Books



Culture is Not Always Popular

Culture is Not Always Popular

Founded in 2003, Design Observer inscribes its mission on its homepage: Writings about Design and Culture. Since our inception, the site has consistently embraced a broader, more interdisciplinary, and circumspect view of design's value in the world―one not limited by materialism, trends, or the slipperiness of style. Fifteen years, 6,700 articles, 900 authors, and nearly 30,000 comments later, this book is a combination primer, celebration, survey, and salute to a certain moment in online culture.



Observer Quarterly

Observer Quarterly

In the winter of 2015, we launched a new publication called Observer Quarterly. The idea is for each themed issue to include original writing, interviews, and photography alongside archival material that draws a narrative between the history and current condition of new and underappreciated aspects of design culture. Our first issue—the Acoustic Issue—covered new ways of looking at sound as part of the design landscape. The second issue examined tagging as a social, cultural, and indexical practice. And our newest issue—following our conference, Taste, which took place in Los Angeles in the spring of 2016—looks at the multiple intersections between design and food.



Observer Quarterly

Design | The Invention of Desire

Advancing a conversation that is unfolding around the globe, Jessica Helfand offers an eye-opening look at how designed things make us feel as well as how—and why—they motivate our behavior.

More books by Jessica Helfand




How To

How to

How to, Michael Bierut’s first career retrospective, is a landmark work in the field. Featuring more than thirty-five of his projects, it reveals his philosophy of graphic design—how to use it to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry, and (every once in a while) change the world. Specially chosen to illustrate the breadth and reach of graphic design today, each entry demonstrates Bierut’s eclectic approach. In his entertaining voice, the artist walks us through each from start to finish, mixing historic images, preliminary drawings (including full-size reproductions of the notebooks he has maintained for more than thirty-five years), working models and rejected alternatives, as well as the finished work. Throughout, he provides insights into the creative process, his working life, his relationship with clients, and the struggles that any design professional faces in bringing innovative ideas to the world. Offering insight and inspiration for artists, designers, students, and anyone interested in how words, images, and ideas can be put together, How to provides insight to the design process of one of this century’s most renowned creative minds.

More books by Michael Bierut




5050

50 Books | 50 Covers Catalog

The ultimate “book of books” to catalog the 2015 winners of the 50 | 50 competition. Publisher, author, and previous 50 Books | 50 Covers recipient Dave Eggers introduces the book. Photographer George Baier IV, who has photographed countless authors and book jacket projects himself, has thoughtfully taken pictures of every book and cover winner. Mohawk generously donated the finest paper. Printed offset, locally, here in the United States. Copies no longer available.



Observer Quarterly

Massimo Vignelli: Collected Writings

Massimo Vignelli (1931–2014) was one of the most influential designers of the twentieth—and twenty-first—centuries. The work he and his wife Lella accomplished at Vignelli Associates is universally admired. While Massimo himself never wrote for Design Observer, he appeared throughout its pages in spirit and as an example for over ten years. This collection of writings about Vignelli from the Design Observer archives—interviews, memories, observations, and critiques—includes selections from the lively comments and discussions that appeared after the original publication of these pieces. Contributors include Michael Bierut, Jessica Helfand, Debbie Millman, and Alice Twemlow, among others. Get this book!



Persistence of Vision

Persistence of Vision: Collected Writings of William Drenttel

Designer and publisherWilliam Drenttel (1953–2013) was co-founder and editorial director of Design Observer. Since its inception in 2003, Drenttel contributed to Design Observer almost weekly on all manner of topics, from social change to democracy to his early career on Madison Avenue. We’ve collected two dozen essays—originally published on Design Observer—and an introduction by friend and former literary editor of the New Republic, Leon Wieseltier, and put them into print for the first time, including the lively comments and conversations that followed their original publication. Persistence of Vision is not only a tribute to a greatly missed design leader, but serves as an important addition to the design writing canon. Get this book!



Observed | April 24

American food is increasingly channeled through a handful of companies: Amazon, Walmart, FreshDirect, Blue Apron. What do we lose if traditional neighborhood supermarkets go under? Meet the man who’s going to save your neighborhood grocery store. [BV]

Timed to coincide with Easter, Earth Day and, for New Englanders, Patriot’s Day: two billboards outside of Boston. [BV]


Observed | April 23

Public Sans is a new typeface from the US Government. According to the General Services Administration, “sometimes you need [a typeface] that’s simple, neutral, and isn’t Helvetica.” Not sure we agree. [BV]


Observed | April 22

A brief memoir of growing up in the library. [BV]

Where can a teen get a poster in 2019? How does a teenager turn their bedroom into a shrine? A wonderful history of the poster and it’s meaning past, current, and future. [BV]

In honor of Earth Day, three galleries that remind us of the beauty and power of nature: the power of storms from Mitch Dobrowner, amazing landscapes from Leah Kennedy, and Earth from space by Astronaut Scott Kelly. [BV]


Observed | April 19

Spam musubi (a Hawaiian snack of canned meat served on rice and wrapped in nori) and other unintended consequences of cultural exchange. [BV]

Despite their seeming environmental unfriendliness, logos with factories and smokestacks have made a comeback in the US. [BV]


Observed | April 18

Post Typography created an unconventional participatory campaign to support the Baltimore Museum of Art‘s conversation series on art, race, social justice, and imagining the future(s) we want. [BV]

Where do you stand on the “Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale”? Why your brain hates slowpokes. [BV]


Observed | April 17

An in-depth look at how the Second World War warped the way United States mapped the world. [BV]


Observed | April 16

Joshua Dudley Greer logged 100,000 miles between 2011 and 2017, a period defined by the financial crisis and election, documenting what he saw along the U.S. Interstate Highway System. [BV]

Pete Buttigieg may be the first candidate to anticipate (and provide for!) graphic design considerations. [JH]


Observed | April 11

The toxic disinformation of social media has rendered traditional forms of humor—like satire—quaint and futile. [BV]

In a study of 26,000 people from over 100 countries, dark blue is the world’s most relaxing color, orange is the happiest, and pink is the sexiest. [BV]


Observed | April 10

Ever wondered what a black hole looks like? Scientists reveal the first picture of a black hole. [BV]

Business Insider wrote about a Twitter thread where the Vignelli Center, Michael Bierut, Jesse Reed, and Alexandra Lange chatted about the difficulty of identifying Helvetica. [BV]


Observed | April 09

Nikil Saval in The New Yorker on how “good design” failed us. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | April 05

Some Friday fun: “A log flume winds its way around a watery course and slowly climbs the lift hill. Reaching the top, it then hurtles down the slope...Splash!” But what if no one is riding? [BV]

The quest to acquire the oldest, most expensive book on the planet: unwrapping the most beautiful Gutenberg of them all. [BV]


Observed | April 04

“All submission to authority humiliates. All exercise of authority perverts.” Roger Perry‘s photos of London graffiti in a time of recession, poor housing, and urban decay. [BV]

Patagonia will no longer emblazon its products with other companies’ logos unless they commit to using their profits for the greater good. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | April 03

Lydian was created by designer and children’s book illustrator Warren Chappell in 1938, but didn’t really find its groove until after World War II when it was the font for Nancy Drew. [BV]

“When I visited for lunch, a few days ago, I found a tawny sea of tight jawlines and Goyard totes, women with blowouts as pristine as their natty Gucci loafers.” A delicious review by Helen Rosner of “the one place in Hudson Yards that feels like New York”. [MB]


Observed | April 02

The MITX DesignTech Summit is coming up next Wednesday, April 10th at the Innovation & Design Building in Boston. Join leaders from JPMorgan Chase, Automattic, Fidelity, athenahealth, Walmart & others as they discuss the business of design. (Check our twitter feed for a discount code.) [BV]

The New Yorker asked five designers, Na Kim, Alex Merto, Paul Sahre, Janet Hansen, and our very own Michael Bierut, to imagine a cover for the Mueller report when it‘s released as a book. [BV]


Observed | April 01

A young paleontologist may have discovered a record of the most significant event in the history of life on Earth: the day the dinosaurs died. [BV]

As we begin to judge the current 50 Covers entries, this collection of 100 brilliant rejected book covers caught our attention. [BV]


Observed | March 28

Hilma af Klint is celebrated as an inventor of abstract art. But she didn’t think of her work as abstract. [BV]


Observed | March 27

A new video about IDEO from Dress Code features over 30+ interviews and is a look behind the curtain at the global design firm, who for 40 years (and counting) has changed the way we think about design. [BV]



Jobs | April 25