show

The Editors
50 Books/50 Covers 2013 Winners Announced
09.18.14

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

Adrian Shaughnessy
Literary Alchemy and Graphic Design
09.09.14

Should graphic designers take a lead from Joycean lyricism?

Jessica Helfand
La Grafica
09.03.14

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
09.02.14

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
08.26.14

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
Michael Bierut
Thoughts on “Thoughts on Design”
Rick Poynor
The Mysteries of France:
A Gothic Guidebook
07.28.14

Guide de la France mystérieuse, illustrated by Roman Cieslewicz, is a surreal beast of a travel book.

John Bertram
These Events Did Not Occur in Black and White
Rick Poynor
The Body as Factory: Anatomy of an Image
Rick Poynor
Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Typewriter
05.28.14

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

Debbie Millman
Dani Shapiro
05.26.14

On this episode of Design Matters with Debbie Millman, Debbie talks to writer Dani Shapiro about being raised an Orthodox Jew, about being vulnerable in her work, and about writing her way out of an existential crisis.

Adam Harrison Levy
The Oldest Living Things In the World
05.09.14

Climate change — once a distant fear — is already upon us, Rachel Sussman’s glorious, and vitally important book could not have come at a more crucial moment.

Owen Edwards
Rizzoli Erased
Debbie Millman
Rachel Sussman
05.05.14

Artist Rachel Sussman discusses her new book and explains what it was like to be abandoned without supplies — or a phone — in Greenland.  

Manuela Aguirre
Design for Care
Debbie Millman
Maria Giudice
04.21.14

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
04.08.14

“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
Observed
Deventer
03.24.14

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

Observed
A Love Letter to the City
03.24.14

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
Observed
Designed by: Lella Vignelli
03.20.14

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
02.04.14

Raoul Hausmann’s photomontage Tatlin at Home is much pinned on Pinterest, but what has become of the original?

Tarpley Hitt
Speaking Typography: Letter as Image as Sound
01.16.14

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?

Observed
These Collages Blur the Lines of Reality
Alexandra Lange
Playing With Design: Fredun Shapur
01.14.14

Add Fredun Shapur to the pantheon of modern designers making winning and sculptural objects for children.

Gideon Amichay
No, No, No, No, No, Yes
01.10.14

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

Observed
3D Book Cover
01.09.14

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.

Observed
Recent Books Received: 01.03.14
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
12.29.13

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
12.20.13

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

Observed
Recent Books Received: 12.17.13
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
12.11.13

An excerpt from the book Rise of the DEO by Maria Giudice & Christopher Ireland.

Warren Lehrer
The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley
Debbie Millman
Terry Teachout
Observed
New Items in the Design Observer Store
11.22.13

New products listed in the Design Observer store.

Rick Poynor
Collage Culture: Nostalgia and Critique
11.11.13

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

Observed
Recent Books Received: 11.07.13
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?
10.30.13

The foul-ups or “Belgian solutions” in a new book of street photographs are simply the way things are.

Debbie Millman
Sheila Bridges
10.28.13

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
10.25.13

Two upcoming talks from John Thackara in Mexico City.

Observed
Recent Books Received: 10.24.13
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
Debbie Millman
Chip Kidd
10.21.13

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)
10.16.13

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

Rick Poynor
New York: City of Spectacular Doors
10.10.13

For six years, Allan Markman crisscrossed New York taking pictures of remarkable doors for a new book.

Alexandra Lange
Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Freelancer
10.03.13

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.

Observed
Recent Books Received: 09.26.13
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
09.13.13

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
09.07.13

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.

John Thackara
Speed? What Speed? The Falcon, by Sebastian Trapp
09.05.13

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

Karen Green
Bough Down
09.05.13

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

Observed
Recent Books Received: 08.29.13
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

Observed
A Nearly Perfect Book
08.27.13

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

John Thackara
Connecting With The Other
08.26.13

A review of Empreintes, by Céline Boyer

Rick Poynor
Collage Now, Part 1: Sergei Sviatchenko
Rick Poynor
Collage Now, Part 2: Cut and Paste Culture
08.22.13

Cut-and-paste culture is booming and collage-making is rampant: paper-based, digital, and all points between.

Observed
Recent Books Received: 08.22.13
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
John Bertram
Lolita — The Story of a Cover Girl
08.14.13

Excerpt from Lolita — The Story of a Cover Girl.

Rick Poynor
David Maisel and the Apocalyptic Sublime
08.09.13

David Maisel’s photographs are visions of the Earth as we have never seen it full of beauty and terror.

Observed
Recent Books Received: 08.08.13
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
07.29.13

Frog design co-founder Hartmut Esslinger talks about working for Steve Jobs in the early days of Apple.

Observed
Recent Books Received: 07.24.13
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
07.23.13

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

Observed
A Book for Two
07.16.13

A new design for a shared reading experience from designer Soofiya Chaudry.

Debbie Millman
Jean-Louis Cohen
07.15.13

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
07.14.13

Accidental Mysteries for July 14, 2013 focuses on the rare and undecipherable Voynich manuscript.

Martha Scotford
Ernst Reichl: Wide Awake Typographer
Alexandra Lange
How To Unforget
Debbie Millman
Michael Rock
07.08.13

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

Observed
Special Summer Series of Design Matters with Debbie Millman
07.03.13

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
07.01.13

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

Michael Bierut
50 Books/50 Covers 2012 Winners Announced
06.26.13

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

Observed
Flowering Pages
06.19.13

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
06.11.13

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.

Observed
Recent Books Received: 05.30.13
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

Observed
The Olympic City, Documenting The Remains
05.30.13

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
05.28.13

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

Observed
Recent Books Received: 05.23.13
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
05.14.13

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

Rick Poynor
The Age of Wire and String Rebooted
Observed
Recent Books Received: 05.09.13
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

Observed
Recent Books Received: 05.02.13
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

Observed
Book Trade Labels
04.29.13

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
04.27.13

The Eater of Darkness is a collision of science fiction, murder mystery, Surrealism and experimental typography.

Observed
Recent Books Received: 04.25.13
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

Observed
Awful Library Books
04.22.13

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.

Observed
Recent Books Received: 04.18.13
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
04.15.13

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

Observed
Recent Books Received: 04.11.13
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

Observed
Czech Book Covers of the 1920's and 30's
04.09.13

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

Observed
Classic Albums Reimagined as Books
03.26.13

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

Observed
Recent Books Received: 03.26.13
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
03.12.13

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

Debbie Millman
Steven Heller
03.08.13

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
John Foster
The Proper Art of Writing in 1655
Chris Calori
Six Feet Under: Mapping Tangled Transit Networks
02.26.13

A review of Underground Maps Unraveled: Explorations in Information Design by Maxwell J. Roberts.

Rick Poynor
The Experiential Thrill of Driving in Films
Alexandra Lange
Why Bernadette Fox Is Scary
02.04.13

The heroine of Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an award-winning female architect. Don’t envy her life.

Rick Poynor
Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers
Adam Harrison Levy
Dylan Stone: 100 Years
Alexandra Lange
Balthazar Korab, RIP
01.21.13

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

Rick Poynor
Socialism and Modernity: A Hidden History
Alexandra Lange
Kicked A Building Lately?
01.08.13

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
01.06.13

Manly Palmer Hall's 1928 encyclopedic work — The Secret Teachings of All Ages — earned him worldwide acclaim led to a lifetime of lectures, awards and recognition. 

Observed
Happy Holidays from Robert Frost
12.17.12

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
Debbie Millman
Chris Ware
10.19.12

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
10.19.12

Louise Sandhaus's profile of book designer Merle Armitage.

Observed
Unbored
10.16.12

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.

Rick Poynor
The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
Alexandra Lange
Having Fun at the Museum
Rick Poynor
The Museum of Communicating Objects
10.05.12

Orhan Pamuk’s The Innocence of Objects is an illuminating guide to his Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.

Alexandra Lange
Just Keep Typing
Observed
Uncreative Writing
09.11.12

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

Louise Fili
A Life in Letters
09.05.12

An excerpt from Louise Fili's Elegantissima.

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.

Rick Poynor
The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter
08.26.12

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

Alexandra Lange
Critics Critical Criticism
08.21.12

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
08.16.12

Reading Richard Ford's response to a critic (by shooting her book) as an expressive act.

Observed
Swimming Studies
08.15.12

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.

Observed
Merce Cunningham: The App
08.13.12

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
The Editors
50 Books/50 Covers Competition: Enter Today
07.15.12

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
Observed
Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy
06.14.12

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
06.07.12

Erik Nitsche’s New Illustrated Library of Science and Invention is a landmark of modern, low-cost, mass-market, educational book design.

Rob Walker
Managing Digital Durability
05.14.12

Learning to manage the disconcerting durability of digital objects.

Alexandra Lange
The Mother of Us All
05.11.12

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?

Observed
A Pattern Language
05.10.12

Alexandra Lange reviews A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander.

Jessica Helfand, and OBlog
Page One: Great Expectations
05.07.12


Rick Poynor
The Closed Shop of Design Academia
04.13.12

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
03.26.12

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
03.23.12

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
02.08.12

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
01.31.12

British artist David Shrigley, subject of a major exhibition in London, is forever tempting and testing the viewer.

Debbie Millman
Malcolm Gladwell
01.27.12

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
01.23.12

Adam Harrison Levy reviews the book A History Of The World In 100 Objects.

Rick Poynor
Ernst Haas and the Color Underground
01.19.12

Has Ernst Haas, an early master of color photography, received the credit his ground-breaking pictures deserve?

Michael Erard
Imaging the Brain
01.16.12

Using geographical visuals to understand the brain.

Rick Poynor
Read All That? You Must be Kidding Me
Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Jean-Luc Godard Anthologized
Alexandra Lange
Girard the Magnificent
12.22.11

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
12.09.11

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
12.01.11

By copying Magritte’s subject matter and method, illustrators ended up making a great artist look hackneyed.

Alexandra Lange
Cooking with the Eameses
12.01.11

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

Rick Poynor
How to Cover an Impossible Book
11.25.11

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
11.10.11

British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman have created an image of sublime horror for the cover of Granta magazine.

Rick Poynor
This Post has Been Declared a Link-free Zone
11.03.11

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
Alexandra Lange
Thinking in Tumblr
09.13.11

Don't write a book, make a Tumblr.

Rick Poynor
A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice
09.09.11

The Reader, a recent book from Stockholm about critical practice, has some smart insights while missing the bigger picture.

Rick Poynor
Chris Foss and the Technological Sublime
William Drenttel, and Jessica Helfand
Late Summer Reading
08.26.11

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
08.25.11

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
Ricky Jay
Celebrations of Curious Characters: Dickens the Magician
08.19.11

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
08.12.11

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
08.09.11

Mark Lamster interviews Laurence King, the publisher.

Ricky Jay
Celebrations of Curious Characters: Twins
08.05.11

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
Ricky Jay
Celebrations of Curious Characters: Calculations
07.29.11

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
07.06.11

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?

Alexandra Lange
Welcome to the Hall of Femmes
Rick Poynor
Speculative Fiction, Speculative Design
Julie Lasky
Between Two Convex Mirrors: A Conversation with Tomi Ungerer
06.27.11

Interview with illustrator and book artist Tomi Ungerer.

Alexandra Lange
Jane Austen, Architect?
06.22.11

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

Rick Poynor
On the Threshold of Sebald’s Room
Jez Owen
Behind the Zines
06.20.11

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

Steven Heller, and Louise Fili
For the Love of Scripts
06.13.11

“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.
Matthew Stadler
Publication Studio: What’s It Like?
06.07.11

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
06.01.11

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
05.19.11

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
Rick Poynor
Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read
John Thackara
Open: A Survival Issue
Ernest Beck
Hard Times for Hard Copy
04.25.11

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

Alexandra Lange
Muddying the Waters
04.05.11

Explore New York's watery edges with the graduating class at D-Crit.

William Drenttel
Design of Crime, Evil and Death
Alan Thomas
Calcutta: Bookland
03.28.11

Alan Thomas, at the Kolkata Book Fair.

John Thackara
Collapse of Civilization Tango
03.22.11

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
03.18.11

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
03.09.11

Darwin, Freud, Descartes, Goethe, Klee, Beuys, Marinetti, Nabokov, among others, left behind these “images of thought.”

David Antin
Bomb Hanoi: The Andy Warhol Cover
03.07.11

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
03.02.11

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

Debbie Millman
Alina Wheeler
02.25.11

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
02.22.11

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
Jessica Helfand
Certificate of Approval
01.25.11

Jessica Helfand writes about her favorite piece of design.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Down in the Trenches with Kenneth FitzGerald
01.25.11

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
01.23.11

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?
01.17.11

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
12.30.10

A poet described postcards as a “Lilliputian hallucination of the world”: he must have seen the surreal babies.

Alexandra Lange
Shopping D/R at Etsy
12.22.10

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

Rick Poynor
W.G. Sebald: Writing with Pictures
Mark Lamster
British Incursion
12.15.10

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

Alexandra Lange
Throw Pillows As Character
Rick Poynor
The Impossibility of an Island
12.10.10

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
12.07.10

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
11.29.10

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

Edward Morris, and Dmitri Siegel
Destroy This Book
11.22.10

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?
11.11.10

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.

Mark Lamster
Boom Goes Pop
11.11.10

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

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation
11.05.10

This post is the first in an occasional series. The idea is to revisit a book from my bookshelf.

Rick Poynor
An App for the Self-Replacing Book
11.05.10

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
11.01.10

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
10.27.10

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

Jessica Helfand, and Marian Bantjes
The Bantjes Covers
10.25.10

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
10.25.10

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?

Leonard Koren
Which “Aesthetics” Do You Mean?
10.07.10

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
10.04.10

Michael Erard reviews the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.

Alexandra Lange
This is A Thrill...
09.29.10

Design Research reviewed in the New York Times.

Debbie Millman
Stephen Doyle
09.24.10

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
09.22.10

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

Joshua Glenn
The "X" Factor
09.20.10

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

Michael Bierut
James Victore: Straight Up
09.01.10

"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
07.25.10

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
07.23.10

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
07.20.10

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
07.10.10

Spain and Holland will re-enact the Eighty Years War in tomorrow's World Cup final.

Jessica Helfand
Happy Birthday, Steven Heller
07.07.10

A tribute to Steven Heller on his Birthday!

Alexandra Lange
Make Me A Mini Monograph
06.14.10

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
06.06.10

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
05.28.10

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
Alexandra Lange
It Was All Yellow
05.14.10

In 
Buying In, author Rob Walker avoids talking about the aesthetics of the Livestrong bracelet.
Steven Heller
Home Is the Sailor, Home from the Sea
04.27.10

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
04.15.10

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!
03.19.10

“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
03.08.10

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
03.03.10

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
03.02.10

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

Steven Heller
Becoming a Designer in the Age of Aquarius
02.23.10

On rereading S. Neil Fujita’s 1968 job manual, Aim for a Job in Graphic Design/Art.

Adam Harrison Levy
Death’s Bloom
02.23.10

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.

Alexandra Lange
Write What You Know
01.27.10

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
01.25.10

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?
12.19.09

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
12.19.09

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
12.14.09

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

Mark Lamster
Master of Shadows: A Telegraph Book of the Year
12.07.09

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
12.03.09

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
12.02.09

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

Mark Lamster
"Compelling" & "Important": The L.A. Times Praises Master of Shadows
12.01.09

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!
11.25.09

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
D/R on WGBH
11.19.09

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

The Editors
Holiday Books 2009
Mark Lamster
The Big Stage
11.11.09

'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"
11.11.09

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
11.04.09

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
11.03.09

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
11.03.09

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

Mark Lamster
The Shadow Master — Live on Halloween Eve
10.31.09

I'll be discussing the original Shadow Master, Peter Paul Rubens, on the John Batchelor Show.

John Gall
The Nabokov Collection
10.29.09

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.

Alexandra Lange
D/R Love
10.28.09

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

Mark Lamster
Half King Reading
10.27.09

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!
10.22.09

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

Mark Lamster
Master of Shadows: Reception
10.21.09

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
10.20.09

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
10.19.09

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
10.18.09

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

Mark Lamster
The Art of Diplomacy
10.10.09

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
10.02.09

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
09.25.09

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
09.24.09

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
09.21.09

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
09.13.09

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
09.09.09

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
09.03.09

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
08.23.09

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.

Mark Lamster
On "Master of Shadows"
08.22.09

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
08.19.09

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

Alexandra Lange
Shelf Life
08.16.09

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
08.12.09

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

Steven Heller
Covering the Good Books
08.11.09

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
08.10.09

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
08.04.09

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
07.29.09

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

Sebastian Carter
Jan Tschichold — Master Typographer
07.29.09

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
07.29.09

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

Ars Libri Ltd
Writing & Calligraphy
07.29.09

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

Steven Heller
A Good Trademark: A Historical Perspective
07.29.09

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
07.21.09

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
07.13.09

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
07.06.09

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

Alexandra Lange
In Spite of Myself
07.03.09

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

Mark Lamster
Really Great Gatsby
07.01.09

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
06.24.09

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

Mark Lamster
Lamsterdam
06.23.09

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
06.15.09

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
06.09.09

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
06.03.09

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
06.02.09

The Design Observer Fall book list is here.

Mark Lamster
BEA Report: 10 Fall Books (+1) for Your Library
05.30.09

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
05.28.09

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
05.22.09

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?
05.12.09

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
04.24.09

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
04.21.09

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
04.13.09

The Design Observer Summer book list is here.

Debbie Millman
Dan Pink
04.10.09

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
03.31.09

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"
03.17.09

A poem by Franz Wright.

Mark Lamster
Access Denied
03.17.09

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
03.12.09

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
03.05.09

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

Mark Lamster
After Peter Paul Rubens (Long After)
02.28.09

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
02.26.09

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
02.20.09

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
02.06.09

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
01.21.09

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
01.16.09

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
01.15.09

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

Mark Lamster
How the West Was Lost
12.20.08

My reviews of two new photography books.

The Editors
Books Received: Winter 2009
12.16.08

The Design Observer Winter 2008 book list is here.

Dmitri Siegel
Design by Numbers
10.15.08

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
10.06.08

The Design Observer holiday book list is here.

The Editors
Books Received: Fall 2008
09.15.08


Steven Heller
Breakdowns: A Review
09.15.08

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
09.14.08


Rob Walker
Shared Memories
09.12.08

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
Biblionomatopoeia
08.19.08

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
06.30.08

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
06.30.08


Paul Maliszewski
Taking Things Seriously XI
06.30.08


The Editors
Books Received: Spring 2009
06.16.08

Design Observer Spring 2009 list of 50+ books received.

Denise Gonzales Crisp, and Rick Poynor
A Critical View of Graphic Design History
06.02.08

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
05.15.08


Jessica Helfand
National Scrapbooking Day
05.03.08

"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
04.15.08

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
04.14.08


Lorraine Wild
100%
04.07.08

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
03.28.08

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
03.27.08


Steven Heller
Swastika Humor?
03.04.08

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
03.02.08


Chika Azuma
Chika Azuma: Taking Things Seriously VII
02.09.08


Debbie Millman
Kurt Andersen
02.01.08

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
01.19.08


Debbie Millman
Chip Kidd
01.18.08

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
01.06.08


Carol Hayes
Taking Things Seriously IV
12.31.07


Greg Klee
Taking Things Seriously III
12.25.07


Adrian Shaughnessy
Graphic Editorship
12.16.07

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
12.13.07


William Drenttel
Taking Things Seriously I
12.13.07


Jessica Helfand
Things, Part I
12.03.07

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
11.27.07

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
09.26.07

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
08.09.07

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
07.30.07

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
07.03.07

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
06.13.07

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
05.25.07

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

Alice Twemlow
The Bandwidth of Books
05.04.07

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
02.08.07

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
01.16.07

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
01.13.07

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
01.12.07

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

William Drenttel
Diversity as Form: The Yale Architecture Posters
01.05.07

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
01.05.07

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
12.20.06

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
12.11.06

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
Listomania
11.14.06

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
09.24.06

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.
08.23.06

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
07.28.06

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
05.18.06

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
04.24.06

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
04.07.06

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

Debbie Millman
Ellen Lupton
01.20.06

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
01.19.06


Debbie Millman
Rick Valicenti
01.13.06

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
01.06.06

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
12.29.05

Remembering Fred Marcellino, the designer and illustrator who dominated the look of quality fiction dustjackets in the 1980s.

Dmitri Siegel
Bartleby™
12.11.05

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
11.17.05

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
07.22.05

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
07.14.05

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?
07.01.05

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
06.28.05

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
06.03.05

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
05.20.05

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
05.07.05

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
04.05.05

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
03.10.05

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
03.04.05

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
02.04.05

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
02.03.05

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
01.19.05

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
12.29.04

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
11.11.04

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
10.25.04


Rick Poynor
Britain and America: United in Idiocy
07.31.04

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
07.25.04

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
05.29.04

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
05.05.04


Michael Bierut
Catharsis, Salesmanship, and the Limits of Empire
04.22.04

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
04.10.04


Michael Bierut
The Book (Cover) That Changed My Life
03.19.04

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
03.03.04


Michael Bierut
Rob Roy Kelly’s Old, Weird America
02.02.04

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?
01.05.04

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
12.07.03

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
11.02.03

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
09.22.03

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

William Drenttel
Paul Rand: Bibliography as Biography
09.02.03

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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