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 | January 15

Scientists haven’t tamed volcanoes but it’s wild and fun to watch them try. [BV]

Visualizing the astonishing effects of the longest government shutdown in history in 8 charts. [BV]


Observed | January 14

I almost missed this lovely explainer by Estelle Caswell on how Coltrane constructed “Giant Steps” on the circle of fifths to create “the most feared song in jazz” (feat. a cameo appearance by L. Bernstein from his 1972 Norton Lectures at Harvard) [MB]


Observed | January 11

British artist Clive Head captures the often dizzying urban environment in his multilayered oil paintings that visualize movements through space and time. [BV]

A year of United States weather. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | January 10

#TBT: Separate areas with sofas, vanities, and even writing tables used to put the “rest” in women’s restrooms. Why were these spaces built, and why did they vanish? [BV]

#TBT: The foods of provincial New Jersey in vintage postcards. [BV]


Observed | January 09

Whose peace of mind benefits when we meditate at the art museum? [BV]

This artist is making massive mosaics from to anatomical medical illustrations, stone by stone. [BV]


Observed | January 08

Already dreaming of your next vacation? From Massachusetts to Tunisia, eight famous artists‘ favorite vacation spots. [BV]

Congo Tales: A new book and collaboration that offers an opportunity to grapple with what an ethical approach to storytelling might look like. [BV]

Shipping this month: A fanzine that visualizes the history of Fugazi through their own data, created by Carni Klirs. [BV]


Observed | January 07

The periodic table is 150 – but it could have looked very different. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]

Bunkitsu: the new bookstore in Tokyo that has a cover charge (h/t Joe Freedman) [BV]


Observed | January 03

#TBT: A gallery of posters designed for Braniff airlines. [BV]


Observed | December 27

#TBT: Videographer Guy Jones edited Lumière brother’s film footage from 1890’s Paris to explore some of the everyday thrills of late 19th-century life. [BV]


Observed | December 26

WOSU’s All Sides Weekend’s Clare Roth discusses art as self-expression and curative made during and after the Holocaust; Arthur Szyk with Steven Heller. [BV]

Ah, the shimmer of aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate (aka glitter). [BV]


Observed | December 20

The Shanghai Soup Dumpling Index is a scientific investigation into the quality of soup dumplings in Shanghai. It applies a quantitative framework to the existing qualitative descriptors of the Shanghai soup dumpling: thin skin, plentiful soup, abundant filling, fresh meat. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]

A Christmas #TBT: aluminum Christmas trees in mid-century photographs! (via John Foster) [BV]


Observed | December 19

News you can use: Nose-breathing boosts memory, study finds. So stop and smell the roses. [BV]

A household is a miniature ecosystem with inputs, outputs and flows: one that can, and should, be designed. [BV]


Observed | December 18

Check out these rather ordinary looking portraits. They’re all fake. They weren‘t Photoshopped, but rather completely generated by artificial intelligence. None of these people actually exist. (via Steven Heller) [BV]

The Portland Trail Blazers commission local artists to design posters for each of the team’s home games. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | December 17

The Lake Victoria Challenge wants to transform mobility in Africa’s Lake Victoria region using innovative drone design to connect 30 million people. [BV]


Observed | December 14

In 1976 John Foster bought fiberboard art boards for an art class he taught in a school in St. Louis. In 2018 he returned to the school to find the art boards still in use—a visual palimpsest of 40+ years of aspiring artists.
[BV]


Observed | December 13

The third edition of In Our Time: A Year of Architecture in a Day, The Met‘s take on the best architecture, art, technology, photography and design projects of the year will take place on 19th January, 2019. [BV]

#TBT: Spot the ashtray in these groovy pics of mid-sixties interior décor [BV]


Observed | December 12

Gossip,” the newest issue of AIGA Eye on Design magazine, gives us the inside scoop on all the need-to-know design deets of the past year—designer feuds, workplace woes, and more—and it’s out now. [LS]

On fifteen years of reading Design Observer and helping Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand make a new book. [BV]



Jobs | January 16