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What I’m reading/listening/watching

October 30, 2009

Design matters – How great design will make people love your company
Bruner, Emery and Hall

I read this book in two hits over successive evenings, which for me is saying something. I can’t recall reading a book that so succinctly, so authoritatively and so assuredly expounds the importance of design not just as a component of business operation, but as a fundamental process for successful enterprise.

Over the last twenty years ‘design’ has become such an abused, maligned and misunderstood term that for many it carries little meaning or value. This book corrects that…and then some. I would go so far as to say that anyone running a business and everyone concerned with professional design should read this book. Even if you’re at the top of your game, this book will cut a concise path through all that matters about design and enterprise, in ordered, logical and enjoyable style. Very highly recommended.

Logo
Michael Evamy

There was a time when any serious designer might be measured by the amount of shelf space their books occupied, be they reference, instruction, inspiration or comfort. With the growth of the web into a reliable online repository of information, education and opinion (which has actually happened more recently than we think) the importance of design books has regrettably diminished somewhat. Having said that, there are numerous times when only a book will do. The artificial, low-resolution format of onscreen imagery often makes it poorly suited to inspire, evaluate and educate in the same way that a coffee table book does. Even on-the-fly software instruction requires a dual screen setup to work efficiently and effectively.

Logo incorporates over 1,300 logos and separates them into 75 categories, and then indexes them by shape, defining characteristic and sector. It’s easy to envisage a pictorial reference tool working beautifully as an interface, providing immediate non-linear access, specification and quick comparison. However, our multimedia world is also environmental, which means it’s more useful to see these icons in print than onscreen. It’s extremely disappointing therefore that the majority of pages are monochrome, and yet the omission of colour does draw attention to the conceptual shape and letterform design. The glue binding of this thick paperback also makes it difficult to open the book flat, which is irritating for a supposed design reference tome.

Much thought is evident however, from the page-edge indexing to the removable jacket that unfolds into a large poster. The introductory articles are also well written and thought provoking. Ultimately though, it’s the indexing of logos by concept shape that makes it such an indispensable reference book that no design student or practitioner should be without.

Designers are wankers
Lee McCormack

I’m no prude, but I would  probably have avoided this book given the sensationalist title except for two important reasons. One, it came highly recommended by a respected colleague; and two, I know where the author is coming from. That’s not to say it’s a sentiment or tone I agree with – lets just say that design is an attractive vocation that attracts all sorts, most of whom I’ve met over the course of my career.

I haven’t quite finished this book, but I’ve read enough to confidently state that it’s a worthy read, both as an introduction to, and a retrospective of, the vocation of design. Usefully, many areas and disciplines are covered, not just graphic or visual forms. Page 27 in particular should be mandatory reading for all aspiring, talented designers. Attitude is something not greatly discussed in design schools, and when I touch upon it there’s often awkward silences. It’s a taboo subject for many and an apparent anathema to many academics, but so utterly, fundamentally important for professional success. Forget the attention-grabbing red-top title and take a dip into this book, especially if you’re embarking on design as your vocation. Highly recommended.

Helvetica (DVD & Blu-ray)
Gary Hustwit

A film commemorating the 50th anniversary of Helvetica, I first saw this documentary during it’s initial run at the ICA in London. I was expecting an uber geek-fest and kept a low profile accordingly. It was gratifying to see that most of the audience packed into this bijou theatre were a real mixed bag however, and not what you might expect for a 90 minute typeface documentary, albeit one of the most ubiquitous in use today.

From the initial and fascinating closeup of the compositing process, to interviews with some of the ‘superstars’ of graphic design, this documentary is compelling and highly enjoyable. It’s exceptionally well orchestrated and ‘washes over you’ with interspersions of street scenes, retail spaces, signing and numerous other examples that demonstrate just how pervasive and versatile this typeface is. Edutainment at it’s finest and very highly recommended.

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