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


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 | March 23

Designer Paw Poulsen turns celebrities such as Bill Gates and Elton John into typefaces. [BV]

In the room where Mailer and Talese and Capote got drunk, about a dozen people — mostly women — vie to become the next editor of The Paris Review. (via Arts and Letters Daily) [BV]

Observed | March 22

Fancy furniture out of garbage. [MPL]

Phew! Robots won‘t steal our jobs, yet. [MPL]

Observed | March 20

Secret symbols in paintings. [MPL]

Space station outta control. And falling. [MPL]

Observed | March 19

We are all “curators” now. Is it simply a vain attempt to sprinkle fairy dust over something quite ordinary? [BV]

How do you boycott a building? Our Jessica Helfand has a suggestion. [BV]

Observed | March 16

The Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic images from down under. A new book reports on the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the resident arts companies, rock musicians, and chefs influencing the building’s evolution. [BV]

What are you doing this weekend? The future of leisure. [BV]

Observed | March 15

The dying electric guitar: What the decline of Gibson and Fender tells us about music. [MPL]

Machines are getting better at literary analysis. [MPL]

Observed | March 14

Women designers on Instagram: From architects to color specialists, Curbed has selected 30 accounts to follow. [BV]

The MIT 24-hour challenge: Honor a design legend with a gift to the MIT press. [BV]

Rare and familiar colors. [MPL]

Observed | March 13

The rise of ‘cynical’ packaging? [JH]

A coffee lid pub crawl. [JH]

New Mexico’s chile pepper design claims the 2017 license plate crown. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]

Observed | March 12

What single image represents the entire human race? The story behind the image on the “human” entry on Wikipedia. [BV]

Rizzoli‘s book on the life and work of midcentury children‘s book creator Miroslav Sasek. [MPL]

Observed | March 09

Science as a visual pursuit. [JH]

Observed | March 08

The Danish Design Center recently surveyed 800 Danish companies and nearly 75 percent said that the use of design in their company has a positive impact on their bottom line. [JH]

Overlooked obituaries of famous women. [JH]

Observed | March 06

The best things found between the pages of old books. [BV]

Observed | March 05

When successful design is not beautiful. [JH]

In Singapore: Fortune, Time, and Wallpaper jointly host a conference on design and business. [JH]

In Sydney: crime storytelling expert Peter Doyle tells the story of a mysterious serial attacker in his new mini-documentary, Slasher Patrol. [JH]

Observed | March 02

Frank Lloyd Wright is not God: Moving into an American architectural masterpiece is not for the fainthearted. [BV]

October 18, 1973: Sotheby‘s auction. The moment “when the art world collapsed.” [BV]

Observed | February 28

Two years after “the Great Instagram Logo Freakout,” it turns out that everything is fine. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]

Jobs | March 24