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 22

A new book explores the cold heart of Frank Lloyd Wright. [BV]


Observed | January 20

A facial recognition app with what appear to be endless weaponization possibilities. Truly. [JH]


Observed | January 15

A beautiful remembrance by Melissa Harris about Mercy Cunningham, in the New York Review of Books this week. [JH]


Observed | January 14

Are typefaces political? Researchers find "serif and bold is rated as more conservative, while sans serif and italics is rated as more liberal" [MB]

Congratulations to the entire AIGA community on their wonderful new executive director, Bennie F. Johnson! Here’s to bright futures. [BV]


Observed | January 13

Anyone interested in a “book about the future of human beings, as viewed by some of today‘s most creative minds working at the intersection of biology and technology...Think of it as a guide to your future self.”? Because we are! #FundThis [BV]


Observed | January 10

Donald Norman says we have to change the way we educate designers. [JH]


Observed | January 09

This is a very specific genre and Andrew Cushing is nailing it with Veronica Gent-level skills: “Name a fake startup and I’ll write an ad for it in the style of an NYC subway campaign.” [MB]

Take 2 minutes and ride shotgun through mid-century LA with Ed Ruscha’s photos and Jack Kerouac’s words. [BV]


Observed | January 08

“The short answer is that the intersection of art + science is in my blood... my favorite kind of artist residency is one where I get to work with scientists.” Our very own Jessica Helfand joins Caltech as a Winter 2020 artist-in-residence. [BV]

Royal Mail has released a set of stamps celebrating a golden era of British video game design from the 1980s and 90s. [BV]


Observed | January 07

Los Angeles’ favorite logos. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | January 02

Brand New‘s Armin Vit ranks the top twelve clickbait-iest design stories of 2019. [MB]


Observed | December 30

New research finds that typefaces are perceived as having political characteristics, with sans serif fonts seen as more liberal, and serif fonts as more conservative. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | December 29

Desperately sad to announce that Vaughan Oliver died peacefully today, with his partner Lee by his side. Great loss of friend and design hero. Vaughan Oliver (1957—2019). [AS]


Observed | December 27

Continuing the blessed holiday tradition that began at Design Observer, now at Curbed, Alexandra Lange + Mark Lamster review the year in design (with a special look back over the decade‘s greatest hits & misses). [MB]


Observed | December 17

A photographer captures the sculptural landscapes of California skateparks. [BV]


Observed | December 11

Matisse felt an intense love for books, and the care and attention he lavished on them included not just his illustrations, but also the selection of paper, typeface, and layout. [BV]


Observed | December 10

Stanford’s d.school attempts to move beyond Post-its on whiteboards. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


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 29

London-based studio Dorothy has developed a map of the United Kingdom using the titles of more than 1,400 pop songs. #CartographyRules [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]



Jobs | January 28