Steven Heller + Debbie Millman | Books

Holiday Book List: For the Inspiration-seeker and the Composed Creative

You spend enough time in front of a computer, so with the holidays (and some time off) just around the corner, we recommend recharging the old-fashioned way—with a good book. Each Wednesday between now and the end of December, we’ll ask two of the best minds from opposite ends of the design spectrum what they’re reading (and gifting) this season.

While these pairings might surprise you, we believe in the old adage that “opposites attract,” and, it’s a surefire way to hit every type you’re buying for: from theorist to practitioner, standard-bearer to trendsetter, and design nerd to—dare it be said—non-designer. You don’t have to be a creative to appreciate these reads. A curious mind will do.

Bonus edition: Steven Heller + Debbie Millman. The co-founders of the School of Visual Art’s Masters in Branding program have shared a lot of stories over their careers. Heller, formerly art director for the New York Times Book Review, has authored, co-authored, or edited over 180 books. Millman, an all-around renaissance woman and host of the Design Matters podcast, has interviewed over 300 people, across disciplines, since its inception 13 years ago. It’s hard to imagine how the duo chose just five compelling books from that combined catalogue. But with any story, perhaps what’s most remembered is the feeling with which you are left when you finish the last page. Likewise as 2017 draws to a close, Heller and Millman ask, which feeling do you want to end the year on: one that stimulates, or soothes?  

From Steve Heller

Pioneers of German Graphic Design by Jens Müller
This enviable survey of early Twentieth century German graphic designers contains a troop of old friends who I never met but have been with me for decades.

Monograph by Chris Ware
The fertile mind of Chris Ware never tires. I can page through this monograph of sketches, strips, and toys for hours without ever once wanting for anything else.

How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels by Paul Karasik,‎ Mark Newgarden
Nancy and Sluggo never get old. If they were real they’d be my friends. Ernie Bushmiller created characters that are so iconic and sublime I’d hang with them forever.

Sunday Sketching by Christoph Niemann
How can one artist produce such a wealth of incredibly witty and wonderful, cleverly stupendous imagery and visual stories. I wish he’d tell me; maybe I could do it too.

Futura: The Typeface by Petra Eisele,‎ Annette Ludwig,‎ Isabel Naegele
If there was just one typeface left after the apocalypse I hope it will be Futura. This book (to which I contributed a few essays) convinces me the world is a better place thanks to Paul Renner.

From Debbie Millman

Chip Kidd: Book Two by Chip Kidd
A sequel to Book One that is The Empire Strikes Back of sequels

Hunger by Roxane Gay
A stunning, heartbreaking, life-affirming story of what it means to be whole.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Hurari
This is a book that was recommended to me by Stefan Sagmeister and one that I read on our plane ride back from a conference in Pakistan. The notion that our imagination is what really separates us as a species is something I can’t stop thinking about.

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel
If you ever have said in anger, “No one makes feel this way except you,” consider if you’ve ever felt the same way about the relationship with either of your parents. Then read Esther’s book.

Here We Are: Notes For Living on Planet Earth written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
This is Oliver's love letter to his young son, written and illustrated on the occasion of his birth.

Review all of this year’s holiday book recommendations.

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