12.29.05: Michael Bierut

The Unbearable Lightness of Fred Marcellino
Remembering Fred Marcellino, the designer and illustrator who dominated the look of quality fiction dustjackets in the 1980s.
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12.11.05: Dmitri Siegel

Bartleby™
In his classic story of Wall Street, Bartleby the Scrivener, Herman Melville recounts the tale of a humble copyist employed by the story's narrator. Could Bartleby's perfectly crafted refrain be the appropriate response to a world where every choice and configuration has been designed?
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11.17.05: William Drenttel

David Hughes: Caricaturist of Our Time
But my favorite, in recent years, is the British illustrator David Hughes. I yearn for his drawings, look for them in my favorite publications, and save them whenever and wherever I find them.
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07.22.05: Michael Bierut

Credit Line Goes Here
Design is essentially a collaborative enterprise. That makes assigning credit for the products of our work a complicated issue.
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07.14.05: Michael Bierut

Rick Valicenti: This Time It's Personal
In his newly-published monograph Emotion as Promotion: A Book of Thirst, Rick Valicenti provides a glimpse into a designer's life that is at once accessibly seductive and brazenly idiosyncratic.
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07.01.05: Rick Poynor

We Are All Editors Now. Or Are We?
Many designers aspire to be editors. But being an editor is not simply about choosing some things you like and throwing them together. Editing is about deep engagement with content and the construction of meaning.
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06.28.05: Michael Bierut

The Obvious, Shunned by So Many, Is Successfully Avoided Once Again
Does anyone devote as much energy to avoiding simple, sensible solutions as the modern graphic designer? Publications of designers' own work demonstrate what effort they go through to needlessly complicate what might be simple solutions.
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06.03.05: Rick Poynor

Mevis and Van Deursen: Rueful Recollections, Recycled Design
In their self-edited monograph, Dutch graphic designers Mevis and Van Deursen turn their backs on their professed commitment to ideas and treat the book mainly as an opportunity for undemanding aesthetic play.
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05.20.05: Rick Poynor

But Darling of Course it's Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve
There have been collections of post-punk music and now, finally, there is British music critic Simon Reynolds' 500-page history of the genre from 1978 to 1984. It's a brilliant book. He argues that post-punk music's explosion of creativity equals the golden age of popular music in the mid-1960s, but that it has never received its full due. I think he's right.
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05.07.05: Lorraine Wild

A Design Annual Captures 1968
The title on the cover of the booklet is "Business as Usual" subtitled "Fourteenth Annual Type Directors Show—Typography Wherever It Exists"... On every spread of the book there are lovely pieces of typography, things most any of us would have been proud to have created, and then an image as brutal as a slap on the face. It was 1968.
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04.05.05: Rick Poynor

Wisconsin Death Trip: A Psychic History
Michael Lesy’s book Wisconsin Death Trip documented awful events in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, using a town photographer’s pictures. Years later, it remains a spellbinding piece of literary and photographic alchemy.
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03.10.05: William Drenttel

Moving the Axum Obelisk
In the mid-1990s, I saw an exhibition at the New York Public Library of the greatest illustrated books of the 19th century. One book stood out for me: a massive tome by Henry H. Gorringe, titled Egyptian Obelisks and dated 1882. It's in my design collection because of a dubious memory that it's the first book to document a from-start-to-finish design process. Of course, the process it documents is how one moves an obelisk.
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02.04.05: William Drenttel

Chris Marker: La Jetée
For years, I've owned a copy of La Jetée, a book about the film by Chris Marker, the experimental filmmaker. Designed by Bruce Mau and published by MIT Press/Zone Books in 1993, this is one of those design books that has ascended into the realm of rare bookdom...
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02.03.05: Michael Bierut

The Comfort of Style
The design process at the World Trade Center site has attracted enormous interest on one hand, and marginalized the role of designers on the other, as described in Philip Nobel's book Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero.
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01.19.05: Michael Bierut

The Best Artist in the World
Alton Tobey, a little-known commercial illustrator, created a body of work in the early sixties that continues to inspire.
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12.29.04: William Drenttel

In Remembrance of Susan Sontag
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag: a designer's twenty-five years of interaction with the legandary writer.
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11.11.04: Rick Poynor

Who's In and Who's Out of the Dictionary
A Dictionary of Modern Design gives exemplary treatment to industrial designers, furniture designers, and the organisations that served them. Once again, though, graphic design emerges as the also-ran of design.
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10.25.04: William Drenttel

On Making Things

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07.31.04: Rick Poynor

Britain and America: United in Idiocy
What do Brits and Americans think of each other? In Us & Them, a book by the satirical British illustrator Paul Davis, the two countries have one thing in common: they are both equally stupid. That’s not saying much.
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07.25.04: Michael Bierut

The Bodoni Conspiracy
Eerie parallels between the cover designs of the reports of the 9/11 Commission and the Monicagate investigator Kenneth Starr suggest a conspiracy that can be traced back to sixteenth-century type designer Giambattista Bodoni.
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05.29.04: Michael Bierut

McSweeney's No. 13 and the Revenge of the Nerds
McSweeney's No. 13, published by Dave Eggers and guest edited by Chris Ware, is a masterwork of publication design and an invaluable survey of today's best comic artists and graphic novelists.
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04.22.04: Michael Bierut

Catharsis, Salesmanship, and the Limits of Empire
Nozone #9: Empire and a new promotional campaign for the radio station Air America demonstrate alternate ways that graphic design can engage political issues and their audiences.
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04.10.04: William Drenttel

El Lissitzky for Pesach

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03.19.04: Michael Bierut

The Book (Cover) That Changed My Life
The deceptively simple 1960s paperback cover of J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" is redolent of a very specific time and place to readers who discovered the book then.
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02.02.04: Michael Bierut

Rob Roy Kelly's Old, Weird America
The late educator and designer Rob Roy Kelly has had a lasting influence on the profession of graphic design, particularly through his landmark book "American Wood Type."
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01.05.04: William Drenttel

Adolf Wölfli Invents Design Brut?
Mr. Gomez has taken your basic 19th-century-madman-artist and turned him into a model 20th century graphic designer.
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12.07.03: William Drenttel

Shallow Water Dictionary
A couple of years ago I stumbled across a little out-of-print tract called the Shallow Water Dictionary: A Grounding in Estuary English by John R. Stilgoe, a professor of landscape architecture at Harvard.
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11.02.03: Rick Poynor

It's a Man's World
Adam Parfrey’s book shows hundreds of men’s magazine covers from the 1950s painted by artists who specialized in depictions of tough guys abusing terrified women. Have we outgrown this kind of thing? Heck no.
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09.22.03: William Drenttel

VAS: An Opera in Flatland
VAS: An Opera in Flatland is the first full-length novel by Steve Tomasula and Stephen Farrell.
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09.02.03: William Drenttel

Paul Rand: Bibliography as Biography
This is bibliography as biography, and a posthumous testament to the considerable scope — and ongoing life — of one designer's mind. A Selected Bibliography of Books from the Collection of Paul Rand
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