Debbie Millman
Gretchen Rubin
The Editors
50 Books | 50 Covers Winners Announced
Rick Poynor
The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
Debbie Millman
Design Matters from the Archive: Ben Schott
Jessica Helfand
On Memory

Pictures do not only speak louder than words but also are more likely to be remembered.

Debbie Millman
Lisa Congdon

On this episode Debbie talks with artist and writer Lisa Congdon about how she sometimes felt like an imposter.

Adam Harrison Levy
Pop Art Is … Interviews with Andy Warhol
Véronique Vienne
The Invention of Desire

What’s Bad about Good Design

Debbie Millman
Caroline Paul

Debbie talks to writer Caroline Paul about her death-defying adventures, and how girls must learn the difference between fear and exhilaration.

Rick Poynor
Stephen Bayley: Death Drive

Style, money, class, glamour, sex, and the car crash

Jez Owen
Open the book, Hal
Adrian Shaughnessy
Statement and Counter-Statement
Rick Poynor
Exposure: Chimpanzee by James Mollison

Looking into the face of an ape

John Foster
Fusing Cultures
Adrian Shaughnessy
Survey says … !

What’s the difference between UK and US designers?

Adrian Shaughnessy
Books. Still not dead.
John Foster
The Observer Decameron—Tenth Day

Favorite books of 2015 from our contributors

Bonnie Siegler
The Observer Decameron—Ninth Day
Rick Poynor
Exposure: Oildale by Rudy VanderLans

The dismal beauty of an oil field

Rick Poynor
The Observer Decameron—Eighth Day

The top ten books of 2015 picked by our contributors

Adam Harrison Levy
The Observer Decameron—Seventh Day
Blake Eskin
The Observer Decameron—Sixth Day
Adrian Shaughnessy
The Observer Decameron—Fifth Day
Eugenia Bell
The Observer Decameron—Fourth Day
Debbie Millman
Eli Horowitz

Debbie talks to editor and digital novelist Eli Horowitz about the virtues of collaboration + more

Jessica Helfand
The Observer Decameron—Second Day

The top ten books of 2015 picked by our contributors

Michael Bierut
The Observer Decameron—First Day

The top ten books of 2015 from Design Observer contributors

Timothy Young
Books of Accidents
Jessica Helfand
Out of Bounds

Charles Saatchi still trying to shock, leaves something to be desired in his new book

Rick Poynor
Exposure: Suburban House at Night by Todd Hido

The pleasure in not knowing

Debbie Millman
Scott Clemons

Debbie talks to Scott Clemons about one of the great printers and designers of all time.

Rick Poynor
Exposure: Man with a Bandaged Head

The aftermath of extreme weather

Rick Poynor
Exposure: Morandi’s Objects by Joel Meyerowitz

The sublime in ordinary things

Rick Poynor
Exposure: American Hermit by Alec Soth
Rick Poynor
Exposure: Crashed Car by Arnold Odermatt

Fast and Furious: a retrofit

Rick Poynor
Exposure: Beauty Salon in Kraków by David Hlynsky
Debbie Millman
Design Matters From the Archive: Chip Kidd
Debbie Millman
Design Matters from the Archive: Peter Mendelsund
Debbie Millman
Design Matters From The Archive: Caroline Paul + Wendy MacNaughton

Debbie talks to illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and author Caroline Paul about their unusually intimate collaboration on a book.

Adam Harrison Levy
Lost Tribes

A journey that resulted in one of the most evocative travel books ever written, In Patagonia.

The Editors
Judging 50 Books | 50 Covers
The Editors
50 Books | 50 Covers Winners Announced


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Bookstore in Barcelona by Gabriel Casas
Rick Poynor
Exposure: Kuwait, 1991 by Sophie Ristelhueber

The scars of a desert war

Rick Poynor
Exposure: The Eiffel Tower by Germaine Krull
Debbie Millman
Design Matters From The Archive: James Victore

Debbie Millman and James Victore discusses his book, putting his opinion in the work and the difference between God-jobs and money jobs.

Rick Poynor
Exposure: Salvation Army Barracks by Jack London
Timothy Young
Insect Men

The Art of Pochoir and the two Messieurs Séguy

Debbie Millman
Chris Ware
Adam Harrison Levy
Death’s Bloom

From 1913 to 1971, 5,121 mentally ill patients were cremated. Nineteen of them were soldiers. This weekend they were buried with military honors.

John Foster
Deft doodling

The inner life of illustrators

Wim Crouwel + Jan van Toorn
The Debate, Part 4
Virginia Shou
Thesis Book Story: Virginia Shou
Rick Poynor
Exposure: Pages from Fabrik by Jak Tuggener

The dark undercurrents of industry

Debbie Millman
Virginia Postrel

Debbie Millman talks to Virginia Postrel about the power of glamorous objects and glamorous people.

Rick Poynor
Exposure: Head below Wires by Roger Ballen
Debbie Millman
Elle Luna
Sheena Calvert
Thesis Book Story: Sheena Calvert
Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Inside the Lines
Rick Poynor
Exposure: Rue du Temple, Paris by Gail Albert Halaban

The lure of a lighted window

Debbie Millman
Steven Heller
The Editors
Observer Editions: The Book Made Visual
Michael Bierut, Jessica Helfand
The Observatory: Land, Rand, Mad Men
Debbie Millman
Louise Sandhaus

On this episode of Design Matters, Debbie Millman speaks with Louise Sandhaus about her macrobiotic past, her new book, and her struggles to get it published.

Debbie Millman
Jessica Walsh + Timothy Goodman
Timothy Young
Whither the Codex
Jessica Helfand
License to Risk: The Square Revisited
Bonnie Siegler
Distressed in Dix Hills

Style comes naturally

Rick Poynor
Exposure: Berlin scene by Wolfgang Zurborn
Rick Poynor
Exposure: Mother and Child by Philip Jones Griffiths

The gendered power relations of war

The Editors
50 Books | 50 Covers: Call For Entries

Enter a book for consideration into 50 Books | 50 Covers.

Rick Poynor
Illustrations by Bohumil Štěpán for Crazy Fairy Tales
The Editors

"Bap, barm, or cob?"

Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
The Observatory: Epidemics and Theater
The Editors
Erik Spiekermann: Left with no alternative
Debbie Millman
Fritz Karch

On this episode of Design Matters, Debbie Millman talks to Fritz Karch on being a stylist for Martha Stewart, owning an antique shop, and what it means to be a collector.

Debbie Millman
Ben Schott
The Editors
50 Books/50 Covers 2013 Winners Announced

2013's submissions ranged from the conventional to the radical.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Literary Alchemy and Graphic Design

Should graphic designers take a lead from Joycean lyricism?

Jessica Helfand
La Grafica

Typography is, of course, her lingua franca:  and who better than to write this book than Louise Fili?

Rick Poynor
Tracking the Locations of J.G. Ballard’s Super-Cannes

A photo-essay on the futuristic marina and business park in the south of France that inspired Ballard’s disquieting fantasy about corporate crime

Alan Thomas
Lee Friedlander’s Mirror in the Road
Rob Walker
Assignments for Yourself

A designer's book of self-assignments prompts us to learn by going "beyond what is asked" in our workaday professional lives.

John Foster
Book Review: The True Gospel Preached Here

Margaret’s Grocery: part grocery, part church. And the subject of a new photo documentary book.

Michael Bierut
Thoughts on “Thoughts on Design”
Rick Poynor
The Mysteries of France:
A Gothic Guidebook
John Bertram
These Events Did Not Occur in Black and White
Rick Poynor
The Body as Factory: Anatomy of an Image

Peeling back the skin of a New Scientist cover illustration by Nichola Bruce and Michael Coulson.

Rick Poynor
Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Typewriter

Typewriters are making a comeback and, as a wide-ranging new survey book shows, so is typewriter art.

Debbie Millman
Dani Shapiro
Adam Harrison Levy
The Oldest Living Things In the World
Owen Edwards
Rizzoli Erased

Owen Edwards remembers the elegant old Art Nouveau building that housed the Rizzoli bookstore, just what a bookstore ought to be.

Debbie Millman
Rachel Sussman
Manuela Aguirre
Design for Care
Debbie Millman
Maria Giudice

Maria Giudice talks with Debbie Milliman about the early days of design on the internet, and what it's like to work for Facebook.

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.

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”.


In Deventer, the Netherlands, a routine real estate deal and demolition became the site of innovation and new intelligence in urban design.

A Love Letter to the City

In 1999, Stephen Powers stopped writing graffiti and dedicated himself to being a full-time artist.

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.

Designed by: Lella Vignelli

To celebrate 50 years of their partnership, Massimo Vignelli published a book of the work of his partner and wife, Lella.

Rick Poynor
Why Tatlin Can Never Go Home Again
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?

These Collages Blur the Lines of Reality
Alexandra Lange
Playing With Design: Fredun Shapur
Gideon Amichay
No, No, No, No, No, Yes
3D Book Cover

Helen Yentus, the art director of Riverhead Books, designed a 3D book jacket for Chang-rae Lee’s new novel, On Such a Full Sea.

Recent Books Received: 01.03.14

Collaborative Media: Production, Consumption, and Design Interventions by Jonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer; The Petropolis of Tomorrow by Neeraj Bhatia and Mary Casper; Oitoemponto: Architecture & Intérieurs by Marie Vendittelli; After You Left / They Took it Apart: Demolished Paul Rudolph Homes by Chris Mottalini; Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation edited by Alexander Eisenschmidt with Jonathan Mekinda

Rick Poynor
Martin Sharp: People, Politics and Pop
Alexandra Lange
Year of the Women
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.

The Editors
50 Books/50 Covers: Call For Entries

Enter a book for consideration into 50 Books/50 Covers.

Recent Books Received: 12.17.13

Why Photography Matters by Jerry L. Thompson; The Houses of Louis Kahn by George H. Marcus and William Whitaker; Common Pavilions: The National Pavilions in the Giardini of the Venice Biennale in Essays and Photographs edited by Diener & Diener Architects and Gabriele Basilico; Archidoodle: The Architect’s Activity Book by Steve Bowkett; Sustainable Urban Metabolism by Paulo Ferrão and John E. Fernández

Maria Giudice + Christopher Ireland
Rise of the DEO
Warren Lehrer
The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley

An excerpt and slideshow from Warren Lehrer’s A Life in Books.

Debbie Millman
Terry Teachout

Terry Teachout discusses the early days of blogging, the poetics of theater and what it's like to be a drama critic for The Wall Street Journal.

New Items in the Design Observer Store

New products listed in the Design Observer store.

Rick Poynor
Collage Culture: Nostalgia and Critique

An interview with David Banash, author of Collage Culture: Readymades, Meaning, and the Age of Consumption.

Recent Books Received: 11.07.13

Five Conversations on Graphic Design and Creative Writing, Maura Frana, Leigh Mignogna, Liz Seibert; A Logo for London, David Lawrence; Logo Creed: The Mystery, Magic, and Method Behind Designing Great Logos, Bill Gardner and Catharine Fishel; ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Surprising Book about Color, Jude Stewart; The Purpose Economy: Lessons from the Front Lines of the New Economy, Aaron Hurst

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.

Debbie Millman
Sheila Bridges

Debbie Millman talks to interior designer Sheila Bridges about being one of the only prominent African Americans in her industry, about losing her hair and having Bill Clinton as a client.

John Thackara
Designing In A Complex World: Two Talks In Mexico City

Two upcoming talks from John Thackara in Mexico City.

Recent Books Received: 10.24.13

Design for Information by Isabel Meirelles; A Life In Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley by Warren Lehrer; A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps by Chris West; The Generosity Network: New Transformational Tools for Successful Fund-Raising by Jeff Walker and Jennifer McCrea; Postage Stamps by AIGA Medalists by Michael Russem

Jez Owen
Branding Terror

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

Debbie Millman
Chip Kidd

Legendary book designer Chip Kidd on why his TED talk was the 19 most frightening minutes of his life.

Debbie Millman
Card Shark (a Poem)

A visual poem from Debbie Millman's new book Self Portrait as Your Traitor.

Rick Poynor
New York: City of Spectacular Doors
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.

Recent Books Received: 09.26.13

Murals of New York City: The Best of New York's Public Paintings from Bemelmans to Parrish by Glenn Palmer-Smith, Joshua McHugh and Graydon Carter; EP Volume 1/ The Italian Avant-Garde 1968-1976 Edited by Alex Coles, Catharine Rossi; Shiro Kuramata by Deyan Sudjic; Space & Psyche by Elizabeth Danze, Stephen Sonnenberg, Editors; Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Rick Poynor
Bohumil Stepan’s Family Album of Oddities
John Thackara
Ways of Knowing

John Thackara's contrubution to the book Gallery of the Senses, that explores the ways we expereince the contemporary world through sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

Rick Poynor
Bohumil Stepan’s Gallery of Erotic Humor
John Thackara
Speed? What Speed? The Falcon, by Sebastian Trapp

Field biologist Sebastian Trapp on Frederic the Second's book, On the Art of Hunting with Birds.

Karen Green
Bough Down

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

Recent Books Received: 08.29.13

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas; The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley; Build Your Own Brand: Strategies, Prompts and Exercises for Marketing Yourself by Robin Landa; Rotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine by Roger Martin and Karen Christensen;  Why We Fail: Learning from Experience Design Failures by Victor Lombardi

A Nearly Perfect Book

The poetry critic, the publisher, and the art of bookmaking in a digital era.

John Thackara
Connecting With The Other
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.

Rick Poynor
Collage Now, Part 2: Cut and Paste Culture
Recent Books Received: 08.22.13

Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography by David S. Shields; Multiple Signatures: On Designers, Authors, Readers and Users by Michael Rock; Adhocism: The Case for Improvisation by Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver; Recalculating by Charles Bernstein; Memory Place by Hari Kunzru

Rick Poynor
Keld Helmer-Petersen: Pioneer of Color

An accessible edition of Keld Helmer-Petersen’s 122 Colour Photographs, a landmark 1948 photobook.

John Bertram
Lolita — The Story of a Cover Girl
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.

Recent Books Received: 08.08.13

Koloman Moser: Designing Modern Vienna 1897-1907 by Christian Witt-Dorring; Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia by Anthony Townsend; Design: The Groundbreaking Moments by Nina Kozel; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by Norman Foster and Edward R. Bosley; Willis Faber & Dumas by Norman Foster and Kenneth Powell

Rob Walker
Looking Better, All The Time
Debbie Millman
Hartmut Esslinger
Recent Books Received: 07.24.13

Architects from A to Z by Paul Cattermole and Simon Forty; Peter Kluska: Landscape Architecture by Peter Kluska; The Designer as: Author, Producer, Activist, Entrepeneur, Curator, and Collaborator: New Models for Communicating by Steven Mccarthy; American Architecture and Urbanism by Vincent Scully; The Shape of. Things. that. Work: The Fourth Architect by Curtis B. Waybe

Alexandra Lange
Nevermind the Masterpiece

What's your "Masterpiece of Everyday New York"? A broken umbrella? A shirtwaist? Discarded gum?

A Book for Two
Debbie Millman
Jean-Louis Cohen

Jean-Louis Cohen reveals a Le Corbusier who was not only a great architect, but also a savvy promoter of his own ideas and work.

John Foster
The Voynich Manuscript
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.

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.

Debbie Millman
Michael Rock

Michael Rock about self-hatred in design, the benefits of being an outsider, and his new book.

Special Summer Series of Design Matters with Debbie Millman

The special series will include interviews with Michael Rock, Jean-Louis Cohen, Brenda Danilowitz and Phillip Tiongson, Harmut Essinger and Leon Krier.

Alexandra Lange
An ABC of the ABCs
Michael Bierut
50 Books/50 Covers 2012 Winners Announced

Continuing a tradition that dates back to 1922, we are pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Fifty Books/Fifty Covers show.

Flowering Pages

A little-known but remarkable collection of treasures from The Garden Club of America illustrates the activities of the premier American gardening association over the course of a century.

Rob Walker
The Mighty Shirt Kings

Back in the 1980s, a group of artists calling themselves The Mighty Shirt Kings set up shop at the Jamaica Coliseum, in Queens, offering “custom air-brushed and original artwork,” which could be had on canvas, but also pants, jackets, and of course T-shirts. They are the subject of a new book: The Shirt Kings.

Recent Books Received: 05.30.13

Punk: Chaos to Couture by Andrew Bolton and Richard Hell; Alone in the Forest, by Gita Wolf and Andrea Anastasio; Illustrated by Bhajju Shyam; Facts are Sacred by Simon Rogers; The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle; The Artful Recluse: Painting, Poetry, and Politics in 17th-Century China edited by Peter C. Sturman and Susan S. Tai

The Olympic City, Documenting The Remains

Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit visted former Olympic host cities all over the world, documenting what remains — and what does not.

Alexandra Lange
The Fork and the World: Design 101

If you had to explain design to the uninitiated, where would you start?

Recent Books Received: 05.23.13

Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs by Larry Keeley and Helen Walters; Close-Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics by Laura Kurgan; Interviewing Users by Steve Portigal; Things Come Apart: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living by Todd McLellan; The Essential Robert Indiana by Martin Krause and John Wilmerding

Kit Hinrichs + Delphine Hirasuna
The Alphabet Card
Rick Poynor
The Age of Wire and String Rebooted
Recent Books Received: 05.09.13

Vernier: Fashion, Femininity and Form by Robin Muir and Becky Conekin; Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums by Mabel O. Wilson; Maynard L. Parker: Modern Photography and the American Dream, Jennifer A. Watts, Editor; Meme Wars by Kalle Lasn and Adbusters; Designing the Creative Child: Playthings and Places in Midcentury Americaby Amy F. Ogata

Recent Books Received: 05.02.13

Souvenir Nation by William L. Bird Jr., Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects by Jeanne Gang and Zoë Ryan, Editors, The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science by Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, Matt Lamothe, John Heartfield and the Agitated Image by Andrés Mario Zervigón, The Address Book by Sophie Calle

Book Trade Labels

Book trade labels are advertising artifacts from booksellers, binders, printers, publishers, importers, and distributors of books.

Rick Poynor
On the Trail of The Eater of Darkness
Recent Books Received: 04.25.13

Curiosity and Method: Ten Years of Cabinet Magazine; Norman Bel Geddes Designs America by Donald Albrecht: The Complete Engraver: Monograms, Crests, Ciphers, Seals, and The Etiquette of Social Stationary by Nancy Sharon Collins; Sky High by Germano Zullo; Brooklyn Makers: Food, Design, Craft and Other Scenes from the Tactile Life by Jennifer Causey

Awful Library Books

Awful Library Books is a collection of amusing and/or questionable library holdings found in real libraries and curated by librarians Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner.

Recent Books Received: 04.18.13

Between Page and Screen by Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse; Design for Emotion by Trevor van Gorp and Edie Adams; Material Manifestations by Rensselaer Architecture, Shaker Museum Mt. Lebanon; A Topology of Everyday Constellatons by Georges Teyssot; An Intellectual's Visual Miscellany by Daniel P. Murphy, PhD

Rob Walker
Cover Story
Recent Books Received: 04.11.13

Various writer's Eye On A Century; I Used To Be A Design Student by Frank Philippin and Billy Kiosoglou; Work For Money, Design For Love by David Airey; See What I Mean : How to Use Comics to Communicate Ideas by Kevin Cheng; Content Everywhere by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Czech Book Covers of the 1920's and 30's

The Smithsonian has an engaging collection of Czech avant-garde book cover designs from the 1920s and 30s.

Classic Albums Reimagined as Books

Christophe Gowans re-imagines well-known album covers as book jackets.

Recent Books Received: 03.26.13

"Dialog" : What Makes a Great Partnership, Philosophy of Design, The Cinema of Me, Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli's Field and Ken Garland: Structure and Substance

Philip Nobel
Oops: Understanding Failure

A review of To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure, by Henry Petroski.

Debbie Millman
Steven Heller

Steven Heller discusses his new ebook, Design Cult, and reflects on what designers have in common with Harvey Weinstein.

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.

John Foster
The Proper Art of Writing in 1655

Accidental Mysteries for March 03, 2013 focuses on the proper art of writing in 1655.

Chris Calori
Six Feet Under: Mapping Tangled Transit Networks
Rick Poynor
The Experiential Thrill of Driving in Films
Alexandra Lange
Why Bernadette Fox Is Scary
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.”

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.

Alexandra Lange
Balthazar Korab, RIP
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.

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.

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Happy Holidays from Robert Frost

A brief history of the collaboration between Robert Frost and Joseph Blumenthal as well as many top woodcut and engraving artists of the day.

Alexandra Lange
Dot Supreme

On the enduring power of the simplest shape, from corporations to children’s books.

Debbie Millman
Chris Ware

In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, Chris Ware discusses his influences – including sending a Valentine to Charlie Brown – and explains why empathy figures so heavily into his work.

Louise Sandhaus
Merle Armitage: Daddy of a Sunbaked Modernism

Louise Sandhaus's profile of book designer Merle Armitage.


Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun from Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen features 350 pages of projects, games, and information for kids aged 8-13, and their parents.

Alexandra Lange
Having Fun at the Museum

Blocks, rocket ships, playgrounds and balls: the hidden meaning of playthings at the Museum of Modern Art.

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.

Alexandra Lange
Just Keep Typing
Uncreative Writing

Rob Walker recommends Kenneth Goldsmith's "Uncreative Writing".

Louise Fili
A Life in Letters

An excerpt from Louise Fili's Elegantissima.

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries

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.

Rick Poynor
The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter

Clutter and design are inseparable as concepts because clutter is the negation of design.

Alexandra Lange
Critics Critical Criticism

Meta-criticism all over the blogosphere (but why only about books?)

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: André Breton’s Nadja
Rob Walker
High Caliber Expression
Swimming Studies

Leanne Shapton is known for her work as a writer and illustrator, but it turns out that her new book, Swimming Studies, is animated by her abilities as an athlete.

Merce Cunningham: The App

Aperture's Merce Cunningham: 65 Years is a monograph in the form of a dynamic and interactive iPad app.

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.

The Editors
50 Books/50 Covers Competition: Enter Today

Since 1924, the 50 Books/50 Covers book design competition has been a yearly mainstay of the AIGA. We are pleased to announce that this important design competition is now being hosted by Design Observer. Enter today.

Rick Poynor
What Does Critical Writing Look Like?
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.

Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy

Rob Walker recommendeds Dave Hickey's "Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy".

Alexandra Lange
Introducing Strelka Press
Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: A History of the Machine
Rob Walker
Managing Digital Durability
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?

A Pattern Language

Alexandra Lange reviews A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander.

Jessica Helfand, and OBlog
Page One: Great Expectations

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?

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.

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.

John Thackara
It’s Not Just The Bags
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.

Rick Poynor
The Evil Genius of David Shrigley
Debbie Millman
Malcolm Gladwell

A live episode of Design Matters with Debbie Millman withe special guest Malcolm Gladwell.

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.

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?

Michael Erard
Imaging the Brain

Using geographical visuals to understand the brain.

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.

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Jean-Luc Godard Anthologized
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.

Debbie Millman
Peter Mendelsund

In this podcast interview with Debbie Millman, Peter Mendelsund discusses how he became a book designer and his fear of the Kindle and iPad.

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.

Alexandra Lange
Cooking with the Eameses

A new book chronicles one family's life with nine pieces of Eames.

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.

Rick Poynor
Literary Horror from the Chapman Brothers
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?

Alexandra Lange
Lessons from the High Line
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.

Alexandra Lange
Thinking in Tumblr

Don't write a book, make a Tumblr.

Rick Poynor
A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice
Rick Poynor
Chris Foss and the Technological Sublime
William Drenttel, and Jessica Helfand
Late Summer Reading

In the late summer, we share a reading list first published in Frieze magazine, April 2011.

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.

Alexandra Lange
Up From Zero, the Novel

A post-9/11 fiction scooped by reality.

Ricky Jay
Celebrations of Curious Characters: Dickens the Magician

A selection of recorded broadcasts read and authored by Ricky Jay — brought to you along with the visual catalyst that inspired its tale. The last of four installments.

Ricky Jay
Celebrations of Curious Characters: Taking it on the Chin

A recorded broadcast read and authored by Ricky Jay — along with the visual catalyst that inspired its tale. The third of four installments.

Alexandra Lange
Reading in Public
Mark Lamster
An Interview with Laurence King

Mark Lamster interviews Laurence King, the publisher.

Ricky Jay
Celebrations of Curious Characters: Twins

Design Observer is pleased to share a selection of recorded broadcasts, all read and authored by Ricky Jay — brought to you along with the visual catalyst that inspired its tale. This is the second of four installments.

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.

Ricky Jay
Celebrations of Curious Characters: Calculations

A recorded broadcast read and authored by Ricky Jay — brought to you along with the visual catalyst that inspired its tale. First of four installments.

Rick Poynor
Andrzej Klimowski: Transmitting the Image
Alexandra Lange
Jane Austen, Landscape Architect
Alexandra Lange
Making Dieter Rams
Rick Poynor
The Dictionary as Art Concept
Alexandra Lange
Welcome to the Hall of Femmes

How should we celebrate women in design, past, present, future?

Rick Poynor
Speculative Fiction, Speculative Design
Julie Lasky
Between Two Convex Mirrors: A Conversation with Tomi Ungerer

Interview with illustrator and book artist Tomi Ungerer.

Alexandra Lange
Jane Austen, Architect?

Why is Austen next to Ballard on the Designers & Books lists?

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?

Jez Owen
Behind the Zines

A review of the book Behind the Zines: Self-Publishing Culture published by Gestalten.

Steven Heller, and Louise Fili
For the Love of Scripts
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.

Rick Poynor
Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?
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.

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.

Rick Poynor
Unearthly Powers: Surrealism and SF

Richard Powers, auteur of the paperback cover, was a key figure linking science fiction and Surrealism.

Rick Poynor
Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read
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.

Ernest Beck
Hard Times for Hard Copy

Why AIGA almost scuttled its most venerable design competition: 50 Books/50 Cover.

Alexandra Lange
Muddying the Waters
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.

Alan Thomas
Calcutta: Bookland

Alan Thomas, at the Kolkata Book Fair.

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.

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.

John Thackara
Images de Pensée
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…

Julie Lasky
Alex Steffen: Worldchanging II

Interview with Alex Steffen on the new edition of his book Worldchanging

Debbie Millman
Alina Wheeler

Philadelphia-based designer Alina Wheeler discusses branding, strategic imagination and her new book, Brand Atlas, co-authored with Joel Katz.

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Richard Neville’s Playpower
Meena Kadri

Yoza stories are directed to African youth who are book-poor yet mobile-rich.

John Thackara
Ultra Modern
Rick Poynor
What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like?
Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Nairn’s London

Inside the architecture critic Ian Nairn’s classic, idiosyncratic guide to London’s buildings and spaces.

Jessica Helfand
Certificate of Approval

Jessica Helfand writes about her favorite piece of design.

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.

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?

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).

John Thackara
Plan B "Best Architecture Book of the Year" in the Netherlands
Rick Poynor
Surrealism in the Pre-School Years
Alexandra Lange
Shopping D/R at Etsy
Rick Poynor
W.G. Sebald: Writing with Pictures
Mark Lamster
British Incursion

Stirling, Foster, and a new association with the Architectural Review.

Alexandra Lange
Throw Pillows As Character
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.

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.

The Editors
Holiday Books 2010

Recommended books by Design Observer writers for the 2009 holiday season.

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.

Rick Poynor
What Does H. P. Lovecraft Look Like?
Mark Lamster
Boom Goes Pop

Mark Lamster reviews Irma Boom's book, Irma Boom — Biography in Books.

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation
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.

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".

John Thackara
Leave Nothing But Footsteps

“Take nothing but memories” Kalack concludes “and leave nothing but footsteps”.

Jessica Helfand, and Marian Bantjes
The Bantjes Covers

Marian Bantjes exposes the long process that led to the cover of her new monograph, I Wonder.

John Thackara
From Easter Island to Three Mile Island
Leonard Koren
Which “Aesthetics” Do You Mean?

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

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.

Alexandra Lange
This is A Thrill...

Design Research reviewed in the New York Times.

Debbie Millman
Stephen Doyle

In this podcast interview with Debbie Millman, Stephen Doyle discusses working for Tibor Kalman, renting his soul to the devil and working with his hands.

Luc Sante
Circus: The Photographs of Frederick W. Glasier

Rediscovered: Frederick W. Glasier. Glasier made extraordinary photographs of the American circus during its heyday.

Joshua Glenn
The "X" Factor

A slideshow features fifteen of Joshua Glenn's favorite Cold War-era "X" paperbacks.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jessica Helfand
Happy Birthday, Steven Heller

A tribute to Steven Heller on his Birthday!

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.

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.

Mark Lamster
BEA 2010: A Recap

The future of the book was, as per usual these days, on the minds of publishers and retailers.

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.

Alexandra Lange
It Was All Yellow

Buying In, author Rob Walker avoids talking about the aesthetics of the Livestrong bracelet.
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.

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.
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.

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.
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.
Mark Lamster
Writer's Voice

My interview with Francesca Rheannon of NPR's Writer's Voice is now online.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Steven Heller
Harsh Words from T.M. Cleland

Design criticism may be comparatively new, but critical designers are not.

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.

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.

Martha Scotford
Ulysses: Fast Track to 1934 Best Seller

The first United States publishing of James Joyce's Ulysses.

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.

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.

Alexandra Lange

My last post about D/R before the book comes out next September.

The Editors
Holiday Books 2009
Mark Lamster
The Big Stage

'll be giving a talk on Rubens and his diplomatic career at the Ringling Museum's extraordinary Asolo Theater.

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.

Alexandra Cardia
From Cabinet: Jacket Required

In April 2009, one of the earliest known dust jackets was found at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.

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.

Felice C. Frankel, and George M. Whitesides
No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale

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

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.

John Gall
The Nabokov Collection
Alexandra Lange
D/R Love

There is much online excitement about the D/R exhibition, opening tomorrow.

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.

Mark Lamster
Good Morning Cleveland!

I'll be on drive-time radio tomorrow morning in Cleveland.

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.

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.

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.

Alexandra Lange
Love Among the Figurines

I finally got my hands on Important Artifacts by Leanne Shapton.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jane Margolies
Pig 05049

Report on Pig 05049, a book cataloging all of the products made from a single pig, which won the 2009 INDEX award in the Playful Learning category

John Emerson
Pressed into Service

Interview with Lincoln Cushing, co-author of Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters.

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

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.

Mark Lamster
Master of Shadows: The Jacket

The design for the Master of Shadows cover is quite handsome.

Alexandra Lange
Shelf Life

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

Michael Erard
A Short Manifesto on the Future of Attention

Maybe we should be considering a dilemma of a human nature: the future of attention.

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.

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.

Kurt Andersen, Julie Lasky, and Douglas Rushkoff
Kurt Andersen and Douglas Rushkoff: Part II

Kurt Andersen and Douglas Rushkoff continue their discussion of the future in light of the current economic calamity.

Julie Lasky, Douglas Rushkoff, and Kurt Andersen
Kurt Andersen and Douglas Rushkoff: Part I

Kurt Andersen and Douglas Rushkoff discuss the future in light of the current economic calamity.

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.

Ars Libri Ltd
Hungarian Rhapsody

This collection is the record of the immensely productive life of György Kepes.

Ars Libri Ltd
Writing & Calligraphy

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

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.
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.

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, 

Alexandra Lange
Nostalgia Trip

I can't resist reading Colm Tóbín's new novel called Brooklyn.

Alexandra Lange
In Spite of Myself

I loved the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace for their message of feminism, love, and class.

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.

Ars Libri Ltd
Paul Schuitema Collection

This remarkable collection of graphic design is from the Dutch designer Paul Schuitema.

Mark Lamster

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.

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.

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.

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

The Editors
Books Received: July 2009

The Design Observer Fall book list is here.

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.

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.

Debbie Millman
Dave Eggers

McSweeney’s Founder Dave Eggars is also the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, You Shall Know Our Velocity! and What Is The What.

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?

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.

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.

The Editors
Books Received: Summer 2009

The Design Observer Summer book list is here.

Debbie Millman
Dan Pink

Dan Pink is an entrepreneur, speaker and the author of three groundbreaking books on the changing dimensions of the workplace. 

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.

Franz Wright
"Visiting the Library in a Strange City"

A poem by Franz Wright.

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.

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.

Mark Lamster
Save the Library Redux

Could it be that the sour economy is the best friend of the good old library?

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."

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.

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.

Debbie Millman
Steve Heller + Lita Talerico

Debbie Millman interviews Lita Talarico and Steven Heller, co-founders of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts.

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

Debbie Millman
Neville Brody

An interview with former Face Magazine art director Neville Brody who has been at the forefront of design for more than two decades.

Mark Lamster
Master of Shadows: The Cover

Behold the cover for Master of Shadows, which releases this coming October.

Mark Lamster
How the West Was Lost

My reviews of two new photography books.

The Editors
Books Received: Winter 2009

The Design Observer Winter 2008 book list is here.

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.

The Editors
Books Received: Holiday List 2008

The Design Observer holiday book list is here.

The Editors
Books Received: Fall 2008

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.

Michael Bierut
David Foster Wallace, Branding Theorist, 1962-2008

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.

Jessica Helfand

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.

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...

Becky Neiman
Taking Things Seriously XIII

Paul Maliszewski
Taking Things Seriously XI

The Editors
Books Received: Spring 2009

Design Observer Spring 2009 list of 50+ books received.

Denise Gonzales Crisp, and 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...

Rosamond W. Purcell
Taking Things Seriously XII

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.

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...

Luc Sante
Taking Things Seriously X

Lorraine Wild

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...

Debbie Millman
Abbott Miller

An interview with Abbott Miller, Pentagram partner and an award-winning graphic designer and writer. Miller is also the art director of 2wice magazine.

Joshua Glenn
Taking Things Seriously IX

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.”

John Keen
Taking Things Seriously VIII

Chika Azuma
Chika Azuma: Taking Things Seriously VII

Debbie Millman
Kurt Andersen

Kurt Andersen is an award-winning journalist, author and host of the Peabody-winning public radio program, Studio 360.

Beth Daniels
Beth Daniels: Taking Things Seriously VI

Debbie Millman
Chip Kidd

Book designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd is also the author of several books including The Cheese Monkeys and The Learners: A Novel.

Thomas Frank
Taking Things Seriously V

Carol Hayes
Taking Things Seriously IV

Greg Klee
Taking Things Seriously III

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.

Dmitri Siegel
Taking Things Seriously II

William Drenttel
Taking Things Seriously I

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.

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.

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.

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.

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...

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.

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.

Debbie Millman
Jan Wilker + Hjalti Karlsson

Jan Wilker and Hjalti Karlsson are partners in karlssonwilker and the authors of Tell Me Why.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Debbie Millman
Seth Godin

Seth Godin is the author of Purple Cow and All Marketers Are Liars.

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.

Debbie Millman
Malcolm Gladwell + Joyce Gladwell

An interview with Malcolm Gladwell, author of The New York Times bestseller Outliers and Joyce Gladwell, author of Brown Face.

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?

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?

Adrian Shaughnessy

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

Debbie Millman
Steven Heller + Veronique Vienne

A conversation with writer Véronique Vienne, writer and prolific design historian Steven Heller.

Debbie Millman
Ellen Lupton

An interview with Ellen Lupton — writer, educator, designer and a Curator of Contemporary Design at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Robert Brownjohn and The Big Idea

Debbie Millman
Rick Valicenti

Rick Valicenti, founder of the Chicago design firm Thirst and author of the book Emotion As Promotion, talks to Debbie Millman.

Debbie Millman
Chip Kidd

On this episode of Design Matters with Debbie Millman, Debbie talks to Chip Kidd, award-winning book designer, musician and author.

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.

Dmitri Siegel

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?
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Debbie Millman
Steven Heller

Debbie Millman interviews Steven Heller — art director, educator and the author of more than 100 books on design, design history and contemporary culture.

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...

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.

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.

William Drenttel
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag

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

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.

William Drenttel
On Making Things

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.

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.

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.

William Drenttel
Learning from Las Vegas: The Book That (Still) Takes My Breath Away

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.

William Drenttel
El Lissitzky for Pesach

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.

William Drenttel
Defamiliarization: A Personal History

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."

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.

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.

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.

William Drenttel
VAS: An Opera in Flatland

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

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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