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 | June 19

Remembering the Bantam paperback of The Greening of America with its truly relentless deployment of Bookman Swash Italic. Quintessential 70s. RIP Charles Reich, 1928-2019. [MB]

Here’s your chance to hear Debbie Millman on the other side of the mike. Recorded live on stage at the famous Design and Advertising festival in London in May, Debbie is interviewed on episode 14 of This Way Up. [BV]


Observed | June 17

The School of Visual Arts has donated nearly 100 of its beloved Subway Series posters from the past three decades to the brand new Poster Museum, opening Thursday, June 20. These, as well as all new posters created in the future, will live in the Museum’s permanent archival collection. [BV]

Can a small Italian village point the way to more livable modern cities? A conference of urbanists aims to find out. [BV]


Observed | June 14

The late William Helfand had an incredible collection of medical prints, posters, and advertising emphasized "quack" pills, potions, and snake oil cure-alls. Hear his daughter, and our co-founder Jessica Helfand pay tribute to his "quackery” obsession. [BV]


Observed | June 11

“Beer cans are officially the new record sleeve.” The rise in craft brewing has spurred a beer aisle design renaissance. [BV]


Observed | June 10

Seeking 1000 people who eat. ZOE‘s experts are marrying nutritional science with machine learning to perform the world‘s largest study of individuals‘ unique nutritional responses. Visit joinzoe.com to sign up. Read this NYTimes article to see why. [BV]

A new exhibit at the Saint Louis Art Museum celebrates amateur photography from 1890–1970 through the recent gift of 150 amateur photographs from St. Louis collectors John and Teenuh Foster. John Foster assembled this collection of anonymous found images over the past 20 years, some of which can be seen in his Design Observer column. [BV]


Observed | June 06

An in-depth look at an urban mall designed to revive downtown San Diego that is set to be destroyed, from Alissa Walker. [BV]


Observed | June 05

Congratulations to Susan Kare, Patricia Moore, MIT D-Lab, Tom Phifer, Tobias Frere-Jones, Tobias Frere-Jones, Derek Lam, Ivan Poupyrev, Open Style Lab and all the winners of the 2019 Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards! [BV]


Observed | June 03

The first in a series of articles about the early days of the space age, in celebration of this summer’s 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing:
How NASA selected the first astronauts (and why no convicts have walked on the Moon). [BV]


Observed | May 30

Felice Frankel has donated hundreds of images taken during her early career as a landscape architecture photographer—Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute, Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, Richard Haag’s Bloedel Reserve, and Dan Kiley’s Miller Garden—to MIT libraries to create a learning resource. [BV]

As a kid, I had no idea that Peter Max was so derivative (Heinz Edelmann, Andy Warhol, Push Pin). I just knew his work was everywhere, and he got to sign it. To me he was the most famous artist in the world. That makes this story so depressing. [MB]


Observed | May 29

London Street Photographer Nick Turpin highlights five photographers making candid public photographs on the fringes of street photography. [BV]


Observed | May 28

An essay from Rob Walker on the tension inherent in what we do with the time we have, and how we try to make more. [BV]

NBA players are no longer waiting for shoe companies to give them personal logos — they are creating their own. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | May 24

Congratulations to Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand! The Observatory made dezeen’s list of 14 of the best architecture and design podcasts to subscribe to. [BV]


Observed | May 23

From Atlas Obscura: 18 of the world’s most wondrous public transportation options. [BV]

Iceland’s environmental ministry says Justin and his Belibers have nearly ruined Fjadrárgljúfur canyon. But even for the non-famous, selfies are ruining national parks and the great outdoors around the world. Go outside but leave your phones at home. [BV]


Observed | May 22

How do you create a logo for a presidential candidate? On this week‘s The West Wing Weekly: West Wing & fonts. The guests are our co-founder Michael Bierut, who designed Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 logo, and Leslie Wah, who made the campaign logos in Season 6 of the West Wing. [BV]


Observed | May 21

Wanna play with some Brutalist buildings? Skyline chess has a new offering of London’s most-notable architecture from the Brutalist movement including the Trellick Tower, Petty France, Centrepoint and Cromwell Tower. [BV]

Design Observer co-founder @jessicahelfand is heading to Malta this week as an external critic working with Professor Vince Briffa, recipient of the Tribute to Art and Innovation award at this year’s Venice Biennale. [BV]


Observed | May 20

Book lovers will want to pay close attention to a new collaboration between Designers & Books and Peter Kraus’s Ursus Books & Gallery in New York. This installment: A Flowering of Creativity: Ladislav Sutnar and F. T. Marinetti. [BV]


Observed | May 15

We can‘t wait to explore Boston this fall when we host The Design of Business | The Business of Design conference at MIT. Bike-commuting, T-riding, and monorail-tweeting around Boston with transit-oriented 20-something NUMTOT founder Juliet Eldred. [BV]


Observed | May 14

What year is it? Why does it matter? While chronology and dating might not be exciting, they are the stuff that history is made on, for dates do two things: they allow things to happen only once, and they insist on the ordering and interrelation of all happenings. [BV]

“We should not be excessively interested in books”, wrote Roy Gold, biblio-graffiti outsider artist, and a bookish man. [BV]


Observed | May 13

You may not love sports, but it’s hard not to enjoy sports photography, especially for it’s innovativeness. Case in point: Sports Illustrated photographer Neil Leifer hit a grand slam when he set out to capture a double play on film. [BV]


Observed | May 10

In the 1950s and 1960s artists from the Soviet Union looked to the skies and foresaw a Utopia in space. [BV]


Observed | May 09

Early cinema is often remembered as an exclusively black-and-white affair—the bold and often fantastical colors that flickered across the earliest film reels are frequently left out of our greater cinematic history. More neglected still are the women responsible for those dazzling hues. [BV]


Observed | May 08

We’re addicted to likes, retweets, and reshares, and our addiction makes us distracted and depressed. Tristan Harris believes that tech is ‘downgrading humans’ and that the words we use to describe the problem are tepid and insufficient. It’s time to fight back. [BV]



Jobs | June 20