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 | December 06

“I simply wanted to explore the interiority of both myself and others. I wanted to focus on what connected us rather than what separated us.” Painting friends in mid-conversation, Alex Bradley Cohen hides as much as he reveals. [BV]

Yello is a great new newsletter from journalist Hunter Schwarz “about the culture, branding, and visual rhetoric of politics in America.” Here are his 101 picks for visual moments that defined politics in the 2010s, including Edel Rodriguez’s melting Trump. [MB]


Observed | December 04

How do you bring an 18th-century Agateware teapot to life? Crafting it calls for an intricate process of moulding and layering clay materials, to mimic the agate stone. [BV]

Check out French artist
Paul Sougy’s stunning mid-century scientific illustrations of plants, animals, and the human body. [BV]


Observed | November 21

The icons of our popular culture depicted as ancient ruins. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | November 14

“Other bad films fascinate because they define an area of heroic obsession, horrifically misapplied. The heroism and the misapplication are inseparable. Anyone can commit himself body and soul to a clearly formulated project of obvious importance or quality, but to throw your last dollar, your last scrap of energy, into something ill-conceived and absurd from the beginning: That takes a human being.” Phil Christman on the reasons we watch bad movies. [BV]

Congratulations to Côte d’Ivoire-based artist Joana Choumali on being the first photographer from the African continent to be awarded one of the world’s most prestigious photography prizes, the Prix Pictet. [BV]


Observed | November 13

We are very excited for the next chapter of The Great Discontent and send all our congratulations to Hugh Weber and the TGD community: we look forward to new stories and new journeys. [BV]


Observed | November 12

Gorgeous redesign of The Atlantic by Peter Mendelsund and Oliver Munday. [MB]


Observed | November 11

Out TODAY, Jessica Helfand’s FACE: A VISUAL ODYSSEY from MIT Press. From Chuck Close, it’s “Everything you ever wanted to know about the face, plus lots you never knew you would want to know—and a few things you wish you didn’t. A must-read as well as a treasury of images.” [BV]


Observed | November 05

Flo Ngala’s photographs of Figure Skating in Harlem celebrate young skaters of color. [BV]


Observed | November 04

#BreakingNews: FACEBOOK goes all-caps (but the app will stay lowercase). (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | October 24

The meaning, and enduring appeal, of seashells. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | October 08

The renaissance of the Friends logo. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | September 30

Max Hirshfeld shares his parents‘ poignant Holocaust love story through photographs, letters, and text. [BV]


Observed | September 19

Our dear friend Rob Walker has a new column, Off Brand, for the new Medium business magazine, Marker. He kicks off with which tech companies need a Black Mirror unit that focuses on how products can be misused, and design accordingly. [BV]

Watch Charles and Ray Eames put their 1969 spin on one of the world’s oldest toys. [BV]


Observed | September 18

A tribute to the dearly departed paper sports ticket. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | September 10

The blobification of the American restaurant. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | September 04

Beginning with the Dada and Surrealist movements, Paris nurtured a tradition of artists, including Ernst, Tanguy, Arp, and Léger, illustrating imaginative and important books. Designers and Books explores Paris and the Artist’s Book in the 1920s and ’30s. [BV]

What‘s the point of album covers in the post-album era? Jon Caramanica and Teddy Blanks discuss. [MB]


Observed | September 03

The history of the Roman Empire, which spans hundreds of years and multiple continents, is chronicled in statues and monuments its citizens left behind. Artsy has a list of seven ancient Roman sculptures you need to know. [BV]

Over the summer, Hyperallergic interviewed dozens of art handlers about the variable conditions of their workplaces. This week, their stories of accident and injury come to light. [BV]


Observed | September 02

KCET is back with a new season of Masters of Modern Design. Season 10 kicks off with the influence of Japanese American artists and designers—Ruth Asawa, George Nakashima, Isamu Noguchi, S. Neil Fujita and Gyo Obata—in postwar American art and design. (h/t Steven Heller) [LY]


Observed | August 30

We use hurricane forecast graphics to warn people. Why do we misinterpret them so often? A marvelous explanation of misreading hurricane graphics. [BV]


Observed | August 29

When your brain won’t let you recognize people, how do you navigate the world? [BV]

Pedro Bell, the artist who created Funkadelic’s cosmic album covers, died Tuesday at 69. [BV]


Observed | August 26

On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe. [BV]

Sonic branding has appliances and devices singing new tunes. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | August 23

Don‘t miss the next MITX InsideDesign event featuring Google Nest‘s Director of Design, Kate Freebairn. The event is on September 25, 8-9:30AM at Mad*Pow‘s Boston office. Get the MITX member rate on tickets using code OBSERVER. Register now [BV]



Jobs | December 09