Books

Self-Reliance

Self-Reliance

Emerson’s text is widely available to read online, but this new Volume edition—produced with Design Observer—elevates his wisdom through the printed word. With twelve essays from Jessica Helfand’s Self-Reliance Project: pledge now and order your copy today!




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


Design, as a professional field, feels broken to some practitioners. A new book, What Design Can’t Do: Essays on Design and Delusion by Lisbon-based designer and writer Silvio Lorusso, offers sanctuary. “What was once a promising field rooted in problem-solving has become a problem in itself,” he writes. “The skill set of designers appears shaky and insubstantial – their expertise is received with indifference, their know-how is trivialised by online services…If you see yourself as a designer without qualities; if you feel cheated, disappointed or betrayed by design, this book is for you.”

Designers are podcasting now! (We know, we know.)

Is it a car? Is it an art installation? Behold solar designer Marjan van Aubel's genre-bending sculptural interpretation of the Lexus Future Zero-emission Catalyst (LF-ZC) concept car.

Art Basel Miami Beach: ain’t nothing but a party

Mice, evidently, are now self-aware. (Which may explain why none are running for U.S. president.)

Leading us ever closer to a landfill-free circular economy, designers are turning to waste as an increasingly flexible material. Using fruit peel, orange seeds, and coffee ground waste collected from businesses in Italy, Krill, a Milan-based design firm, creates products that can be redistributed to the same businesses for use in their offices, instead of furniture made from common plastics. They've created (and patented) a plastic-like biomaterial they call Rekrill: it's fully organic, biodegradable, and can be used over and over again. (Spoiler: it's also expensive.)

Volkswagen, Volvo, Chrysler, BMW, Porsche, Bugatti, Audi, Ford, Kia, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz all have male design heads, yet women buy more than 60 percent of all new cars sold in the Unted States. Will the rise in the design and production change all that? Debatable.

How Samuel Ross thinks about the design of a park bench as an opportunity to “house” the body.

Did you know that the humble graham cracker was once a symbol of dietary restraint? That chewing gum was once a substitute for rubber? That away from the bar cart, brandy has been used as a cardiac catalyst and a sedative? Design (and intentionality) in food and flavor profiles: a compendium!

The entirety of Logan Airport's candy apple red Terminal E was designed around the concept of efficiency, for travelers and airport workers alike. A curvy structure boasting floor to ceiling windows, ultra-high ceilings, and literally no right angles in sight, Spanish architect Luis Vidal has introduced an iconic structure painted a prismatic red and clad in more than 52,000 square feet of something called photovoltaic glass. (Which, as it turns out, generates its own electricity.) Internal innovations include a sensory room, a space for anxious fliers or neurodivergent travelers who might need a visual and auditory respite from a bustling terminal. “Airports are the cathedrals of the 21st century,” observes the architect. “They serve as the main gateway of countries, requiring a bold presence to leave a positive and lasting impression on the traveler. They must be design-focused because ultimately, everything in a well-designed airport revolves around the freedom of the passenger.”

Through December 16, The Italian Cultural Institute in Lima, Peru is exhibiting a series of posters designed by graphic designers and artists between 1923 and 2022, which collectively tell the story of the 23 editions of the Triennale Milano International Exhibition to date. (You can explore the posters online here.)

Nigerian designer Nifemi Marcus-Bello is an empath, an optimist, and an (aptly) self-described archivist. In addition to his own robust and increasingly global practice, his personal research project (entitled Africa – A Designer)  will be exhibited in Europe next summer. The project looks to document and archive unauthorized Indigenous designed objects that have found their way into our daily lives. 

Long-time Design Observer contributor (and self-professed "student of mall history") Alexandra Lange reviews The Well, a mixed-use space in Toronto. “The result,” Lange observes, “is a bit like adaptive reuse gone Vegas: bigger, smoother, and more mechanically “different” from building to building than a neighborhood that has grown organically.”

An overwhelming amount of media is disproportionately owned by a uniform, wealthy class of global industrialists. Which makes Nukhu—a model and forum for community minded cinema, based in New York—an etraordinary thing to behold. Founded in 2016 by Sanjay Singh, Nukhu's mission empowers independent BIPOC artists and in so doing, nurtures an enlightened artistic community. In an industry where financial backing and recognition remain formidable challenges for independent filmmakers, Nukhu emerges as a beacon of hope and empowerment, standing at the forefront of a movement dedicated to facilitating opportunities and reshaping the narrative for independent artists. (Read more about their Nukhu-powered celebration—called Nukhufest—here.)

Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) is a global coalition of nonprofits, tech companies, and universities working to make meaningful climate action faster and easier by independently tracking greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, harnessing satellite imagery and other forms of remote sensing, artificial intelligence, and data science expertise to identify human-caused GHG emissions when and where they happen. The website is fast, responsive and frankly, brilliant.

Also in Miami this week, the Japanese female wrestling league Sukeban will be taking over Miami’s Lot 11 Skatepark for one night only to crown its first-ever World Champion. (Stream it here.) In Japanese, Sukeban translates as “delinquent girl,” a nod to the female equivalent of the male banchō in Japanese culture. According to Olympia Le-Tan, a fashion designer and the league’s creative director, the importance of projecting each wrestler’s personality and character through their costume was crucial. (Don't miss the belts.)

Remember Tilly Talbot—billed as the world's first AI designer? She was first announced by our friends at Dezeen last spring, made an appearance at Milan Design Week and beginning today, is “in residence” at The Standard in Miami, for Miami Art Week. Tilly—a bot—was invented by Snoop Studio founder Amanda Talbot after “pondering the relationship between AI and human loneliness, programming her under the studio’s principles of human-centered design that prioritizes nature.” Adds the human Talbot: ”Tilly will challenge you on materials." 

Seventh-generation Diné (Navajo) designer, textile artist, and weaver (and according to her Instagram, part time skater and model) Naiomi Glasses is the inaugural artist in residence … at Ralph Lauren.

The 22nd annual ArtReview 100 is here — click through for an eclectic and inspiring array of artists, many of whom use their platforms to speak truth to power. Photographer Nan Goldin tops the list; her most recent work has been dedicated to exposing the art world’s complicity in the opioid epidemic by accepting money from the Sackler family.  

Love Odih Kumuyi offers an excellent blueprint for designing meetings for inclusion and innovation. It’s all about the psychological safety. “Based on current dynamics or past experiences, individuals have a generalized sense of whether their voices will be received with respect or silenced and dismissed. Leaders asking for individuals to vulnerably share ideas must carefully curate an environment where the rules of engagement are in alignment with principles of psychological safety.” 

The controversial president of the COP28 climate summit, Sultan Al Jaber, does not seem to be on board with fossil fuel targets. “[P]lease, help me, show me a roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuels that will allow for sustainable socio-economic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves,” he said at last month's She Changes Climate summit. 

London-based designer Brendan Callaghan obscures typography through a series of imagined destinations in his project, Untold Roads—an exquisite site for adventurers—or, frankly, for anyone who appreciates a beautifully articulated demonstration of what happens when form reinforces content. See the case study here.

In Boston, Northeastern University is looking for a full-time Professor in Design, Civic/Social Values and Democracy. Details here.

Minnesota flag finalists' entries into a statewide competition all reflect common themes and elements: all of them have a star, a nod to the state's motto "L'Etoile du Nord," and some shade of blue (for the land of 10,000 lakes). FairVote Minnesota—an organization which advocates for implementing ranked choice voting—conducted the election, and more than 12,000 people cast their vote. Here's the winner.

The first graphic appeared on a Kansas plate in 1942, with sunflowers on the lower left and right sides. Since then it's been a wild ride. (If you're late to the Plategate party, here's a primer.)

“This is her fifth long-form visual project,”writes Wesley Morris in his review of Renaissance, Beyoncé’s newest movie, out now in theatres. “We’re now talking about an auteur.” Morris doesn’t stop there. “Simply at the presentation level, coherence and visual imagination are in the house.” Observes Vanderbilt Professor Michael Eric Dyson—who calls Beyoncé a process theologian—"her secular sites have offered spiritual nourishment, providing a venue for uplifting holy praise in thanks for the vibrant variety of life."

Did you know that the Institute for Scrap Recycling sponsors a design award? And that it has done so for more than three decades? Friends, you have until February 12 to submit your game-changing ideas. Get cracking.

Legendary architect William McDonough—who was one of the first proponents of “circular” design—thinks we’re talking about the issue all wrong. And on that same topic, this year's Business of Design summit brings together policymakers, business executives, and creative leaders to identify critical challenges, innovative ideas, and smart design processes driving circular design. (More here.)

Thanks to a number of new collective projects in Paris, Ukrainian design is becoming a fully-fledged part of the global creative industry.

This just in from the Department of Dystopian Prognostications! A new AI tool— called COLE, named in honor of Henry Cole (the creator of the first graphical Christmas card in 1843) lets you type in a graphic design project idea and have an AI generate not only the image, but the text to support it baked in. 



Jobs | December 08